Dealing With Panic Attacks

I have been a long time sufferer of panic attacks without even for one second knowing it. I now know the reasons behind all the heart palpitations, hyperventillation and an incessant sense of impending doom.This condition has landed me into Korle-bu general hospital twice but still hasnt stopped. I recently read this article talking the possible causes and remedies for the condition which i have found very, very helpful indeed. All i have to do now is to follow the recomended steps to be taken when you-know-who strikes again.

My reason for talking about it, is two fold. One being for cathartic purposes and second i suspect a lot of people suffer from panic attacks and dont even know it and would probably blame it on one old cannibal witch back in the village.

The article below i feel talks extensively about the above issue[ fear of the name only hightens fear of the real thing so i’ll say PANIC ATTACKS]. Leave a comment and share your experiences; us fierros got to stick together 🙂

Anxiety and panic attacks

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion you feel when under threat as your Sympathetic Nervous System kicks in to prepare for danger. Physically, adrenaline begins pouring through your system, your digestion shuts down, your heart beats faster, your liver releases stored sugar into your bloodstream, you sweat and your pupils dilate.

Anxiety is a vicious circle of thoughts, sensations and behaviours. The origins of an anxious mood lie in your thoughts, some of which you may not even be aware of! These thoughts lead to reactions in the body, causing physical sensations and affecting your behaviour. An anxious person tends to think more distressed thoughts, maintaining a vicious circle.

Common symptoms of anxiety include:

Worrying
Lack of self-confidence
Self-consciousness
Inability to relax
Constant feeling of dread
Irritable and irrational behaviour
Loss of concentration
Forgetfulness
Fear of criticism
Nightmares
Fear of being alone
Fear of being with other people
Loss of sexual interest
Sleeplessness

Challenging anxious thoughtsThe symptoms of anxiety are unpleasant, but they’ll eventually disappear. You can, however, accelerate this process by recognising and challenging common patterns of anxious thinking. Some of these are:

All or nothing attitudeYou think you’re either brilliant at something or terrible at it. If you make a small mistake, you feel you’re a total failure!
Making rash generalisationsYou didn’t get on with people at a party once, so you tell yourself “I never get on with people at parties”.

Ignoring the positiveDismissing your successes or good qualities, or not even noticing them to begin with.

Mind-readingThinking you know what others are or will be thinking about you.
Always worrying about the worst-case scenarioIf you have chest pains you worry that you’re having a heart attack or if you’ve got a headache you worry that you’ve got a brain tumour.

How to challenge these thoughts
Check if they fall into one of the above patterns.

Ask yourself what evidence there is and if there is any to contradict this.
Ask yourself what are the realistic chances of the things you dread happening?
Reassure yourself that you can cope. Never underestimate your determination, resilience and ability to learn new skills.
Try to find a positive thought to replace each anxious one!

Calming your physical sensationsEssentially you’re trying to stop anxiety symptoms escalating by reinforcing your bodies calming mechanisms. Breathing and relaxation are two simple and effective methods, which become even more effective when done together.Whether you are in an anxious mood, you are likely to be breathing too quickly. This upsets the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood, leading to unpleasant symptoms of anxiety and panic.Slow down your breathing and aim to breathe 10-12 times per minute. Pause between breaths and time yourself. You’ll naturally breathe slower through your nose rather than your mouth. Try to exhale for as long as you inhale.Anxious breathing tends to push out the chest only. Instead breathe from your diaphragm, steadily taking air right down into the bottom of your lungs and pushing your stomach out.

Breathing exercises

Put one hand on your chest and the other between your breastbone and belly-button.

Take 10-15 slow deep breaths and try to get your stomach moving in and out whilst keeping your chest still (this takes practice!)

Once you can do this, you can do ‘3-6-9’ breaths. Imagine each your lungs as three-floored buildings that are going to fill with air.

Breathe in to 3 filling the top floor, into 6 filling the middle and to 9 filling the ground floor.

Now breathe out, imagining you are emptying first the top floor (9,8,7) then the middle floor (6,5,4) and finally the ground floor (3,2,1).

Repeat this 5 times.

Sit or lie down. Relax all parts of your body as much as possible.

Take 10 steady breaths, count upwards and say “relax” or “calming down” to yourself each time you breathe out. When you get to 10, count back down and

repeat.

Relaxation exercises

Twenty minutes to half an hour of progressive muscular relaxation every day is a great way to reduce anxiety and stress. It is body based and uses your breathing, so it can really absorb your attention (giving your mind a rest).
Sit or lie down somewhere warm and comfortable (where you will not be disturbed).

Let your breathing settle into a slow rhythm. Be aware of your tummy rising and falling, but don’t make an effort to breathe deeply (when you’re relaxed you naturally take shallow breaths).

