My way out of anxiety: these 5 things saved me

My way out of anxiety: these 5 things saved me

Today you will learn the five ultimate tips on how to get rid of panic attacks in a short time. Not.

I myself believed for many years that somewhere out there must lie the right key. Put it in the lock, turn around hard, the door opens and behind it lies paradise – a life without this dreadful fear. It has to be there somewhere, the ultimate aha moment that changes everything.

There was one too, but quite different from what you expected. 20 years of panic attacks, 10 years of psychotherapy, expensive non-help from charlatans, various psychiatric drugs, dozens of advice books, desperate confrontation with anxiety-inducing situations and self-deceptive avoidance strategies: This giant mountain crashed on the morning of 17. April 2013 together.

Nothing works anymore. My Lord, you have made your play. Unfortunately too bad and all lost. We need to remove you from the casino of normal life. From now on you are only allowed to play next door with the loonies. Thank you for your understanding!

In retrospect, I am deeply grateful for the most terrifying moment of my life, which in retrospect became the most important one. Because I finally had clarity when I gave up the fight against fear. What followed reads (at least for me) like a fairy tale. I have to pinch myself sometimes to believe it.

The ultra-short version: five weeks in a psychosomatic clinic, quit my editor job, six months of solo euro-touring with my VW Bus Dr. D and start my blog. After returning, step into self-employment as a freelance journalist and editor, stopped all medication (including two psychotropic drugs), lost ten kilos, fitter than ever, traveled by plane for the first time in 24 years in 2016 and still published the first book.

The way there was for me the sum of many puzzle pieces that I put together little by little. From my point of view there is no secret recipe to get rid of panic attacks. And yet, I figured out five important things that helped me find my way out of fear and can be very helpful to others as well. This is not a blueprint, after all, everyone is allowed to find his or her individual way in the process.

1. Ending the game of hide and seek

The fear is there, you run away, hide, it says with a smirk: "Come out of there, I’ve seen you a long time ago anyway."You want to get rid of the bitch, the stupid fear should finally piss off. Stupid only: You can’t win this game with suppression and hiding. The strategy is as successful as when you go all-in with two sevens in poker. You have the worse cards. Your opponent, fear, knows this and grins.

So it’s time for a change of tactics. For me it went like this: From the moment of my breakdown I told everyone what was going on with me. I am still amazed today at the incredibly healing effects. When I finally talked openly with others about the fear, the shame brake was released. I no longer had to play the all-is-good sunny boy to the outside world, who is almost torn apart on the inside.

Suddenly I understood the mode of action: The sum of repressed and concealed fears had built up such a great pressure that at some point the lid had to fly off the pot. In order to never experience this again, I have decided for myself: From now on, I will only play with my cards on the table. I never thought the reactions to this would be possible: Other people accept my vulnerability – what a boost for my self-confidence!

2. Get back in touch with my own feelings

If you think after point 1: "Cool, I’m already writing about my anxiety in self-help forums or on my blog all the time, so I’m on the right track", I’m sorry to disappoint you. That alone is not enough. Because too many people get really stuck in their fear topic, but don’t get anywhere with it. Why? Because the irrepressible will is missing to allow changes inside and outside and to stand by the consequences.

For example, on the subject of your own feelings. Yes, at that time I found it quite strange to dance together with dozens of people in a narrow and increasingly dark room for more than two hours without interruption. Dance of emotions. Chick stuff. Pfffft. Fidgeting, and then? The "then", was one of the most insane moments of my life. We were led by the therapists to a point where everything was allowed to be discharged. The whole range of anger, sadness, disappointment, self-hatred burst out. I screamed like a berserker, the tears shook me through. Again and again.

Like many other anxiety patients, I had alienated myself from strong feelings like sadness, anger, love and exuberant joy. I put on an indestructible armor that was supposed to shield me from big emotions, so that I wouldn’t have to look inward. In the meantime I know: The access to it is possible via different methods of bodywork (z.B. free dancing), meditation or even mantra chanting was really possible. They offer the huge opportunity to feel yourself again. A wonderful way to make peace with yourself.

3. Being good to your own body

Want to hear the biggest (self) lie of all? Here you go: "I’d have a pretty great life if it weren’t for the anxiety."Fear is not a random scourge that torments you of all people. Fear is an extremely important indicator to finally take a closer look at what is not really going well in your life.

