Racing heart, sweaty palms, and gripping stomach pain. This is how I felt for years as I struggled with severe anxiety.
The night before my final university exam, my normal level of anxiety exploded. I began to feel short of breath, my vision blurred, my heart pounded uncontrollably and I felt a pain in my chest. It was terrifying.
When I arrived at the hospital, I was told that I was hyperventilating and instructed to breathe into a paper bag while I waited to see a doctor. Blood tests and an examination by a doctor concluded that I had experienced my first panic attack.
Over the course of the next six months, I experienced at least 2 panic attacks a day and was diagnosed with Panic Disorder. I was fearful of being in public places and I carried a paper bag with me everywhere I went.
I began to work with a counsellor at the University who taught me coping skills to “ride the wave” of the panic attack and how to rid my body of the excess adrenaline caused by the fight-or-flight response of the body. These skills were invaluable.
One of the most important things that I learned from my counsellor was how to be more assertive. I discovered that much of my anxiety came from a feeling of obligation towards others and not being able to say no to requests or demands that I couldn’t meet (or simply didn’t want to). I often felt trapped and found myself unable to vocalize my needs. One of the most helpful resources that I received during that time was the “Personal Bill of Rights.”
The Personal Bill of Rights reminds us that we all have rights as individuals. Often we forget or don’t realize that we have these rights because we weren’t taught them as children. Being assertive means honouring and communicating our feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and opinions without violating the rights of others.
Now, more than a decade later, I still have this Personal Bill of Rights posted in my home office. My anxiety disorder is long gone and I have successfully helped dozens of clients overcome their own anxiety challenges.
I invite you to step into your own authentic power now by making the commitment to yourself to exercise your Personal Rights as they are stated in the list below. I suggest you choose one or two to start with, and begin practicing them right away. You will be amazed at how your life changes.
Wishing you Angel Blessings!
Personal Bill of Rights
by Edmund J. Bourne
- I have the right to ask for what I want.
- I have the right to say no to requests or demands that I cannot meet.
- I have the right to express all my feelings, positive or negative.
- I have the right to change my mind.
- I have the right to make mistakes and not be perfect.
- I have the right to follow my own values and standards.
- I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe, or it violates my values.
- I have the right to determine my own priorities.
- I have the right to not be responsible for others’ behavioue, actions, feelings, or problems.
- I have the right to expect honesty from others.
- I have the right to be angry at someone I love.
- I have the right to be uniquely myself.
- I have the right to feel scared and say “I’m afraid”.
- I have the right to say “I don’t know”.
- I have the right not to give excuses for my reasons or behaviour.
- I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.
- I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.
- I have the right to be playful and frivolous.
- I have the right to be healthier than those around me.
- I have the right to be in a non-abusive environment.
- I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.
- I have the right to change and grow.
- I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.
- I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
- I have the right to be happy.