Food and Diet for Anxiety & Panic Attack Sufferers
Why is diet so important?
Food, diet, anxiety and panic attacks are all interlinked.
Anxious people either tend to eat too much because they comfort eat, or too little as their so nervous they don’t feel like eating. If you’re on a crash diet this is also not helpful. I can assure you if you stick to the diet I will recommend you will feel less anxious and panicky, and as an added benefit you will lose weight.
Having problems swallowing food?
Anxious people often complain of not being able to swallow food. This is because they are anxious and the body is experiencing the fight and flight response. This tends to try and stop us from eating because if you need to run away or fight your way out of trouble, then eating is not high on your body’s agenda. Don’t worry just practice eating when you’re relaxed and calm. If it’s easier to eat on your own then do this. In time when you’re stronger you can then start to eat with family and then public places.
The Real problem with our Diet
Most people will fall into this category of the constantly snacking usually on sugary things. I recently watched a programme on somebody who suffered from epilepsy. He stated he often wanted to sleep after a fit because he used up so much energy whilst fitting. Anxiety and panic attacks are a bit like this. You burn up so much energy whilst being anxious and panicky that a quick fix is eating foods such as chocolate, sweets, cake, etc. Although this initially makes you feel better after a while you feel even worse which I will explain later.
Having a good, solid breakfast to start the day is essential. You would not expect car to start in the morning if the lights had been left on all night. Our ‘battery’ is the same it needs charging too, to face the day ahead. Our blood sugar levels are the single most important diet requirement we need to help us overcome anxiety. If you don’t build a strong foundation then even if you implement other recovery techniques they won’t work.
Anti Anxiety Diet
I am going to be straight with you – you simply have to eat a good solid breakfast or at the very least eat a mini meal soon after a small breakfast.
I am not a morning person. Quite often I don’t feel like having a big breakfast. But I make sure I eat foods that will burn slowly and give me a solid platform to start the day. For example porridge, muesli, Shredded wheat or Weetabix would be good choice. Some of the most famous cereal foods, Co Co pops, Frosties, Rice Krispies contain a lot of sugar. Along with your cereal have a couple of pieces of whole meal toast. The whole grain is what you need as this will release energy slowly into your system. I often have a tangerine, apple or banana as part of my breakfast. Fruit is great for breakfast.
Protein is a must for breakfast which you can get from meats and poultry. Why not have a bacon sandwich, or combine it into the classic bacon, lettuce and tomato (BLT). Boiled or scrambled eggs for breakfast are also a personal favourite of mine. Again great for protein. Protein is good for you as it does not affect your sugar levels
One of the most frequent issues that panic sufferers face is that roller coaster feeling of being OK one minute and then panicky the next. One of the main ways of making your body a lot stable is to stop eating junk food. Crisps, chocolate, cakes, sweets, etc; although seem filling and give you an initial lift, ultimately will leave you feeling worse. The sugar rush will make you feel much better but there is a sting in the tail. Once the pancreas releases insulin to combat the sugar you will be left feeling irritable and anxious. It’s much better to snack on whole grain snacks that release carbohydrates slowly.
So what can I snack on?
Foods like muesli bars, whole grain rice’s, pasta or other complex carbohydrates snacks are healthy for you. Just check the label as by law they should show the sugar content. Proteins are good as well as they do not affect your blood sugar level. Examples are nuts, fish, yogurt, beans, eggs, etc. Fruits are other obvious examples of snacks that are good for you. Just be careful as some fruits are quite high in natural sugar i.e. bananas.
Rather than just picking at snacks it’s much better to have five or six mini meals every day. You should not be going more than 3 to 4 hours without anything to eat. Plan out each day when and what you’re going to eat and try not to comfort eat in-between especially on junk food. It’s also important not to go to bed on an empty stomach. This will help reduce feelings of anxiousness and having night time panic attacks. Try to have something light like a yogurt or a small cheese and lettuce whole meal sandwich before you go to bed. Perhaps wash it down with some milk. This will help keep your blood sugar stable during the night. People who go to bed on a big meal tend to get indigestion problems and the rebound when their blood sugar drops after the body has managed to digest such a large meal. The same goes for alcohol. Although it may help you sleep in the short term as it suppresses the nervous system, the rebound effect will be felt later at night when the blood sugar drops and you feel anxious.
Panic Attack Causes which Food
Often people will have a cup of tea or especially coffee before they go to bed. This is again a bad idea. Caffeine is in coffee as well as tea and is a stimulant. It often will make an anxious person more agitated. I can guarantee if I have a strong cup of coffee it will give me heart palpitations. I use to get this even before I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks. So I know my body is particularly sensitive to caffeine.
Finally it’s never a good idea to lie in bed too long. Even if you had a bad night’s sleep its best to get up after 8 hours sleep rather than just lie in bed. This will help you the following night to get a better night’s sleep as you will be tired, and you need to maintain a steady blood sugar level. If you went to bed at eleven then get up around seven and have a herbal tea such as chamomile which as good calming properties. Then have a good balanced breakfast with whole grain, protein and some fruit.
Your diet is one of the simplest things you can change that can have dramatic effects to promote your well-being. To feel the full effects of a new diet may take several months but it is worth it. You may well see the added benefit of weight loss. Remember a stable foundation will lead to a much better chance of a full recovery and it’s what your body needs.
Remember your body needs all the nutritious food it can get as its energy sapping and exhausting work for your body to keep initiating the flight or fight response. Not looking after ones health by eating poorly is one the main causes of panic attacks and yet it’s one of the most overlooked keys to recovery.
