Panic Attacks

What Is a Panic Attack?

If you have ever experienced one then you can probably clearly explain the body sensation of an attack. Heart palpitations, sweating, trembling and shaking, feeling nausea and dizzy are what are most common to people.  What is equally scary however is the fear of losing control and even dying.

During the years of living with my anxiety, I had a number of panic attacks. Some worse than others and some forcing me to go to the hospital convinced that I was having a heart attack. What I found out later was that due to the intensity of the symptoms that a panic attack can bring on, they tend to mimic those of heart disease and breathing disorders and that it is common for people experiencing a panic attack to be convinced they are having a life-threatening issue.

What is annoying about panic attacks is that they can occur unexpectedly. Doesn’t matter if you start out feeling calm or anxious, the attack can occur regardless. And since they are so unpleasant to experience and very frightening, you end up becoming worried about having another panic attack.

Detecting The Onset of An Attack

Through my trial and error with panic attacks I discovered that having a plan, a way to respond when one came one was the best approach for me. It reduced my ongoing worry about getting another attack because I felt more confident that I could manage myself out of one and it also reduced the length of time that I was experiencing the symptoms of the attack. Here is what I found worked for me.

What Works For Me

Firstly, I just recognize that I am feeling afraid and starting to panic.  I found it is best to not ignore the symptoms and pretend they are not happening.  I also remind myself that I am not in danger.  Usually the thought of being in danger accompanies panic attacks.   I  found that reminding myself that I am safe is very useful.  How I do this is I look around and say to myself, “See, you are fine.  You are safe.  You are secure.”

Next, I choose to not fight the feeling.  This goes against all of my instinct.  I just say to myself, “Well, it looks like I am having a panic attack right now.”  Then, I allow myself to just accept the symptoms. I see the physical sensations that I am experiencing as a logical and expected response to whatever thoughts I am having that are causing the panic. My body is functioning exactly as it should, and I know that my thoughts are creating the physical response. I thank my body for being so well-built and responsive.  This is a nice twist to what I used to do which was to worry and struggle which actually made it worse.

I then remind myself that I have been through this before and it always ended.  I remember that my last panic attack and the one before that and the one before that all came to an end and so this one will also end.

Grounding Exercises 

And lastly and most importantly, I focus on something outside of myself.  I find that getting into the present moment and focusing on something that is in my sight I can stop my imagination from making up the future stories that are negative and which are probably triggering the panic in the first place.  I stop any thinking that is accompanied by “what if….” by turning my focus on something is actually happening right in front of me.  I then work with my body by relaxing it using breath work.  Relaxing the muscles of my jaw, neck, shoulders and back really help.  I also make sure I am not standing rigid with muscles tensed and that I am NOT holding my breath.

I have found that by following these simple steps I can start making myself feel better rather quickly when a panic attack comes on.  Sometime I have to do the steps a couple of times before I start to see any results.  The important thing is to keep doing them and not give up.

You’re Not Alone

Panic is a normal response to either a real or imagined situation.  If you are like me and it is your mind making up “what if…” stories that are triggering the panic, then give the steps that I use a try and see if you can shorten the length and number of attacks you are experiencing. And as always, I invite you to join in on the conversation on Facebook and Instagram 

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

How Soft Eyes Can Reduce the Feelings of Anxiety

I have vivid memories of my many heightened experiences with anxiety. Triggered by an event (which many times was outside of my awareness), my relentless negative self-talk would start up and be something I could not stop. Typically, it was worries of a negative outcome, a perceived failure or an anticipated altercation with someone. Certainly the thought, I’m not good enough, was at the centre of most of my internal dialogue.

Interestingly enough, when I felt anxious, I took on behaviour as if a real predator was actually threatening me. My eyes would dart back and forth, desperately looking for the danger. I was acting as if a prowling lion was stalking toward me. I have now learned that this is a completely normal behavioural response to feelings of fear or anxiety. This behaviour is hardwired into us; the mind cannot tell the difference between being scared due to an actual predator, or from something imagined.

