Moving home can be stressful for anyone. But for Danielle Loesch, the experience triggered severe anxiety and panic attacks that quickly took over her life.
"I'd suffered from anxiety before," said 43-year-old Danielle, "but never crippling anxiety like this, and never panic attacks. I was kind of a mess."
In her mid-30s at the time, Danielle thought the 70-mile move north from Garberville to Arcata in California would be good for her—a fresh start. But all the changes, especially the loss of a tight-knit yoga community she was part of, left Danielle feeling overwhelmed.
"I would worry constantly that I had done something wrong, that someone was upset with me or that things were going to spiral out of control," Danielle recalls.
She also suffered from debilitating levels of indecision—not just about major life decisions but also small things like what to have for lunch or when to go to the store. "I didn't trust myself to know what was best for me," she said.
The worst part was the panic attacks, which Danielle describes as feelings of extreme terror and powerlessness coupled with intense physical symptoms. "I'd feel dizzy and nauseated, I'd get chest pain, and my whole body would shake," said Danielle. "I felt totally out of control."
These attacks would last for about an hour, but the high levels of anxiety would linger for days. Danielle "kind of knew what was going on," she said, enough to realize that she wasn't having a heart attack or going to die, but she could do nothing to prevent the attacks from coming on, or stop them once they hit.
Eventually, Danielle's anxiety became so bad that she stopped socializing or even leaving the house. "I isolated myself," she said. "I didn't want to go into any situations that could cause me to feel stressed, scared, rejected or criticized. It was easier just to stay home."
The right direction
With no family close by for support—her family lived in Seattle, where she grew up—Danielle sought help from a therapist. But Danielle felt the therapist's approach wasn't right for her. "He was telling me what to do—what decisions to make. And that caused me more anxiety," said Danielle.
Fortunately, Danielle did have one good friend in her new hometown, and that friend introduced her to the work of Zen DeBrucke, a business and personal consultant, author, and inspirational speaker.
Based on her research and work with clients over the past two decades, Zen believes that everyone has an Internal Guidance System, IGS for short, which is the involuntary sensations your body produces in relation to what you're thinking.
Sensations like a tightness in your chest or a lump in your throat, Zen claims, are your IGS at work, and tuning into this physical feedback system will have amazing benefits for your life.
Danielle started listening to Zen's podcasts and watching her online videos, and something clicked. "Her work resonated with me right away," said Danielle. "I began to feel like I wasn't powerless to my thoughts."
What Danielle learned from Zen was that the feelings she labeled as anxiety, worry,
stress, fear and being overwhelmed were actually her IGS, and by recognizing that certain thoughts were untrue or not going to happen, she could change her body's response and how she was feeling.
From the videos and podcasts, "I got little glimpses of relief at first," said Danielle. "I saw that my panic attacks were triggered by thoughts that were completely out of alignment with the truth. My physical symptoms were my IGS going off like an alarm—telling me that what I was thinking wasn't right."
But Danielle experienced the biggest improvement when she started one-on-one coaching sessions with Zen. She booked a package of 30-minute phone sessions with Zen and scheduled them for once every two weeks.
"Zen was able to get into my thoughts and figure out what was causing the panic attacks. She taught me how to walk myself out of an attack and eventually how to prevent an attack from occurring."
After a few weeks, Danielle noticed that her panic attacks didn't last as long—she could calm herself down sooner and sooner. And after a few months, the panic attacks stopped completely.
Danielle also found that she was no longer crippled with indecision, which meant she felt confident enough to socialize and put herself in new situations. "I learned to trust in myself again," she said. "Zen's process helped pull me out of a hole and move me back into my life."
It helped Danielle with her relationships, too. She was able to make new, loving friendships, connect more with her family and even find love with her now husband, Torsten. "He proposed on top of a mountain at the end of a trek we did in the Himalayas. I don't see how any of that would have happened before."
Danielle and Torsten have since traveled all over the world and are currently living in Hawaii, a place close to both of their hearts. "I love being outdoors and in nature," said Danielle. "My IGS led me to Hawaii!"
Danielle was so taken with Zen's work that she decided to become an IGS coach herself, and she now enjoys helping friends, and friends of friends, tap into their own Internal Guidance System.
And teaching the method to others, Danielle says, has reinforced everything she learned from Zen. "Working with clients reminds me of limiting beliefs that still come up for me, and that I need to work on turning them around."
Danielle doesn't claim to have completely eliminated all anxious thoughts from her mind, but they no longer have a detrimental impact on her life, and she says she has the tools to effectively manage anxiety when it does crop up.