As part of my programme of recovery I strongly recommend that you remove caffeine from your diet completely. That means no tea or coffee. I personally think a great substitute is Chamomile (calming properties) or Peppermint tea. If you buy from supermarkets it tends to be quite expensive. If you would like to buy in bulk then I would suggest Twinings Pure Camomile
and Pure Peppermint tea
If you suffer from palpitations some people recommend Pukka Clean Greens Powder - Organic Bio Nutrients - 120g Powder
(I have not actually tried it myself). It comes in capsules as well but the powder is better value for money - 1 months supply for £25. Apparently it does not taste very good so be warned! Amazon seems to be the best price. You probably wonder what it is - it's a herbal drink. You mix one tablespoon with a glass of water. Clean Greens contains antioxidants, chlorophyll, vitamins, trace minerals and enzymes, all of which can help you cope better with our polluted environment and diet. When using Clean Greens daily, you should notice improvements in your digestion, skin appearance and general wellbeing.
Multivitamins & Minerals
Sometimes it's recommended to take Multivitamins & Minerals when you're run down. Any help you can give your body to improve and cope with the burden of anxiety can only help you recover. I personally took vitamins for a while as I thought this would give my body extra help and a boost to cope with all the stresses placed upon it. If you feel you need that extra help then below are some popular Multivitamins & Minerals tablets -
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The way in which we breathe is really important and so are breathing exercises for anxiety. Often anxious feelings are likely to make us breathe differently and we may not be familiar with this. How we breathe makes anxiety worse. The fantastic thing about breathing is we're able to take control and then try to influence the way we would like to breathe.
Short of Breath Anxiety
This article will help you
Learn how to control your breathing
Show you that practicing, especially when you are relaxed, is the key to success
Why is breathing so crucial?
Everyone takes breathing for granted. People think there is no way they might be breathing wrongly. Unfortunately it’s not true. We all slump in our chairs and at first we feel contented and laid-back. But eventually we begin to ache. Sitting in unnatural positions can result in problems. Breathing is similar to this. Breathing very fast over a short period of time isn't a problem. Picture the time you were late for your bus and you then watched it coming down the road. You probably ran for the bus stop and felt totally breathless as soon as you arrived at the bus stop just in time. Once you got inside the bus your breathing and heart rate then began to decrease. Our bodies are built to manage short bursts of adrenaline so there isn't a problem. But if you constantly breathe rapidly over a long time and you're simply not moving, then this can cause terrifying sensations. This kind of breathing is frequently categorised as hyperventilation. It’s a normal reaction to a stress response if you have become constantly anxious over something. This type of reaction will eventually lead to a person becoming ‘sensitized’ to a place, situation or thing.
When a person becomes sensitized they have essentially conditioned themselves to respond to certain physical and psychological stimuli, with extreme hypersensitivity.
For example, say you don’t like heights. Every time you see a tall building in real life or even just on TV, it brings a reaction of fear physically or emotionally (or maybe both.) Your body will tense up; you will have racing scary thoughts and your breathing will speed up amongst other things.
Panic Attack Shortness of Breath
How do you know if you have become sensitized or are not breathing properly?
There's a simple quick test that you can do. Lie down on your bed and just try to relax as best you can. Please one hand on your diaphragm or your belly button. Put your other hand in the middle of your chest just below your collar bone. Pay attention to which hand is moving the most. If the hand upon your navel is going up and down gradually, then you’re breathing OK. If the hand on top of your chest is moving up and down then you’re not breathing correctly. This is really important because breathing from the upper chest increases the likelihood of hyperventilation.
I would especially do this exercise when you are feeling anxious or panicky. Why? Because this is when your breathing is likely to be incorrect. I had a habit of tensing my stomach muscles (like I was expecting a punch around my waistline) when I was feeling anxious or panicky. This naturally caused me to breath via my upper chest. It was almost as if my body was trying everything it could to make me feel anxious. At my worst I was breathing incorrectly all the time. As I got better, I noticed that I was only breathing incorrectly when I felt panicky sensations coming on.
Tip from trenches
You will stand a much better chance of correcting your breathing if you practice when you’re relaxed. You will be able to notice incorrect breathing patterns once you practice diaphragmatic breathing. Chest breathing can then be corrected by taking over your breathing. You will find your breathing will be naturally slower and deeper the more relaxed you are, and the more you start to overcome anxiety. That said, it works the other way as well. If you have a full blown major panic attacks there will be little you can do to control your breathing.
Stand to Attention!
Have you ever be told at school to stand up straight, stomach in and chest out. Although this may look good, it encourages poor breathing and hyperventilation. I’m sure we have been in pubs or shopping and tried to bring in our bellies to make us a look a bit thinner! Well this encourages poor breathing as well.
You have probably observed that once we exercise we breathe quicker to provide our muscles with oxygen. This enables us to exert ourselves, to run away from a predicament or even to fight (flight or fight response.) By doing this we are relieving our body of emotional stress. Our bodies have a tendency to naturally chest breathe when we exercise in order that we can have more oxygen. However if we over breath continuously (i.e. it becomes a habit) our oxygen level rises too much, and our carbon dioxide level drops. You might have seen the classic method to overcome this, often taught in medical books, is to breathe into a paper bag. By breathing back exactly what you have exhaled (Carbon dioxide Co2), your balancing Oxygen and Co2 within their normal levels. I must say from my own personal experience it’s more beneficial to treat the cause rather than the symptoms.