For example, you can think about your relationship to your body. Many people with strong fears see it as an enemy (and deal with it that way). He only plays the role that is assigned to him by the constant thoughts of fear. If you think of a brain tumor every time you have a headache and fear a heart attack every time your pulse exceeds 130, then you are guaranteed to be rewarded with a good dose of anxiety.

The crux of the overanxious: Fearing physical reactions, they expect their bodies to do less and less. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like that at all and responds with more and more violent reactions, because he is not used to any strain anymore. My advice: Let yourself (once!) check up in a diagnostic center or with a sports physician. If it turns out that you’re healthy and exercise won’t kill you (which is very likely), then get your butt off the couch, pick up your exercise plan and get out there.

I used to take my pulse every minute even at home, to be prepared for my imminent demise. Today I am so fit through regular sport that I can trust my body and don’t even go on mountain bike and mountain tours with a heart rate monitor.

A few other basic things in your lifestyle can lower your anxiety threshold significantly – for example, abstaining from alcohol and drugs (I myself tried unsuccessfully to drink away my anxiety for more than 20 years), eating real food, getting enough sleep, less stress. Anxiety doesn’t like it when you are good to your body. If, on the other hand, you maltreat it, it will be right back in front of the door, cheering.

4. Giving up control

Controlletis are pretty easy victims. Because they believe that they can control their anxiety and thus achieve exactly the opposite. If you want control, you constantly worry about how to achieve it. The musings become worries, the worries become fears (I sit at the very back of the aisle in the movie theater, then I’m out faster if I get a panic attack) and the next step on the escalator down is already reached.

The most important insight is: We cannot control our fear or anything else in life. Life is not safe and no one knows what tomorrow will bring. If you don’t manage to get involved with uncertainty, you will always be afraid. The most effective method: just let go (okay, that’s not easy, but even I, the controllet in charge, managed to do it). I know former anxiety patients who during their worst panic attack said to themselves: "Well, then I’ll just die now. I don’t care either." Admittedly: This is the pinnacle of letting go. If you manage to do this, you will come very close to healing.

5. Perceive and live out your own needs

Fear shows itself so violently because people live against their deepest needs. Fear seems threatening, but behind it lies a huge opportunity: Those who start to honestly listen to themselves and ask themselves what really does them good (and then do it) can experience true miracles. How to do it?

Step 1: By becoming still. Just sit there for a day or more (you can even go for a hike) and do nothing else. Allow and accept all thoughts and feelings that show up – even if they are painful or call for violent changes.

Step 2: Make the firm will to make your realizations the new order of your life. And to accept that not everything can and must happen overnight.

Step 3: Specifically define what you will tackle or change. In my case, these were gradually the topics job, urge for freedom/adventure/joy of traveling, sports, making myself visible in public with my topic, diet/massive restriction of alcohol consumption, yoga/meditation& Co. and personality development.

Step 4: Do. Each of my newsletters ends with the sentence "Courage is fear plus one step."Go for the new things and use every good moment to dare to do things you used to chicken out of because of your fear. I don’t believe in hard-core confrontational therapy, which often plunges people into even more intense anxiety at their worst. But when you have found your ground again, when you trust yourself again, then it is time for a few bursts of courage. And after that you can celebrate yourself.

Step 5: Keep at it. With a few brave steps it is unfortunately not done. The old patterns are present. The data highway in your brain in the direction of fear is top developed thanks to your many years of investment. It may still take a while until grass grows on it. In the meantime you can keep reminding yourself that your new path is going the other way. Sometimes you’ll accidentally go into reverse. Unlike before, you notice it much faster, stop and laugh at yourself. Humor does not like fear at all. Fear wants to be taken seriously. I personally don’t like the seriousness anymore. Sorry, dear fear.



Mischa Miltenberger arrived at the lowest point of his life in 2013 after 20 years of panic attacks and three major depressive episodes. From that moment on, he put everything he had been doing to the test and began to make far-reaching changes. On his blog Adios Angst – Bonjour Leben he reports openly and humorously about his way out of anxiety and towards a drug-free life. In October 2016, the book "Stopping Antidepressants" was published, which the freelance journalist wrote together with the mindfulness expert Melanie Muller.

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