PANIC / ANXIETY ATTACKS
This is a most uncomfortable - painful - frightening thing to suffer! It can be terrifying - one of the worst feelings imagineable. We know - we've been there.
You can start to take control this very minute - right now - using your breath. Here we go...
Take a deep, deep breath through your nose. Deeeeep - and slow - and release it slowly through your pursed lips - like blowing a kiss - all the way out...
Once more - another deep, deep breath - in through your nose - count up to 8 -
Sit up straight so you can fill your lungs all the way to the bottom - and very slowly, very gently - out through your pursed lips as you count down from 8...
Close your eyes, relax your muscles and allow the tension to leave your body.
And one more deeeeep breath - in through your nose - and - blow kiss - out slowly and gently through your pursed lips. And relax your muscles - all over - every muscle - just relaaaax - like butter - like crusty, old snow melting on a warm, sunny day - from the tip of your head to the tip of your toes.
Feel a bit better? We hope so.
Next - while there are some truly helpful techniques for dealing with anxiety/panic attacks and several very helpful books on the subject that we urge you to check out immediately - as soon as possible so you can start getting help for yourself - we believe that anxiety/panic attacks are, at root, about fearful thoughts, feelings or wishes "wanting" to rise to the surface - thoughts that you wish to suppress - need to suppress - at this time - because they're too painful and/or frightening for you to handle now.
You are not crazy - you are not disturbed - you are not even particularly unusual. Loads of people have panic/anxiety attacks. That's why there are so many books on the subject now - and tapes of helpful techniques.
But we believe that while it's good to use a helpful technique to get control of these usetting symptons, it's most important to start dealing with what's going on under the surface with you. And by help, we mean professional psychotherapy with a qualified therapist - someone understanding and sympathetic, who is well trained to help you on a deep - not-superficial - level.
There is also medication that can help temporarily. But we believe the best help comes ultimately from understanding the source of your feelings - usually deep-seated conflicts that take time to ferret out and resolve. And usually these can only be dealt with in the context of very sensitive, nuanced, sophisticated psychotherapy with a really GOOD psychotherapist.
And we say beware the psychiatrist who wants to treat you with just medication. Sure you might get some relief. But you'll miss the opportunity to resolve your deeper issues - a resolution that might help you feel better about yourself on a fundamental level, that will help you to create better relationships as well as a better life for yourself, down the road. And there's always the chance - in fact, the likelihood - if the deeper issues aren't resolved, that they'll be back, in one form or another, (and just as unpleasant, you can be sure!) in the not too distant future. Better to address them now - for longer lasting results.
Understand that this is not some simple thing that can be quickly resolved. It takes time to find the right therapist - time to establish a good working relationship with that therapist - and time to get through some of the surrounding issues before you start dealing with the underlying problems. It all takes time. And patience.
In the meantime, here are:
THREE TECHNIQUES TO HELP YOU CALM A PANIC ATTACK
1. TAKE CONTROL WITH YOUR BREATH
One thing you can do now to start getting a sense of control for the moment, is to simply focus on your breathing - that is, breathing at your natural rate - not fast, not slow - (don't hyperventilate by breathing too quickly!) - just natural breaths - paying attention to your breaths - in, one, two - and out, three, four - and in, one, two.... and out, three, four... slowly - naturally - just your breaths - in, one, two... and out, three, four... - in, one, two... and out, three, four...
Sometimes drawing your attention to your breath like that can help stop a panic attack - just breath in and breathe out - not fast, not slow - just in and then out - and focus on nothing but your breathing - in... and then out... - in.... and then out.... - in.... and then out....
You can shut the world out if you like - and just focus on the fact that you're alive - and all right - and you're breathing - In fact, you know you're alive and all right BECAUSE you're breathing - and that's all you're going to focus on for this moment - all you're going to handle right now - just breathing - you and breathing - no one else - and nothing else - just the fact that you're alive - breathing in, one, two and out, three, four - and in, one, two... and out, three, four....
Here is another technique to deal with anxiety/panic, based on the JACOBSON RELAXATION TECHNIQUE: [Adapted from the book, Loveshock - How to Recover From a Broken Heart and Love Again - by Stephen Gullo, PhD and Connie Church]
STEP ONE: BREATHING CALM
Sit in a chair or lie on your bed. Close your eyes. As you breathe naturally in and out, on the next breath out, say to yourself, "Relax..." And relax your muscles as you do this. Breathe in again, and then as you breathe out say, "Calm..." and relax your muscles. Next breath out, say, "Relax..." again. Do this 6 to ten times, alternativing "Calm" and "Relax," while you allow your muscles to relax.
STEP TWO: GET A PICTURE
Now with your eyes still closed, take a deep, long breath and hold it for as long as you can while you picture how you feel at this moment: fear, terror, anger, rage, hurt - whatever is a real feeling for you at this very moment - and then let the picture go as you let your breath go. Do this two more times. On the third time, as you let your breath go, try to release this bothersome picture/feeling for good. Try to blow it away - out of sight - out of your life...
STEP THREE: MUSCLE RELAXATION
Then, still sitting quietly or lying on your back (in a straight line, your hands gently at your side) tense then relax each muscle group in your body. Start by focusing on the muscles in your feet - first tense up the muscles in your feet - hold for a moment - then release and feel those muscles relax. Move up to your legs - tense up the muscles in your legs - hold a moment - then release and feel the muscles relax. Then your thighs, your buttocks, your abdomen, chest, arms, hands and neck - slowly working your way up your body - tensing, holding and releasing every group of muscles as you come to it - your chin, your face, your eyes - 'til you get to the top of your head....
