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Anxiety treatment – An Astonishing Alternative – About three years ago, I had an atrial fibrillation (AFib) while in California. My heart rate was 120 beats per minute for two days and a night. I knew this was dangerous, as it can induce stroke. I flew back to ABQ to see my heart doctor. He checked my vitals, did a running EKG, and gave me a scrip to counteract the symptoms. Also told me to keep away from caffeine and stress. Ha! The caffeine I could do without, but the stress…..? The full story of my stress-anxiety challenge is below as a Post-Script, which is optional reading. So I will cut here to what happened last night…….

I had an anxiety nightmare. I was driving a car which on a steep incline started rolling backwards toward a restaurant, and I couldn’t prevent it although I was pumping the brake furiously. I awoke with my heart pounding, and the possibility this was an AFib scared me even more.

I think I know what brought it on. I ate food in bed while reading and went to sleep with a tummy full of trail mix (which included chunks of chocolate), and a dish of blackberries. I should know better! The murder-mystery by Mary Higgins Clark (first one of hers I have read) didn’t help my peace of mind.

Stress-free hiking with g-kids in Organ Mountains out of Las Cruces (click to enlarge).

Stress-free hiking with g-kids in Organ Mountains out of Las Cruces (click to enlarge).

When the nightmare woke me, I recalled Dr Weil’s prescription for anxiety. It’s called the 478 procedure. You breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds, then hold your breath for 7 seconds, then breathe out forcefully for 8 seconds by making a sh – sh – sh noise through the mouth. Repeat this no more than four cycles in one session. Do two sessions per day. After 6-8 weeks you will begin to notice changes, and you will begin to feel better. In some cases it has stopped AFib, Dr Weil said.

More than once I had used the 478 technique to induce sleep, so I knew it worked in this area. Last night I tried it to reduce my anxiety, and it worked here also. After about 5 cycles, my heart rate slowed and I was able to fall asleep again.

Stress-anxiety is very common in the USA. Why not give this simple technique a try?

Post-Script 1: Quote from Dr Weil’s goldmine book called Spontaneous Happiness.

I have a low opinion of all the drugs prescribed for anxiety. They interfere with memory and cognition, can worsen mood, and are addictive….. They do not get at the root of anxiety; they merely suppress it. They may be okay for occasional use to manage acute anxiety, but I strongly advise against taking them frequently or regularly or relying on them to deal with chronic anxiety.

The most powerful and effective anti-anxiety measure I know is the quick and simple breathing technique called 478. I have seen it work for the most extreme forms of panic disorder, when the strongest medications failed. It is perfectly safe, requires no equipment, and costs nothing. And it undoes anxiety at its root.

Dr Andrew Weil who wrote the book Spontaneous Happiness (Click to enlarge or to source).

Dr Andrew Weil who wrote the book Spontaneous Happiness (Click to enlarge or to source).

Post-Script 2: Role of stress-anxiety in my own life.
This is the story I have pieced together about stress in my life over the past few years, and how it affected my health.

At the time of the AFib, I recall having in my life and work four different frustrations, serious ones that were hard to resolve, and I believe this brought on the AFib attack. Although I tried to back down from the stress, I could not because I was over-committed at work. I started to feel slightly dizzy on a daily basis, and had scary mental disorientations while working at my computer. Fortunately they only lasted a couple seconds, but they hit me several times each day.

I also had a “blackout” when at 1 a.m. I awoke thinking I was having a stroke. My daughter-in-law Staci had to ask at a gas station for directions to an ER, as I could not remember the one that was only half a mile from my house. In fact I couldn’t remember anything for 10 hours! In the ER they gave me the $10,000 treatment as they tested me for stroke. Nada.

Then the nightmares started. I would wake up with my heart pounding. Not every night, but every few nights. During the day, my words started becoming muddled, I couldn’t always think clearly, and I lost my confidence. I could function at work, but it was like 70%.

I saw two neuro specialists who looked at my MRI, and both said my brain looked terrific. One specialist said it was all happening because I was getting older.

On my next visit, the heart doc said, “You have generalized anxiety syndrome”. Not his specialty, but he nailed it. He recommended a psychologist.

