The Role Habit Plays in Mental Torment: Using Repetition to Overcome Bad Habits.

part 1

Did you ever stop and think how easy it is to pick up habits?  We are creatures of habit they say.  Our brains are designed to streamline our actions, so we do things automatically. Our mind likes to link things together.  This has its good points as well as its bad. It is good for a driver to train themselves to react defensively on the road but not so much when the roller coaster of emotions hit you with an adrenaline rush.

Without getting too scientific let’s look at habits – routines behaviors and actions and how they influence panic and anxiety.  Our goal is to get rid of detrimental habits and replace them with desired responses.  Our goal is to examine our responses to the fear and torment of anxiety disorder and change them so your life is no longer held hostage.

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

Charles R. Swindoll

Most people reading this either have suffered more than their fair share of panic and anxiety related symptoms or they are reading this because they know someone who has.  Let’s start first with 3 definitions.

Associative learning is any learning process in which a new response becomes associated with a particular stimulus.

Habitual behavior is a form of automatic and routine behavior.  (in other words, a learned response)

Imagination the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.

We have already explained a little about imagination / memory and there will be more to come as it is very effective in helping people defuse the grip that panic and anxiety has on their life.

So how long does it take for a habit to become established? Research will throw out many numbers but since people are different, we will look at the established range of 18 – 254 days.  We already have discussed that most of our thoughts in a day are negative. There are many numbers out there as to how long it takes to establish a habit. 21 used to be rule of thumb, but now the most common number is 66. Now it usually lists days but it depends on how many times in a day you try to establish a new habit. 254 can sound like a lot of days but if 5 times a day you spoke something positive over your life, read positive statements about what you desire, this number no longer sounds daunting. Much has to do with how bad you want to change your life.

According to the National Science Foundation, an average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% are repetitive thoughts. If we repeat those negative thoughtswe think negative way more than we think positive thoughts.

We are now adding to that between 40 -90 % of our behavior falls under the category of habits!  If just 50% of our behavior falls in this category. WOW! This should be an eye opener.

…. You  feel your pulse increase or maybe your heart may skip a beat, (all very normal and in the daily lives of many) and, this is all it takes for your mind to go down the path of associative learning “Oh no, it is happening again!” to habitual behavior to a full blown attacks. This happens when you mind jumps in with its automatic programming.     Often just a normal variance in our body’s response ends up in full blown panic.  Now know where we are going.

You may ask what this has to do with panic and anxiety. Once you understand this information, acknowledge its importance and then start to apply it you will be one your way to freedom.


During a rainy season, water will start to flow through your yard like a small stream. It will find the lowest points and actually carve out a path. So future rains will also then follow the same path. Think of this as an established habit. Bad news if the newly formed stream runs right through your favorite flower garden, washing it away.

You can react in 2 ways #1 you can live with it and give up on the garden idea or go #2 dig a separate trench to divert the water to a more desirable location, and, rescue your garden!

Once you have had a panic attack let’s face it you never want to have one again. However very few people are aware of the tools to take back control until they have had several repeat performances of terror.  People with anxiety disorder are usually very perceptive, often suggestable people that tend to overthink. They also tend to hit the instant replay button after an attack repeatedly.

Face it when something bad happens we all normally replay it. Like a mugging or a break in etc.  I was mugged once at gunpoint.  There were 2 guys. The one with the gun separated me from the gentleman that was walking me back to my barracks and backed him into the trees.   “Give me your money,” they demanded. Unbeknownst to us It was pay day for the regular army.  We were there for a recruiting and retention classes.  I know how sound, sights, or any associations of that night could get my pulse to race. But considering it a challenge rather than that of a threat got me through. Having been bullied as a child I had long ago taken the stance of being an overcomer.  During the mugging I was knocked to the ground as the assailant attempted to rip away my purse which was tightly tucked under my arm.  As he straddled me. The handle ripped off but that is all he got.  Take that I thought as I slugged him…. (You can imagine where) He ran away yelping and the guy with the gun took off as well, so the gentleman got away. We were safe and we hightailed it to the MP office. I guess it was kind of stupid seeing there was a gun, but the guy with me had skintight clothes (pleather pants) no concealed weapon there. My adrenaline rush was very welcome, and I hope I did some damage.

The first thing most do after an attack is tell someone or tell many people.  I know I did and people also kept asking me. So, I had to replay the story repeatedly.  In my case I was the victor.  I took on the victor mentality.  This is how I overcame many anxious times and situations.

How often have you talked about, wrote about, discussed your experiences with panic attack? How often have well-meaning people asked you about how you are doing and what happened.  Unfortunately this just carves out a deeper path for the water to run through your garden.  It is time, to divert that stream.

Review: Adrenaline prepares the body for fight or flight and the symptoms are your bodies normal response to protect you from danger. Adrenaline alters every – body system.  In short some need more blood than others, adrenaline is carried in the blood so every imaginable symptom can be experienced.

People fear another run in with a  panic attack!     They put them self on high alert for future attacks. Many start to dwell on anything that may mean one is on the horizon.  In essence you are creating the stream which the water will follow. No questions asked! If you have a health anxiety most assuredly what ever you fear has become learned and is now a habit – habitual behavior. Your response will remain the same. Your fear of anything you perceive as “just not right” presents itself as a real threat. This can initiate an attack or continue the outpouring of adrenaline and a cycle is established.  The stream has been formed.

  • Ever get a song stuck in you head, ever try to stop biting your nails, twisting your hair, even hanging out with other negative people. In fact, many feel that this for so long that this has been going on for so long they don’t know any other way to function, and they actually believe they cannot change. 

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” — Lao Tzu

I will end this post with an article:


… to be continued

Published by: Your Path to Freedom

This blog is all about attacking panic attack and anxiety with a positive mindset. Not long ago a good friend disclosed he had been a victim of panic attack for 10 years. I never would have guessed! Isn't that what you would want for yourself? Through trial and error he found what worked for him and we want to share his path to freedom with you.