Breathing For Panic Attacks
Does it matter that I don’t breathe properly?
Yes it does. Why?, because it produces all the unpleasant sensations we become afraid of Exhaustion, Visual problems, cramps, shakes, tingling sensations, chest pains, etc. The problem with hyperventilation is the symptoms are extremely alarming, and cause more symptoms which in turn cause more over breathing and more symptoms. It’s kind of a downward spiral. My overriding memories of hyperventilation were being stuck in meetings at work where I would feel overwhelming sensations for the need to escape, whilst my breathing was very rapid. If you’re sitting, but breathing as if you’re running the London marathon, this means the oxygen levels your building up has nowhere to go but produce horrible feelings. I just use to grit my teeth and try and bear it (totally the wrong thing to do). The worst sensation was probably the heart palpitations which made me think my heart was going to stop and I would die. But that’s enough doom and gloom.
If you’re experiencing the same then I will help you recover from this. I don’t suffer from hyperventilation now and it feels great to breathe deep slowly and deeply. That said, there are many things you will need to incorporate in your life to get your breathing to return to calm state. Diet, exercise, relaxation techniques, etc.
How do we reverse the situation?
It’s essential therefore that we learn why we are breathing incorrectly and establish new correct patterns of breathing. What we need to do is to lower the adrenalin level and stop the fight or flight response happening. This will then bring to an end the unpleasant sensations. First, we must learn how to breathe properly. We know breathing from the upper chest is bad when we want to be relaxed. We should be breathing from the diaphragm or tummy. It should be a simple smooth in breath without gasping. Then a slight pause, followed by an out breath which should be longer than the in breath. It’s helpful to say in your mind the word ‘relax’ as you exhale.
Exercise 1 Breathing
JUST READ THIS FIRST SECTION
Lie down on your bed and place your hands on the area between your ribs and your naval. Your fingertips should just be touching. As your diaphragm expands your hands should separate slightly. As you exhale your fingertips should touch again. If this is not happening then you’re not doing the exercise properly!
Keep your hands on your diaphragm and close your mouth and breathe in and out via your nose. This bit is important, as you breathe in, I want you to expand your stomach and inflate it like a balloon and then deflate your stomach as you breathe out. I want you to breathe in to the count of 4 seconds. Hold the breath for a second or two and then exhale for about 5 seconds. The exhale should always be longer than the inhale. This is because you want to make sure you are emptying your lungs. As you practice and improve you be able to breathe in for say 8 seconds and exhale for 12 seconds. At first this may seem strange but with practice you will get the hang of it. The idea is to inflate your lungs slowly, hold, then exhale even more slowly in a calm, rhythmic state. Controlling your breathing is what we are ultimately trying to achieve, with slow and even breathes. As you exhale just release any stress or tension. Let your body be as loose and floppy as possible. You should feel your body after 10 mins or so start to sink in the bed with a feeling of weightlessness, and a feeling of being detached from your body. Aim to undertake this breathing for about 15mins (longer if possible). Practice is the key and more often you practice during the day the better you will acquire the skill.
NOW TAKE ACTION
Ready to start. Lie on the bed and make yourself as comfortable as possible. Then take an in breath.
In 1, 2, 3 & 4 (feel you tummy rise like a balloon). Hold for a second or two. Then breathe out 1, 2, 3,4 & 5 (your tummy should deflate slowly.
The first few times you practice this, just stick to the above. After a while, try extending your breathing to 5 or 6 second in breath and a 7 or 8 second exhale. Soon you will be able to train your body to breath only a few times a minute. This is one of the techniques free divers use to be able to control and hold their breath.
When you have perfected the above exercise, you should know the feeling of breathing deeply, slowly and calmly. The next stage is to practice when you’re sitting and finally standing. Eventually you will be able to apply this technique when you’re in any situation. There is no reason why you can’t practice this when your shopping or at work. By this stage you will not need to use your hands, so nobody will notice what you’re doing this. I can’t stress enough you need to practice this when you’re in a calm state. When you feel your body start to feel anxious you should apply what you have learnt, until the symptoms and anxiety subside. My panic use to manifest itself by me tensing up my tummy muscles, forcing me to breath via my chest. I quite often use to contract my stomach muscles when I breathed in, which was totally the wrong thing to do. When you identify where you are going wrong then you can start to get better. Take a look at your posture and how you breathe. I would recommend you practice lying down and once you get better you can practice sitting in a chair, but make sure you sit up straight. This will encourage diaphragmatic breathing. We need to watch our breathing every now again to correct faulty breathing caused by life stresses.
Breathing Techniques for Anxiety and Panic Attacks
THE IMPORTANT BIT PLEASE READ CAREFULLY
Simply knowing how to breathe properly is not enough to be able to control your breathing. Why?, well because if your diet is poor, is your abusing your body, if your thoughts are negative, if you’re not exercising enough then the panic and anxiety will rise in your body. You may recognize that your breathing is wrong and you have the tools to know how to breathe properly, but because you feel so panicky, you still won’t be able to control your breathing. Unless you follow the other advice I give these breathing techniques will not work. There is so much miss-information on the internet today that learning breathing techniques is not the complete answer. I can tell you after suffering panic attacks for 10 years that this is only part of the solution.
Breathing part 2
Why relaxation is so important?