To reduce stress I relinquished an attractive consulting project in India. I gave up teaching a class on shale gas and shale oil that I loved. I visited the psychologist every couple weeks, and he taught me Cognitive Therapy and how to identify dysfunctional thinking. I joined Planet Fitness, and I started walking more. Of course I prayed over and over this whole time, always believing that I would become well again.

Slowly things turned around. Over two years, my balance returned, my brain fog cleared up, and my confidence was restored. About the end of this time I also retired from work, which obviously allowed my stress level to fall. The nightmares decreased. I have now felt normal, like my old self, for a year and a half.

Conclusion: The brain specialist was wrong…..this stuff wasn’t due to aging. All these deleterious effects were brought on by stress. I know I’ve had significant stress all my life, but after the age of sixty it started affecting my health in serious ways. Warning: beware of stress….. recognize it, study it, and learn to control it. Stress-anxiety and nervous breakdowns can be very serious.

The Gray Nomad.
Probing the practice of Christian believers……

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Book of Luke, chapter 12).

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9 Responses to Anxiety treatment – An Astonishing Alternative

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  2. Thank you for sharing! Glad that you were able to resolve your anxiety. I battle with stress and anxiety too. I am on three blood pressure meds to keep me in somewhat of a normal BP range. I used to exercise…need to start up again. I pray and have my quiet times with God…He is faithful to give me loving and peaceful words. You are in my prayers.

    • Thanks Kim, yes I seem to have recovered (except for a hernia op a week ago which means no dancing or hiking or pickleball for 6 weeks! Ugh!) The quiet times with God is a valuable help in my opinion.

  3. What an inspiring story! I so appreciate the breathing technique from Dr. Weil. I used it just now (4x as recommended) and I do feel better! And for putting your story out as well (vulnerable thing to you – good for you!). Thank you for putting this information out there! I really appreciate it!

    • Thanks for your comment Karen. I think this 478 breathing technique is a bit of a game-changer in the stress-anxiety realm. I’m only afraid that people won’t try it because it’s so cheap compared with drugs, and therefore seems less effective.

  4. Gary McFarland |

    Hi Ian. Karen led me to your blog. Congratulations on your book, and thanks for your openness about dealing with anxiety. I believe that will help more than a few people. I have done similar breathing exercises but probably not consistently enough.
    They do work and are so much better for us than reliance on meds. Especially the “out” breath which activates the parasympathetic nervous system — the calming branch of the autonomic nervous system. Yeah and all that exercise on the trail doesn’t hurt and is so much more fun! May we all keep breathing…..Take care and see you on the dance floor.

    • Hi Gary. Thanks for your explanation of what the “out” breath does to relax our nerves. Good info. I do hope my blog and this 478 breathing technique will reach and help folks. Please feel free to forward the blog where suitable.

  5. A friend provided this info: Acupuncture is amazing at decreasing stress. It also improves the immune system and keeps us healthy. If you have insurance other than Medicare, Gretchen Lorenson DOM is excellent. If not then Eric at Nob Hill Community Acupuncture charges $20 (tel 232-2870). Also Debbie and Suzanne (323-9204).

    If you have never tried Feldenkreis it is extremely calming and relaxing. The senior center at Paseo and Wyoming has it: Feldenkrais Method, Awareness Through Movement. Often referred to simply as “Feldenkrais”, it is a somatic educational system designed by Moshé Feldenkrais. Feldenkrais aims to reduce pain or limitations in movement, to improve physical function, and to promote general wellbeing by increasing students’ awareness of themselves, and by expanding students’ repertoire of movement. Instructor: Steve Mulvihill. Thursdays. From 6:00-7:00 pm.

  6. Mary Ann Pollock |

    Ian this is a good blog on anxiety. I don’t know anyone that has not dealt with some kind of anxiety. Two weeks ago I heard the ambulance go by, and turns out it was going to pick up my friend. She thought for sure she was having a heart attack. After running tests on her they realized it was an anxiety attack. Things like this do occur and can be very scary. Thanks for Dr Weil’s breathing technique to combat anxiety.

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