STEP FOUR: BREATHING CALM AGAIN
Now return to the alternating BREATHING CALM / RELAX you did at first.... (same as Step One above.)
STEP SIX: GET A PICTURE AGAIN
Same as Step two above. Each time an upsetting thought returns, tell that thought to go away. Talk to it as though it were a living object (as it is, in a way). Tell it to go away and leave you alone. Tell it to take a hike - get lost - or just say, STOP! And tell the thought to go away. Banish it from your mind. You can always return to the relaxation breathing - using your breath to take control.
TO STOP AN ANXIETY ATTACK IN PUBLIC
Here is a technique you can do if you are having an anxiety attack in public. It only takes about a minute and it really works.
1. Calm yourself with Relaxation Breathing - gently breathe in and out, while saying "calm" and "relax".
2. One at a time, starting from your feet and working your way up your body, tense up all the muscles in your body - like a stiff board.
3. Bring together your first finger and thumb to make a circle (use one or both hands.) Clench the fingers together as tight as you can. As you do this, picture all the anxiety within you draining into these two circles. Say to yourself, "drain, drain," as you picture your anxiety draining out of your system. Release your fingers and try to flick the anxiety away from you.
4. Repeat these three steps two or three times - or however many times you need to feel better.
Also - remember that exercise can be a great way to rid your system of anxiety. So get out there and MOVE YOUR BOD!!
HERE IS AN AFFIRMATION YOU CAN SAY TO HELP YOU CALM DOWN:
Say each statement aloud - softly - to yourself, as you read it. Saying it aloud - to yourself - makes it most effective.
- I take good care of myself;
- I am taking care of myself now as I calm myself;
- I am calming myself;
- I am soothing myself;
- I am taking control.
- I am calming and soothing myself so that I may fall into a deep and satisfying sleep;
- I now allow myself to fall into a deep and satisfying sleep;
- I now release my upset;
- I now release my fear;
- I now release my panic;
- I am letting go of my fear and panic;
- I am taking control.
- As I take control, I let all fear and panic fly away;
- I am letting go of my tension;
- I am letting go of my fears;
- I can picture a little trap door on the top of my head;
- I open this little door on the top of my head - and let all fears and panic fly away from me;
- I am releasing all fear and panic from my system;
- As I release tension, fear and panic, I am feeling more and more relaxed;
- I am letting my muscles relax;
- All the muscles in my body are relaxing;
- I am feeling more and more relaxed and I am getting sleepy;
- I am relaxing and I am feeling more and more sleepy;
- I am giving myself permission to fall asleep;
- I am giving myself permission to drift into a restful sleep;
- I am giving myself permission to fall into a deep and satisfying sleep;
- As I relax I feel myself getting more and more sleepy;
- I feel peaceful,
- I feel peaceful and relaxed,
- I am feeling very peaceful, relaxed and sleepy;
- I am feeling very sleepy;
- I am ready to fall asleep now;
- I'm almost asleep...
- I'm happy to fall asleep.....
Now at this point, you can place yourself in a beautiful, peaceful, pleasurable environment - perhaps some place where you've been in the past, some place where you have happy memories - or maybe some place you can simply imagine - like a lush tropical island, a beautiful garden on a perfect spring day - or a fairytale castle - and see yourself in that lovely, peaceful environment - experiencing a sense of peace and enjoyment .... This concludes the Affirmation.
HERBS TO HELP WITH ANXIETY:
These herbs are available in many pharmacies and health food shops:
(Of course we caution you to check with your doctor first and always try to get preparations that are "standardized" - And do follow the directions on the package.)
Kava Kava (Be careful with this - there is some evidence it could be dangerous if taken in large doses - do check with your doctor....)
Valerian (We do find this helpful in getting to sleep...)
St. John's Wort (Conflictings reports - some say it works, some say it doesn't do a thing. We take it -just in case...)
There is also a formula made from flowers called, Rescue Remedy that is supposed to be especially helpful for anxiety. (Look for it in specialized health food shops.)
You can add these scents to your bath or put a few drops on your pillow. (Be careful not to put essential oils or other strong potions on your skin as they could cause a rash or irritation.)
Try lavender scent for calming - It's the most frequently recommended.
Also try these:
Again, if you suffer from a significant amount of anxiety - anxiety that is very uncomfortable - debilitating, even - anxiety that bothers you, or worse, scares you - we urge you to seek professional help for yourself with someone qualified to help you on a deep level.
You may indeed get some relief with the various techniques and programs that help you to control your anxiety. And you might get some relief with medication, too (through a qualified doctor's prescription).
We encourage you to use whatever can help you with this uncomfortable problem - and as soon as possible. But you will feel another kind of relief once you get yourself started on a PATH TO FUNDAMENTAL MENTAL HEALTH - in other words - once you've taken some steps to get yourself therapy help - you'll feel better - just realizing that you've started to take control of the situation. (In fact, anxiety/panic attacks can be one indication of underlying issues involving power and control - so taking control of your situation - FOR YOURSELF - can be your first step toward health and towards feeling much, much better.)
We urge you not to put off getting help. The sooner you start on that path, the sooner you will feel better. We wish you the best. You might want to check out our segment on Seeking Professional Help. See the navigation bars to the left for additional help.
Good night. We wish you sweet dreams...
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