Relaxation is one of the many building blocks needed to provide a good solid platform for recovery from any type of anxiety disorder. The habit of producing nervous tension and panic creates a circle of fear. To break this, relaxation is a vital key to unlock the door to the road to recovery.
How often do I need to do it?
You will need to practice relaxing every day. As simple as that. You need to be able to combat your tension head on, and keep persevering to flick the switch back to a normal relaxed state. Most people tend to naturally wind down in the evening, but when you’re doing things during the day this is when you will need to be relaxed as possible. Practicing late at night seems to be favourite with most people because the body relaxes easier then, and people have the time to do it. But don’t ignore practising in the middle of day because this is when you need to be relaxed more than ever.
Why should I practice daily?
Your body over a period of time has become sensitized to certain situations, people, things and it will take time to reverse this. Often anxiety can make it seem like you’re not making any progress but I can assure you these techniques do work with practice. At the start it doesn’t matter too much if you believe they work or not, just try and start implementing them. Take action. After a while you begin to enjoy and take great pleasure knowing how to let your body slow down. Often it takes times for the body and mind to adjust to this new way of thinking and acting.
Why is the way I think so important?
The brain is the trigger to making you feel anxious. You may think it’s the external events that make you panicky, but the single most important thing you can do to counteract anxiety is to change your thoughts. Sometimes our thoughts interfere with us relaxing. We think we will lose control. It’s only when you really go the extra step and truly let go and accept the way you feel, then you no longer fear it.
I think it’s imperative as you breathe out you think positive calming thoughts. Say on the out breathe that ‘I am calm and relaxed’ or ‘Any tension is being released through my feet’ or ‘I totally accept who I am and feel stronger everyday’. The main improvement you will see is how your breathing slows down and becomes quiet. If you have ever watched a baby or small child breathe you will have noticed that they hardly seen to breathe at all. You will just about be able to see their diaphragm slowly moving up and down. That’s what I want you to achieve. Panic attacks sufferers tend to do all the wrong things which inhibit breathing. Their shoulders are so tense, there neck is up around their ears. They clench their teeth, hunch their back, have stiff necks, etc. Make the effort to ‘check in’ every hour and relax each part of your body. Start at the top and work your way down. It’s something you can do anywhere – at work, at home, shopping, etc.
Tip from the trenches
When you first start doing these exercises you may feel more anxious. This is perfectly normal as your body is doing something unfamiliar. It’s got so use to panicking that it considers it normal. Keep persevering, it’s a good sign and it shows that you are challenging your minds old beliefs. You will find that the tension will gradually diminish. Overtime your body will revert back to its normal, balanced state. Keep smiling and tell yourself everything is fine. Give yourself a pat on the back.
Breathing exercise - long exercise
The whole object of this step is to teach you to relax properly and to know the difference between tension and relaxation in your muscles. It’s important that you practice these exercise to make progress and feel the full effects. Do them at various points in the day or when you feel you anxiety levels raise. I would recommend ideally you do them when you in a relaxed state, so you can fully practice and learn the skills you will need when you are more tense. These exercises are especially useful to lower your body’s reaction to stress.
Long breathing exercises deserve a blog post in themselves so please read my article Guided Relaxation Techniques and Exercises. Here you will find guided techniques to tense and relax your muscles for deep relaxation. You can even record your own guided Meditation
to play anytime you wish. Hopefuly you now have a better understanding of Breathing Exercises for Anxiety & Panic Attacks.
Relaxtion / Hypnosis Cd's - Contrary to what they claim should be used as a relaxation aid rather than any quick fix Thoroughly recommend you read through the description of the Cd to make sure you know what they contain. Some techniques may work better than others for you, so taylor them to suit your needs.
Hypnosis Cd for Panic and Anxiety Attacks A very good hypnosis Cd thats especially produced for panic attack sufferers. The more you use it and apply the techniques the more benefit you will get. Control Stress : Stop Worrying and Feel Good Now I have included this in the Cd section but the bulk of the information is in a book format. Paul Mckenna is one of the most famous hypnotists, and this book/Cd gives sound practical advice on decreasing stress. The book has lots of techniques and tips which need to be applied and can bring a sense of reality when you might start thinking negative thoughts.
Glen Harrold hypnosis cdsGlenn Harrold has produced lots of different Cd's from weight loss to inner clam. They certainly helped me in my recovery and I would recommend them fully. If you click on the link you can search through the Cd's he has produced and see if any catch your fancy.
Ultimate Relaxation A guided meditation by the well known Dr Hilary Jones (you have probably seen him on morning TV). Contains tips and techniques on relaxation.
Dream Surf If you like the sound of the ocean then this will be the Cd for you.
You can find some FREE meditation and relaxtions audios at excelatlife
If you want to record your own relaxation recordings then I have relaxation scripts/exercises you can record yourself. I good way to do this is record them on your mobile phone and listen to the exercises when you need to.
If so, please join to receive exclusive weekly tips & tools to overcome anxiety and panic attacks, and get a FREE COPY of my eBook, How to Recover & Cure Yourself of Anxiety & Panic Attacks! Just enter your name and email
Prevent Panic Attacks - Challenging the Thoughts which Cause Panic
Prevent Panic Attacks - Challenging the Thoughts which Cause Panic
The underlying basis for panic attacks is your thoughts. It is so hard to believe that your own thoughts are doing this. At first I did not believe this; I thought I had some deadly disease. But the truth is your own mind is doing this to you. Once you have established this then you can begin to get well again. Sometimes our thoughts are so instinctive and well hidden that we do not even realize we have thought them. The key to curing yourself of panic attack is removing those worrying thoughts which are causing the problem.