Tense and relax parts of your body in tune with your breathing. Breathe in and tense muscles and relax them when you exhale. Practice this using a clenched fist to start with. Keep your breathing regular and try not to hold your breath!
Apply this to the rest of your body, starting with feet and calf muscles, moving to general leg muscles (throughout the legs), onto buttocks and groin, stomach, shoulders (hunch up to your ears), arms, hands and face. Repeat each tense-and-relax at least twice.

Spot-check your body for parts that are not relaxed and do them again. In particular check your stomach, neck, shoulders, and face.
When you’re feeling completely floppy and heavy, keep your breathing steady. Enjoy feeling at peace and completely relaxed.

Tips

Practise improves your ability to relax.

Don’t worry about overlap between different body parts. It’s impossible to

clench your buttocks without your thighs, for example.

It may help to say things while breathing out, like “relax” or “exhale”.

When you relax your face, check your forehead, jaw, eyelids, lips and tongue for tension.

Soft calming background music helps your brain get the message.

Do these exercises a few times each day, until your breathing patterns change.
Then put the breathing and relaxation exercises together. Your thoughts will distract you at first, but persevere and your concentration will improve. If you do this twice per day, you should notice an overall reduction in anxiety levels within a week or two.Challenging your behaviourHere is a list of behaviours linked to anxiety

Drinking alcohol
Pacing/fidgeting
Lack of exercise
Smoking cigarettes
Driving aggressively
Avoiding people or situations
Spending too much money
Drinking too much caffeine
Working long hours
Bottling up feelings
Taking drugs
Irregular eating patterns
Biting your nails

Do you recognise yourself in this list? Lots of people do these things every day! If this applies to you, take some constructive steps, starting with things you already believe you can succeed at.Anxious people can be destressed by:A healthier lifestyle

Eat regular meals, including breakfast (even if it’s only a banana), to keep blood sugar levels steady.Avoid junk food and sugary or fatty snacks.
Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake.
Reduce or stop smoking (it feels calming but physically it causes your body stress).

Maintain a balance of work, rest and play.
Try to keep regular sleeping hours.
Build 20-30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine, even if it’s just walking around the block.
Time and Resource Management
Plan ahead and prioritise by allocating time for both work and recreation.
Don’t procrastinate and then leave yourself in a mad rush to meet a deadline. – Be realistic about time and try to finish one thing before moving on.
Live according to your means because big debts are anxiety-provoking (credit cards particularly). If you are in money trouble, acknowledge it and seek advice from our Student Financial Support Service.
Emotional Support and Release
Don’t bottle up your feelings.
Pent-up emotions feed anxiety.
Talk to friends, family, a counsellor or someone else you trust.
Try to let yourself cry if you want to.
If you’re angry but there’s no one to vent to, find a non-harmful way to relieve the stress.
Some people shut themselves in their car for a good scream. Others lift weights, beat up their bed or smash eggs in the bath!
Facing up to difficult situations

If your anxiety is tied to particular situations (such as giving presentations), the only way you can learn to deal with these is to face them. If you avoid them because you’re anxious, you’ll feel even worse about it next time.
Build up to the situation by imagining it. If you notice yourself feeling anxious, pause and do some breathing exercises and physical relaxation. Unfold the scenario and imagine yourself coping with the fear and getting through successfully. If necessary you can do these in public without people noticing.Dealing with panic attacks

Physical symptoms of a panic attack include:
Palpitations/racing heart
Trembling
Weak knees
Dizziness
Chest or stomach pains
Pins and needles
Nausea
Muscle pains
Diarrhoea
Breathlessness
Feeling of unreality
Weak bladder
Visual disturbances
Tension
Dry mouth and throat
Sweating

Panic attacks are extremely unpleasant but not dangerous. The best tactic is to try to head it off when you feel yourself starting to panic.
You can do this by:
Diverting your attention (talk to someone, count backwards from 50, take in every tiny detail of your fingernails or do the crossword etc).
Thinking positive, reassuring thoughts such as “I am stronger than my anxiety”.
Taking a few long, slow breaths while consciously relaxing your whole body.
Doing something you find comforting (phone a friend or play a computer game).

Talking directly to the panic, “Forget it, you’re not winning, now go away”.
Breathing slowly through your nose and making sure you exhale for as long as you inhale.

Cupping your hands over your nose and mouth if you’re feeling light-headed (this will make you breathe in more carbon dioxide, which helps).
Observing the symptoms you’re experiencing and explaining them to yourself as the body’s anxiety reactions (e.g. “I’m dizzy because panic leads to constriction of the arteries to my brain”).

Thinking positive, coping thoughts such as “I know I can deal with this panic,” or “I’m going to relax my body and get through this”.

This factsheet was prepared by the Counselling Service in 2004

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