"I see and experience it totally differently now," says Danielle, "constructively instead of powerlessly. And it's a huge relief to know that I can deal with whatever comes up."
What is your IGS?
Have you ever felt a lump in your throat, a tightness in your chest or a sinking feeling in your stomach?
According to Zen DeBrucke, an internationally renowned inspirational speaker and life coach, these sensations are your Internal Guidance System, or IGS—a form of constructive physical feedback your body gives you in relation to your thoughts.
"Your IGS is a sensory-based system, and it sends you its guidance by contracting and expanding pressure in your throat, chest and solar plexus—the area where the top of your ribs come together," Zen explains.
"The purpose of these sensations is to help you shift your thoughts toward something or away from something that either is or is not in your best interest. It is to provide you with immediate feedback on whether your thoughts and choices are bringing you toward greater joy, love and success or bringing you toward suffering, pain and failure. Why this makes a difference is because what you think about is what you create, which determines what you get in life."
Zen categorizes the types of sensations people experience as being either "open" or "closed."
"Opening" or "being open" is a feeling of "expansion, a release of pressure, a relaxing feeling, an upward opening of energy rising in a V or Y shape, a sense of lightness or an ability to breathe more deeply," says Zen. These sensations are usually identified as desire, passion and confidence.
"Closing" or "being closed," on the other hand, is "a tightening, a constriction, a pressure in the chest or a feeling of being less able to breathe," she says. These sensations are normally labeled as anxiety, stress and fear.
Once you are aware of your IGS, the key is to recognize that the sensations are not coming from what is actually happening in the world around you, but from what you are thinking about what is going on in the world around you—and often that's not in line with reality.
Indeed, Zen teaches that whenever you feel a closed sensation, that means that what you are thinking is not true or not going to happen. The trick is to learn to shift your thoughts to find ones that create a sensation of opening, i.e., relief, relaxation and a feeling of expansion in your lungs.
As Zen explains: "Very often we get so caught up in what our mind is telling us or what it believes that we fail to question the validity of the thoughts. Is that really true? Is it really true that my boss wants to fire me? You can ask your IGS these types of questions and get an opening or closing sensation. It is in the questioning of our mind that we build a relationship with our IGS."
Zen has developed several exercises to enable people to tune into their IGS, a skill she believes can help anyone to overcome stress and anxiety, and live the life they desire.
In fact, over the past 23 years, Zen has successfully worked with hundreds of people from all over the world, transforming their personal and business lives for the better.
Currently working with two doctors to design a scientific study to support her work, Zen is convinced that when you change your thoughts or perspective, shifting from a closed sensation to an open one, you can create a new neural pathway to ultimately eliminate anxiety and panic attacks.
Considering the huge body of evidence that's now amassed on the mind-body connection (see page 60 for evidence on the remarkable power of visualization to heal), she may just be onto something.
Tuning into your IGS
Here are two simple exercises Zen DeBrucke uses to teach people how to connect with their Internal Guidance System (IGS). For more exercises and information, visit her websites, www.zeninamoment.com and www.therecreatingyougame.com, or see her book Your Inner GPS (New World Library, 2016).
Exercise one: turn on, tune in
•Sit down in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands in your lap. Close your eyes.
•Take a few deep breaths and focus on what it feels like to have your lungs expand and contract.
•Focus on the bottom of your feet and the pressure between the floor and the soles of your feet.
•Think the following two thoughts without questioning or arguing with them. Let them float through your mind like a cloud in the sky.
•While the thoughts float through your mind, notice how you feel between your throat and solar plexus area—the central area of your body.
•The first thought is: I do not have an Internal Guidance System. Notice any sensations you feel.
•The second thought is: I do have an Internal Guidance System. Again, notice any sensations you feel.
Most people feel a tightening, constricting or wilting feeling (what she calls 'closed') when they focus on the first thought, Zen says, and an expanding, uplifting (what she calls 'open') sensation with the second thought.
This is what Zen means by your Internal Guidance System. If you don't feel anything, spend some time getting into a relaxed state of mind, and try the exercise again.
Exercise two: shifting your thoughts
This exercise is great for helping with anxiety and panic attacks, says Zen.
•Whenever you feel 'closed,' or have feelings of anxiety, panic or stress, say the following sentence in your mind: "I am closed, and that means what I am thinking is not true or not going to happen."
Repeat the thought while focusing on what your thoughts are. Often, you will get an immediate feeling of relief.