After years of trying to manage my anxiety, I discovered if I defocused my eyes while experiencing anxiety my emotions would calm down. A wonderful sense of connection would begin and my heart rate would start to slow. I soon began to defocus my eyes at work, when I was feeling anxious, or at home when things got overwhelming. It was a great take along when I was on long flights to reduce any sense of nervousness.

Technique for Reducing Anxiety: Defocusing Your Eyes

Here is all you need to know to start doing this technique yourself. Pick an object to focus on somewhere near you. It can be anything, like a chair or book. The size or shape of the object doesn’t matter.

Next, stare at the object with all of your concentration. While you are staring, take note of what happens to the muscles in your face and also to your breathing. Then, instead of staring at the object, start to “look” at it, while allowing yourself to notice the other objects in the room without looking directly at them, and while maintaining your gaze on the primary object. What do you notice about your tension and your breathing? They have decreased, haven’t they?

You can use this technique anytime you feel overwhelming emotions creeping up and certainly if you struggle with anxiety. You will soon see that you can reduce the negative feelings within your body, allowing you to behave and think differently. And isn’t that all that we are searching for? An easy and healthy way to feel differently now!

I invite you to share your experience with worrying in the comments. You can also join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram for inspiration.

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

Do Autumn Differently This Year

Autumn Is On The Way

Can you feel the change in the air? My mother always used to ask me this around this time of the year. And she was right. There is a shift in the air at this time of year. Somehow, it feels less intense outside, even though temperatures can still reach as high as they did at the peak of the summer. There is a coolness that catches you every once in a while.  Sleeping at night is easier. Windows can be open and we do not need to rely incessantly on our air conditioners. All of these signs point directly to the return of children to school and for us adults, the return to a more routine way of life. Even for those of us who either do not have children, or have children that are grown and done with the school system, the approach of autumn means a return to a way of life that is usually more stressed and more demanding. The long days of summer, with their “whatever” attitude, are starting to pack their bags and head to more southerly regions.

Do Autumn Differently This Year

For some, the return to the regular routine of life means the return to the familiar feelings of stress and anxiety. But what if we enter autumn differently this year, and avoid those unwanted feelings altogether? If you are game for this new approach, start with gaining awareness. Catch the feelings as they start to creep up on you. Notice where in your body you feel the tension. Is it in your neck? Your jaw? Maybe it’s in your stomach. Become aware of thoughts you are saying, either out loud or to yourself silently, that are negative, predict a pending doom, or a sense of overwhelm.

After you become aware, stop and congratulate yourself. Awareness is always the first step towards change. And now for some deep breathing. Amazingly, something as simple as deep breathing can help reduce stress and anxiety and calm you when you are feeling overwhelmed.

Find Time to Breathe Deeply

When we feel stressed, the body does what it is naturally designed to do, it goes into flight or fight mode. For some this results in an elevated heartbeat, tension in the body, or shallow breathing. The key is to change how the body reacts. The best way to do this is to change our breathing. When we feel better, we can think better.

It’s All About Technique

There is a proper technique to deep breathing. Find a place where you are comfortable, such as a chair or lying on your back. Make sure you are in a quiet place, free from distractions. Put one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest and take a deep, slow breath in through your nose. Notice the hand on your stomach rises. Now breathe out through pursed lips, just like you are blowing candles out on a birthday cake. Next, do a slow, full exhale. Do this for two to three minutes. Practise as much as you can and you will soon realize that you can encourage a sense of well-being whenever you need it.

So remember as we move into this new season; something as simple as breathing differently can result in feeling differently instantly.

I invite you to share your experience with worrying in the comments. You can also join in the conversation on Facebook and Instagram for inspiration.

To our health and wellbeing,

Karen

Fall Back into Routine to Reduce Anxiety

It’s that time of year when we get back into our routines, whether it be work, exercise, eating or school, after enjoying a couple months sabbatical. Even if you don’t have children returning to school, September symbolizes a fresh start. For many people, work and school are sources of high stress and continuous anxiety. And, since ignoring them is not a practical solution, why not implement some simple and effective lifestyle habits that can greatly reduce the anxiety that may arise from daily circumstances.

