ANXIETY AND PANIC
Being anxious about something is a state most people come across
in their lives. A panic attack is an increased, and changed
anxiety response state that has been learned subconsciously, and
so can be ‘un-learned.’
These physiological changes are the result and not the cause of
underlying anxiety. Understanding this means that we can
recognise that we are not at the mercy of our body chemistry.
Our brain chemistry actually responds readily to the way we
think and feel about life, and so there is a way to break the
cycle. If your belief is that you panic, then this is the
message you will send to your subconscious mind.
The subconscious, being a non-deliberating mind, will accept
this idea and begin what it believes to be an appropriate
response. Our biofeedback systems respond accordingly, and give
us the internal chemistry which matches the belief.
Viewed this way, we can understand that the chemical states we
experience when anxious are at least partially a result of our
beliefs and perceptions.
Understanding what is going on is always helpful for managing
the signs and symptoms. Most often, panic attacks begin as a
delayed response to a period of prolonged stress. Our ‘coping’
mechanism becomes overloaded, and anxiety increases. Panic
attacks tend to re-occur because we fear having another one,
adding to the stress.
HOW TO MANAGE THEM
Remember there is nothing wrong with you – panic attacks are
common, and can be managed.
Understand that panics are mostly a fear of the effects of too
Remember also that they are a delayed response to a stressful
period, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
Get some ‘wins’ to boost your confidence in your ability
to eliminate them. You can! Be kind to yourself.
Remove as many of the major stressors to your life as within
your power to do.
Cut out caffeine. Tea, coffee, cola, ‘Red Bull’, all add to
increase adrenaline and cause the ‘jitters’. Reduce caffeine
over two weeks, to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Reduce sugary foods. They indirectly re-activate your adrenals.
Make sure, though, that you eat regularly, and don’t get hungry.
Reduce alcohol to a minimum. Alcohol affects your ability to
produce a healthy flow of serotonin, which is a key factor in
our ability to cope and feel happy.
Drink water! A dry mouth sends a ‘fear’ signal to the brain.
Use relaxing breathing methods each hour. The breathing methods
will calm you, and reduce hyperventilation which often
accompanies an attack.
Re-learn to relax. Practice muscular relaxation for a few
minutes each day, gradually building up to 10-15minutes after a
few weeks. Remember, it’s a cumulative effect, which, over time,
shows the subconscious mind that there is an alternative state
available to you. You’re re-training it!
Once a day, write down your thoughts on paper just as they come
out, and keep writing, no matter how silly it seems.
Then destroy the notes. No-one sees them except you, so you can
write everything down.
Look after yourself physically. Swimming or walking gets rid of
accumulated stress hormones and physical tension.
Monitor your self-talk to avoid too much negativity. Some
negative thinking is understandable – it’s an uncomfortable
period you’re going through. Just challenge the negative
thoughts as they arise.
Replace self-talk with positive affirmations such as, ‘I am
managing these episodes better each time, and getting myself
back to normal’, or, ‘what episode?’
Have faith that there is a way out of your difficulties, even if
that’s not clear to you at the moment. Remember, if there was a
way in, there is a way out!
Choose a different label for the experience. ‘Panic’ and
‘Attack’ have unhelpful and emotionally charged connotations.
Perhaps ‘anxiety rush’, or ‘adrenaline reaction’ would be more
Remain clear about what is happening. Recognise that your
physical changes are simply those produced by raised levels of
adrenaline – faster heartbeat, quicker breathing, increased
perspiration, churning stomach, physical tension, quicker
thinking, noise sensitivity, dry mouth etc. (Just recognise
which are your own signs – you may not experience all of them)
Acknowledging what is happening reduces the effects. Practice
your breathing. It will calm you.