HERE ARE SOME UNHELPFUL THINKING STYLES
DO YOU SEE SOME OF THESE THINKING PATTERNS IN YOURSELF ?
1. You have to identify what thoughts are triggering panic and anxiety (What Triggers Panic Attacks). Everyone is unique but most panic attack sufferers will tend to fear the same issues.
2.Once the thoughts have been identified, remember that thoughts can happen so fast so you may not even realize what they are. Also the thoughts can be so engrained that you may not consciously be aware of the thoughts as they happen. A top tip is to have a pen and write them down at the time when you are feeling panicky.
As you write these thoughts down I predict you will find that nearly all the thoughts are being exaggerated in your mind to be out of all proportion. If you analyze them you will find they are unnecessarily frightening. What you need to do is to think much more logical and realistic thoughts.
Once the thoughts have been identified and targeted you can really begin to fight back and start turning the tables against the fear. What you need to do is stack the cards in your favour. I would ask that you answer the following questions when you have to undertake a task which causes anxiety.
FOR EXAMPLE Going To The Supermarket (I have included example answers.)
Write down if there was any anticipation anxiety?
For example entering a busy supermarket the person thinks I may have a panic attack there. It will be busy and there will be long queues at the check out. What if I feel dizzy?
Write down what were the initial thoughts when you started to feel anxious?I’m inside through the doors. I feel anxious. I see people and look around to see how busy it is. I look at the end of the shop and I have to venture to the back to get what I want.
Write down what thoughts moved the anxiety to panic?
I have a large basket full of food. Its heavy and I feel my breathing is very shallow. My heart is beating fast. I feel people are looking at me. I scared to go to checkout. I can’t seem to focus or concentrate on anything. I may have to leave the basket on the floor and run out.
Write down how you dealt with the panic attack?Got to the check out and want to the smallest queue. I leant against the counter to steady myself. Paid as quickly as I could.
Finally write down what meaning you took from the attack?
I seem to be scared of the symptoms of panic (internal feelings) and of situations where there are people and places where I cannot easily escape (external places).
Most people start dreading the worse when the sensations start. This is where the panic gets its power from. Often people think something awful is about to happen to them. It’s often helpful to write down the worst things you think might happen to you. When doing this try to be open with yourself. Don’t write down that you told yourself that you were calm and relaxed because that’s clearly not the case. Its impossible to have a panic attack if your relaxed and calm. The more honest you are with yourself and the deeper you get in your inner most darkest and negative thoughts the quicker the recovery will be.
CHALLENGE THE PANIC THOUGHTS
After you have written down your panicky thoughts you need to evaluate them. In order to do this we need to make this as simple and effective as possible. Look at each thought which is making you anxious or panicky. On one side make notes for the thought being true, in other words in support of the thought. Then make some notes against the thought not being true and having some alternative explanation. For example-
When I’m in a queue my legs go wobbly there must be something wrong with me?
Not being true
I have real physical symptoms
I don’t feel very well and I’ve felt it before
This is a symptom of anxiety
My symptoms only happen in certain places
My symptoms stop once I leave the queue
I never have collapsed
I usually feel anxious and get other symptoms as well such as dizziness.
When you actually study the thought I bet you will find that you are not faced with any some sort of imminent catastrophe but you actually fear the thought of the catastrophe. Have you actually ever had a heart attack, gone crazy or collapsed. My guess is that you have not.
Once you have eliminated any physical things that could be causing your symptom and seen a doctor, then its really best to think objectively. Read about all the physical symptoms anxiety can cause and see if they generally match yours (remember everyone is different). Then you need to come to a firm, logical, sensible conclusion that in your own mind you are sure you have panic attacks.
Remember the best conclusion to come to are hard, factual truths rather than just a gut feeling or intuition. If you feel like you may have some deadly disease or you have read some medical information on the internet and it loosely fits what you have, then you are not really looking at the facts.
Its also worth pointing out I do not know your medical history, so you may have had some physical ailment that’s causes anxiety like sensations. Nor can I say you will never collapse, have a heart attack, feel anxious. These things are facts of life and everyone has to deal with this. The crux of the matter is if you believe you have panic disorder and you understand it cannot harm, then every sensation can be systematically taken apart and challenged. You can then start to desensitize yourself and feel better. Slowly but surely the panic attacks will be less severe and further apart. The background anxiety will totally switch off for longer periods, and situations which you once enjoyed will start to feel good again.
One of the key questions which seems to help most people is
ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM COMPLETE DISASTERS EVERYDAY OR ARE YOU SIMPLEY FEARING THEM ?
Say this to your self again. In your world you have built panic attacks to be the most important all consuming thing in your life. But the reality of situation is people with epilepsy collapse every day but they still get up and walk around again. Heart attacks victims still recover and lead a perfectively full life. People who sweat, feel awful, tremble, have difficulty swallowing because of legitimate physical ailments still function and have a happy life on this planet. They choose to be positive and make the best of the situation. You can as well. You just have to believe you can get well and take action and live in the moment and enjoy yourself. You are lucky eventually your symptoms will start to diminish as you get better.
Spontaneous Panic Attack
Once you lift yourself out of the gloom with the knowledge you have learnt here, you will realize if you had a health problem you would not be able to feel better when the fear subsides. Most people have safe places (i.e. home) where they tend to feel like their normal selves again. Other physical causes would not follow this pattern.
