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Anatomy of a Panic Spiral (and How to Snap Out of It)

These are not good times for someone like me who struggles with anxiety. Struggles in the best of times. Since the pandemic began in earnest here, I’ve gotten caught up in panic spirals several times. By “panic spirals” I mean attacks of escalating panic (I hesitate to call them panic attacks because I’m not sure they meet the diagnostic criteria). One of the most helpful things a therapist told...

With Every Breath You Take

Many people find breathing practices like the 4-2-6 pattern to be relaxing. One reason is that slow, deep breaths with longer exhalations (compared to inhalations) stimulate the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve regulates our “rest and digest” response — the counterpoint to the “fight or flight” response. (If you’re in the mood for a very detailed explanation...

“Out, Damned Spot!”

Oh my goodness. I am SO. TIRED. of washing my hands. I think in part because of the whole “Out, damned spot! out, I say!” aspect to it. My trip to the sink usually is propelled by some undercurrent of dread—fear that the contagion has made its way onto my skin (you know, from the “contaminated” mail or takeout delivery) and must be eradicated, pronto. And yet, it is possible to transform anxious...

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