In this newsletter edition, you will receive 5 effective anxiety-reducing strategies that you can start implementing right away.

Strategy 1: Make Sure Your Diet is Balanced

A poor diet deprives your body of the important nutrients it needs to function optimally. Maintaining a poor diet for an extended period of time forces the body to compensate by raising the stress-hormone cortisol. Chronic high-stress levels can wreak havoc on overall health and wellbeing. So it’s important to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet consisting of protein, fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Drinking enough water daily in order to stay hydrated, and limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine will also help relieve anxiety. Complex carbohydrates metabolize slowly, and therefore help maintain a more even blood sugar level, creating a calmer feeling.

If you cannot commit to eating a balanced meal every day, have a supply of meal replacement bars or shakes available as an alternative.

Strategy 2: Get Physical

There are two amazing benefits from being physically active. First, it releases endorphins immediately into the body. Endorphins are the feel-good hormones that long distance runners enjoy and promote.  Any level of physical activity can start the release of endorphins meaning you do not need to be a marathon runner to get the benefits. Consider what you can commit to daily to get our body moving. Maybe it’s a walk, or a bike ride, or a short visit to the local gym. Whatever you can do to get moving will make you feel better and less stressed.

Secondly, exercise takes your focus off of whatever is stressing you out. Switching your attention to something else gives your brain a chance to take a break. You may be surprised at the perspective that comes from not thinking about your problem!

Strategy 3: Sleep Baby!

There is not enough good to say about the powerful effects of sleep. We live in a sleep-deprived society, due to our fast-paced and demanding lifestyles. And sleep deprivation is a sure fire way to generate a bad mood and feed our anxious feelings. Moreover, a lack of sleep can throw off cortisol rhythms and mix up the body’s circadian clock. Anyone who has flown internationally can relate to how difficult it is to feel good when your internal time clock is out of whack.

Aim for at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night to minimize anxiety. If you are having trouble getting to or staying asleep try taking some of the natural sleep aids available at your local drug store.

Strategy 4: Set a Daily Routine

One of the best ways to avoid feeling anxious is to develop a daily routine and a to-do list. Start with a morning routine which ensures that you wake up early enough to get everything done that you need to before heading off to work or school. Waking up late is a guaranteed way to start your day with anxiety.

Many people get anxious because their schedule is either too rushed or sporadic, and there is no time for themselves within their daily activities. There should be enough time within your morning routine to either read a bit, do some exercise and/or enjoy a nutritious breakfast. Starting your day in a calm, relaxed way will set it up for success.

Strategy 5: Meditation

Meditation is more than just sitting with your eyes closed. It is the practice of training your mind to let thoughts come and go without fixating on any thought in particular. It takes practice and as with all good habits, it takes some time to develop. Be patient with yourself and encourage yourself to keep at it.

Picture yourself watching cars on a busy highway rushing past, and you have to take notice of every license plate. That would be exhausting and impossible. Now, what if you could stand there, ignore the cars, and instead focus on something in the distance. Maybe a sunset or a beautiful, magnificent tree. That would be much more calming, wouldn’t it? Meditation is an amazing skill to use when you have anxiety. As your anxious thoughts about yesterday, tomorrow, five years from now race in and out of your mind, being able to slow down your thoughts and focus on a calming image greatly reduces the level of anxiousness. Training your mind to be in the present is vital to managing anxiety.

For more discussion on anxiety, what it is, why we feel anxiousness and how it can be managed, please click on the links to either of my blogs below.

Log onto my website at www.itcanbedifferent.ca and download a free tool called Focus and Peace. This audio file will teach you how to overcome anxiousness instantly.

Come and see me at the Empowering Women to Succeed Conference on September 25th. Go to http://empoweringwomentosucceed.com/conference2018 and book your complimentary 30-minute session.