Generally with a panic attack something will trigger the attack which you will probably be aware of. If nothing is obvious it will normally be obvious if you think about it. For example if you are having several panic attacks a day, then in my experience, you are so sensitized your body may trigger one anytime. Not looking after yourself and not eating regularly can also set off panic attacks for no reason. Also a sugary diet and drinking fizzy drinks can trigger panic attacks. Situations which are similar to what causes your panic attacks can trigger an attack. So if social interaction is a trigger and you were to meet a relative, even though your comfortable with this person, the brain can interpret this as social contact and anxiety can be triggered.
As I have stated in previous articles its amazing how distraction can short circuit the panic. Sometimes when your concentration is transfixed by something you were not expecting the brain can switch off from panicking. From this we can deduce that the more you worry the more powerful your anxiety will be. The less power you give your negative thoughts the more you can enjoy life again. Give your energy to positive healing and think positive thoughts.
“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively” Bob Marley
Distraction is one of the key tools which can help reduce the strength of a panic attack. However the distraction has to be of a strength to totally take the persons attention somewhere else. From this we know that when worrying thoughts are stopped, and our thoughts are concentrating on more positive things, we stop the panic in its tracks and start to change our mental patterns and behaviour.
Therefore if we think we are having a stroke or heart attack, would our symptoms start the minute we entered a shop? Would our symptoms end the minute we sat down in our lounge and relaxed? By logically thinking things through we start to reprogram our mind to believe the truth. Thoughts are extremely powerful but not powerful enough to start a heart attack and then turn off a heart attack.
We know form research what sensations arise from anxiety. So would you say your symptoms fit much more closely to anxiety and panic disorder?
For me there were certain places that I would know I would suffer from anxiety. I would have worrying thoughts beforehand and anticipatory anxiety. My brain was wired to trigger at this point. Out of the blue panic attacks which was a bit more baffling. Once I learnt that if your body is in such a high state of tension, panic attacks can trigger any time, the ‘out of the blue’ panic attacks lost a lot of their power. It was comforting to know that once I learnt to relax, along with the other tools, these would subside.
I believe you will find that if you look through the thoughts you have written down you will find that your thought patterns and triggers suit much more closely with fear and panic than real physical and mental illness.
One of my many thought patterns which was negative was, if I started to feel anxiety my thoughts would go in a downward spiral which would make things worse. When I thought through something, I made something which was trivial into a disaster waiting to happen, and if it did happen it would be much worse than it should be.
For example if I was driving on motorways (where I use to panic) I would think if I have a panic attack here, I going to slump at the wheel or go crazy and crash into other drivers on the road. This was totally over exaggerating the reality of the situation. The reality was I had experienced severe anxiety on motorways before but I had never driven dangerously. The once or twice I felt really bad I just pulled over on the hard shoulder, or to the nearest service station until I felt better. When you can objectively think things through without the fear and emotion, and see that panic is not something to be afraid off, you will take the sting out of it. (Do you suffer from phobia's?)
What are the chances of your fears actually coming true?
Try to think of the number of times you thought about a particular fear. If you were anything like me I was in total fear of panic attacks for many years, and probably thought of them thousands of times. What ever your ultimate fear is (a heart attack, going mad, fainting, etc) how many times as it actually happened. There answer is probably never. You can deduce from this your thoughts are not very accurate. You may have thought during this panic attack this was the time you were actually going to keel over and die. The fact you are reading this and searching for answers means you didn’t die and your thoughts are unfounded. Would you bet on a horse that had run hundreds of races and never won? Why would you then believe something is wrong with you when nothing as actually ever really happened?
“We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.” MARILYN MONROE
If your worst disaster happened, how bad would it actually be?
Nobody wants to have a heart attack or die, but even people without panic disorder have to deal with this. It’s a fact of life and if you fully accept this then there is nothing to fear. You can also stack the cards in your favour by eating healthy foods and taking regular exercise and this will not only give you the feel good factor but leave your body in good shape.
Panic attack sufferers have much more negative thoughts than normal people, and tend to loose a grip on the reality of certain situations. The feared disaster is often not as bad as we first think. When our thoughts are so frightening we don’t tend to see the reality of what would actually happen if our fears come true. Quite often we see things as a catastrophe when they are merely unpleasant. For example if we fainted at work it would not mean that the whole company was laughing at you. Many people faint at work and although it’s an inconvenience its not a life changing event. If you think of embarrassing things that may have happened to you in the past they may have been distressing, but looking back were they really that bad? Most people would feel sympathy and try to help you.
Many people also fear losing their jobs if somebody finds out they have panic disorder. This is an understandable feeling, but more and more work is now being done to bring mental illness to the open. Television programs are now being devoted to mental illness and companies are now much more aware of the welfare of their workforce. About 1 in 4 people will suffer from some sort of mental illness with the most common being depression. The chances are your boss will have experience with this and will be understanding. As part of my recovery I preferred not to think of a panic attack as a mental illness but just a habit of faulty thinking. Panic attacks are basically just this – a bad habit.
In order to make progress at the start to eliminate these thoughts I am a great advocator of writing them down. When you get more practised you can just run them through in your mind. But for know its much easier to write them on paper and then you can refer to them anytime. When your feeling anxious its not a good time to challenge your thoughts because you will not be able to think clearly. The more you practise coming back to the thoughts which are entering your mind and disempowering by sensibly thinking them through, the more progress you will make. This can often take time as thought processes take time to change. Eventually your subconscious mind will naturally be calm.
The subconscious mind
"The subconscious mind as the storage room of everything that is currently not in your conscious mind. It is what we have learnt and stored away for use when we need it."
If you to walk in the street and suddenly a tiger were to jump out in front you heart would probably feel like its going to jump out of your chest, and your eyes are going to lock onto the tiger. Rather than you running away you may find yourself frozen with fear. All this happens even before you have had time to think! So what’s causing all these sensation – its your subconscious mind. Its done this automatically and instantaneously. In this case its perfectly warranted. When you enter a busy shop and these symptoms happen its not. So you have to access your subconscious mind and tell it exactly where and when it should be triggering panic symptoms. You do this by challenging your thoughts when your calm, relaxed and meditating. I strongly recommend you sit your down on your bed in a dark room and for 30 mins each day systematically go through the thoughts you have written down. Take the fear out of each thought. Disempower them, take them apart and strip them down to the reality that they are – feelings and sensations which will pass and eventually subside. When your mind and thought patterns are reprogrammed with new behaviour you will no longer feel panic in these situations. Of course if that tiger reappears in the street you will but that’s OK, you should panic!
I will give you an example of how fainting can be disempowered. Sometimes people do faint it’s a fact of life. People basically faint when the blood pressure drops and it reduces the blood supply to their brain. You often hear about soldiers fainting on parade when they have been stood up a long time. This is because they are hot and their blood supply is being directed around their skin to try and cool them down. This means less blood supply for the rest of the body. In these conditions the blood pressure may drop to the brain and the body takes over. In ‘taking over’ it makes you faint so your lying down and your brain and heart are at the same level, so its less work for the heart to pump blood to your brain. Its actually a safety mechanism and its there to help you. It is not something to be feared. In the case of panic when your heart beats faster and adrenaline is pumped around the body your blood pressure actually raises, this makes the likelihood of fainting extremely remote. Panic and fear has the opposite effect on the body its priming you to run not to lie down.
Why 'mental illness' is different from anxiety and panic attacks.
Mental illness is used to cover a multitude of illnesses. It can be very confusing as different people will take the words ‘mental illness’ to mean many things. In its basic sense it can mean an illness which is not primarily physical. So if we apply this to panic disorder it could be classified a mental illness. There are various stigmas and connotations associated to mental illness which is why lots of people keep there illnesses from their relatives work colleagues and friends.
I would like to put a positive spin on panic attacks and anxiety. We were not born with panic disorder. At some point under stress a switch has flicked in our brain and we have started to feel this way. As I have stated before a HABIT has evolved in our way of thinking to produce panic attacks. That’s all it is, a habit. We all pick up worries, bad habits, stresses through our journey through life, but the key is to stay positive. This will lead you on a much happier journey through life and most importantly you will enjoy it.
I would recommend at least until you feel better that stay away from the news. The news is always negative. A bad event happening half away around the world is not going to affect you. I would look at the little things in life and take note. By admiring spring flowers, winter frosts, birds singing, you can get into the zone and find pleasure. Take up a hobby, get a better work life balance, really enjoy being with your family, go away on more short breaks using bargains on . The list is endless, just get into the groove of doing what ever rocks your boat!
Going back to mental illness its helpful to know a little bit more. Most people will associate true mental illness with conditions like manic-depressive disorder and schizophrenia. These are the more severe mental illnesses, and these illnesses are what people think of when the term 'going mad' is thought of. Psychological conditions can be broadly split up in two categories the neuroses and the psychoses, The first group are very common and include anxiety, panic and depression. Anyone can suffer these conditions.
I have taken these statistics from Mentalheath.org.uk
The facts and figures around Mental Health in the UK are alarming.
1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year
Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain
Women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men
About 10% of children have a mental health problem at any one time
Depression affects 1 in 5 older people
Suicides rates show that British men are three times as likely to die by suicide than British women
Self-harm statistics for the UK show one of the highest rates in Europe: 400 per 100,000 population
Only 1 in 10 prisoners has no mental disorder
The statistics speak for themselves, you can see how common Mental illness is.
The second kind of metal illness psychoses includes the severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia, it is much less common. You can rest assured one psychological problem does not turn into the other. People with panic are no more likely than anyone else to develop a severe mental illness. You would not expect that having a cold means you will develop cancer. In just the same way, having panic attacks does not mean you will develop schizophrenia or any other severe mental illness. Therefore panic attacks are very common along with depression and anxiety, and are perfectly treatable. We can also take hope that mental health issues are becoming more mainstream. For example politicians had an emotional debate in the commons on mental illnesses in June 2012.
MP Dr Wollaston revealed that she had suffered panic attacks on the London Underground as she commuted to work after having a baby.
She Said: “For many people, an experience of depression will make you a stronger person and a more understanding person.
I am absolutely sure my own experiences of depression and recovery made me go on to be a much more sympathetic doctor and, I hope, a more sympathetic and understanding MP as well in recognising issues in others and responding to them.”
I totally believe that if you continue to live your life the way you are doing, it will only lead to the same outcome you are experiencing now. What is required is a life changing outlook; this means a lifestyle change. Life style and behaviour are interlinked and both are a key element in overcoming panic. I have already shown how avoidance,scanning and anticipation anxiety must be eliminated or else the cycle of panic will continue.
As part of a lifestyle change I also strongly advocate to have a basic common sense plan on how your going to (you may be already doing this) introduce an exercise regimeinto your life. Personally I would recommend at least 3 times a week and whatever you do its must be rigorous enough to make you sweat. If you’re disabled or virtually house bound due to agoraphobia then you will have to think out of the box and perhaps buy some second hand gym equipment which suits your needs. ( may be a good idea)
I often see exercise bikes in people’s garage which would be a great way to feel better. The virtues of exercise have been described in many research experiments. From my own experience exercise is like an antidote to panic. It removes all the negative chemicals inside your body and makes you feel good about yourself. However there are some common sense principles. If you have not exercised before then build up slowly, you may even need some doctor’s advice. Remember this is a life style change so what you do you to build it into you life which will sticks and fits into a routine. You are much more likely to keep it going if its part of walking the dog, or going with your friends to aerobics. I believe you need to do at least 30 mins per session and the more hard work you put into it the more benefits you will reap. As a basic rule you need to feel sweaty by the end. As I said before, build up slowly and if for whatever reason you cannot push yourself just do what you can. Apart from making you feel good it has the benefit of burning calories.
Many sufferers complain that exercise brings on panic attacks, i.e. thumping heart, over breathing. However if you have challenged you thoughts before hand, and put into practice what I have shown (i.e. relaxation), there is no reason why your confidence will not build and you will actually start to you enjoy the experience. I usually take an MP3 player (Relaxation MP3 Downloads
)with me when I jog to listen to my favourite music. This helps to distract me if I feel any unusual sensations in my body.
This leads me onto a powerful way to really make a full recovery and to put all those fear to rest - take action. Unless you put yourself into the situation that’s scares you, you will not see what the fear really is.
My panic attacks left me with all sorts of different situations which I would fear and worry about. Just at the moment when I least wanted to have one, yes you guessed it, I would have a panic attack. When you’re in fear of fear you can guarantee the panic will trigger at the point in which you are most fearful. To overcome this -
1. Think about an everyday situation which makes you panicky. Run through the events in your mind and then right them down on paper so that the whole process is clear in your mind, from initially worrying about the situation to actually completing the task a head. For example one of my phobias was walking around a busy shopping centre. I would think I was going to feel panicky and my legs would go weak and wobbly. My breathing would often go shallow and I would suffer from palpitations. Leading on from these sensations I would interpret these feelings as, I going to collapse and then make a fool of myself in front of other shoppers. The aim of doing this is to see if the thoughts are true, i.e. I will collapse or will I just feel very uncomfortable and nothing more will happen to me.
2. Next go into a busy shopping area and stand and wait to see what happens. When you actually want to have a panic attack usually it does not happen as your not fearing it. If nothing happens expand your boundaries by going into a busier place. If you fear lifts or escalators go on one, or join a long queue if your scared of that. Just do whatever makes you fearful. When the sensations appear stand your ground and observe them. Just describe what is happening but don’t react to anything your thinking or feeling. Just observe the panic from an unemotional bystander point of view looking inwards.
3. Once you have felt the worse and sensations have started to subside you will probably feel extremely uncomfortable, but did you actually go mad, faint, collapse, or go crazy in the shopping mall? If you didn’t what does that say about your thoughts? Did the disaster you were predicting actually happen or was it merely unpleasant. Looking back I never once collapsed or made a fool of myself. 99% of the time other people did not even realize how intensely I was panicking inside. Outwardly the physical sensations would cause me to shake, breathe awkwardly and tense up but that was the only real physical signs. Most people have been in very fearful situations and would sympathize with you and help you if they could. It’s one of the main misconceptions when you panic that you tend to feel the whole world is against you. The reality is most people would help even if your worst fears did come true and you collapsed or fainted.
I would certainly recommend you build up your resilience and confidence slowly and do not push yourself too much at first. Expose yourself to your fears slowly, and gradually build up to more fearful situations. From LEARNING AFTER EACH ACTION IS TAKEN you will come to terms that your thoughts and feelings are bluffing you into believing things which are not true. Just stay in the moment and learn to enjoy each experience as a positive step forward to achieving a goal. After all being in a shopping queue is a chance to grab a bargain, being in a queue is there for you to purchase that bargain, etc.
This whole process of getting better is going to make you anxious. You have learnt to be anxious in these situations and its going to take time to rehabilitate yourself. The point you have to learn is does your fear actually happen? By putting yourself out there in those fearful situations you are retraining your mind, and this will gradually begin to build your confidence. Identifying and challenging your catastrophic thoughts one step at a time is the best way to deal with panic attacks in the long run.
As a starting point I would certainly speak to your GP to see what help and support he/she will be able to offer. In my experience it can be a battle to get any help on the NHS but you may have private medical through your work which can help. I would certainly confide in your nearest and dearest as a problem shared is a problem halved. I think you will be surprised how understanding they are. Ultimately its only you that can cure yourself and put the effort to succeed and make a difference in your life.
I hope this article has helped you and given you some insight into the world of panic. Perhaps the main message is "Don't Despair !". Lots of people suffer from panic but lots of people also learnt to reduce and even eliminate their anxiety/panic. Panic does not have to rule your life, but to succeed in overcoming it you need to work hard at following the advice given here. I can assure you there is no magic pill or advice that will cure you instantly, but stick to the advice given here and you should succeed.
Please visit my resources page for further recommended reading. I have also included programs which I have personally used during my recovery which can also help in your recovery.
Please tell me of you think other cures are helpful. How did you overcome anxiety & Panic Attacks ?
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