6 Ways to Handle a Panic Attack
Driving my little sister and I to school during my junior year of high school, I was fortunately at a red light when I became overwhelmed with dizziness and everything started going black. Hence, my first panic attack, although I did ot understand at the time what that meant until I had another attack in college. Upon exiting a movie with a friend, the same dizziness and blackness came over me as I fell to the floor with crowds of people exiting behind me. As my friend and I walked to my car, I felt like someone was throwing needles at my body and started shaking so violently that my 98 pound frame shook the whole vehicle. My friend drove me to the emergency room where I was diagnosed as having a panic attack. I remember the doctor saying that diagnosis must have made me mad because my pupils dialated thus indicating I was getting “worked up” again.
“Anxiety/panic disorders are much different from the normal anxiety we feel from time to time – more overwhelming, more disturbing. They affect about 40 million American adults age 18 years and older (about 18%) every year,” according to Web MD. According to The Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety, there are two types of anxiety, external and internal. External anxiety is caused by something that is real and there is a valid reason for the anxiety. For example, going through a divorce or the loss of a loved one. Internal anxiety is caused by a person’s concern about external anxiety and the way it has made the person feel. For example,someone who suffers from panic disorder may react to those same moderate pressures as anyone else but with an exaggerated physical reaction-as if he or she were about to be attacked. The stress will bring on body symptoms that include racing heart, bewilderment, dizziness and possibly blacking out. It is normal to feel this way with a panic disorder. It is important to understand the causes for the external anxiety and then let it pass.
After I was raped and started going through rapid cycles from my bipolar disorder, a manic depressive disorder with severe mood swings, I would have several panic attacks per day. I physically felt like I was going to die, have a heart attack, faint, go insane, lose control, embarrass myself or hurt myself. Thankfully during that time I had family members who came from out of town to stay with me since I have a small child. I remember having a horribly long panic attack one afternoon and just talking to my dad, distracting myself, helped to calm me and finally start to feel “normal” again.
According to The Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety, there is a six-step approach to self-control when dealing with an anxiety attack:
1.ACCEPT – recognize that you are feeling anxious. Accept your body’s feelings as a symptom of anxiety and a sign that something is bothering you.
2.PERMISSION – give yourself permission to feel anxious about whatever it is that is bothering you. (For example: “Of course I feel anxious because…and it’s okay to have anxiety. I know what this is and why I feel this way.”)
3.BREATHE – First, inhale through your nose and slowly for two seconds, mentally counting one, one-thousand, two, one-thousand. Then exhale through your mouth to mental count of four seconds – again by one-thousands. Do this for at least 60 seconds.
4.INNER DIALOUGE – use truthful, positive dialogue to talk to yourself through the anxious time. It WILL pass. (Examples of dialogue might be, “It’s just anxiety. It will go away. I will not lose control. I can still go about my business feeling spaced-out. It won’t hurt me.”)
5.DISTRACT – get busy. Do something to release some of this self-induced stimulation.
6.LET TIME PASS – try to figure out what is bothering you. Is it some type of conflict that you don’t won’t to deal with? Is it a scary thought? Is it a ridiculous expectation?
Coping with Anxiety
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While in therapy, along with the other patients, I was to come up with coping skills to manage my anxiety and depression. Along with cooking, I also use exercise, reading and journaling my thoughts and feelings to help cope with unwanted to uncomfortable situations or emotions.
According to New Dimensions Day Hospital, located in Clear Lake, TX, the following are simple self-help techniques beneficial in coping with anxiety and to regain some control.
1.Develop a skill that allows you to control your anxiety by choosing a place and time to focus on your worries. Ideally, it should be the same place and time to focus on those worries everyday. Avoid focusing on what might happen and instead shift the focus toward what is really occurring.
2.Work on developing relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques are great anxiety coping methods. Examples include, yoga, meditation, muscle relaxation, deep breathing exercises and biofeedback.
3.Begin looking at ways in which you can eradicate some of your anxiety by examining issue from your past. If you do not feel you can confront those issues at the moment, begin by at least imagining that you are confronting those issues. Then, when you feel comfortable with that scenario you can begin working toward confronting those issue in reality.
4.Consider using journaling as a technique for coping with anxiety. Make a list of things that make you anxious. This technique may reveal insight into areas of your life that are contributing to your anxiety which you may not realize.
5.Focus on a healthier lifestyle. While exercise is important for everyone, it is particularly essential for those that suffer from anxiety. Along with exercise, a well-balanced diet, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep is a crucial.
6.Finally, take time to develop a support network of people on whom you can rely when you feel anxious. Sometimes simply speaking with someone who understands your situation can help tremendously. Also, consider joining a support group to discuss ways in which your anxiety has affected your life and also learning about other anxiety coping techniques.
Aniexty & Nutrition
Eating the right food is essential to keeping anxiety at bay. Eat simple, calming foods during the day such as brown rice, yogurt and oatmeal. Avoid caffeine, sugar, artificially flavored drinks, refined foods, fast and preserved foods, salty foods and alcohol. Examples of foods to support different areas of your body include:
1.Foods rich in calcium – for stress control (sesame seeds, almonds and dark, leafy vegetables).
2.Foods rich in magnesium – to protect the nerves (Irish Moss, whole grains, and most nuts).
3.Foods rich in B vitamins – to support the nerves (chicken, whole grains and brans, eggs, nuts, and beans).
4.Foods rich in Vitamin C – to control stress (oranges, bananas, cherries, and passion fruit).
5.Foods rich in many vitamins and minerals – to strengthen the body (okra, carrots, broccoli and all fruits and vegetables).
6.Foods rich in protein – (chicken, fish, nuts and beans).
Always having been into fitness and eating right, I discovered a new way of eating – Clean Eating. This method of eating provided my body with a newfound burst of energy, weight loss and better control over my appetite with foods that are rich in vitamins and also taste amazing. “Clean eating in a nutshell is the practice of eating whole, natural foods such as fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates,” instead of processes foods, according to Eating Clean Works. A person that eats clean generally practices the following according to Eating Clean Works:
1.Eliminates refined sugars
2.Cooks healthy meals
3.Packs healthy meals
4.Makes healthy choices when dining out
5.Drinks lots of water
6.Eats five to six small meals per day
7.Eliminates alcoholic beverages (or significantly limits it)
8.Always eats breakfast
Clean eating was founded by the late Robert Kennedy (1938-2012). Kennedy founded RKP/Robert Kennedy Publishing, which includes magazine brands MuscleMag International, Reps!, Oxygen, American Curves and Clean Eating. Kennedy has also written hundred of books, personally writing more than 55 himself and was a New York Times Best-seller for Hardcore Bodybuilding, Reps!, RockHard!, Beef It!, and Pumping Up!
Being a Louisiana native I really enjoy my cajun food, but have found a new love for clean eating with recipes like “steak with mixed mushroom saute'”, grilled calamari salad with red chile vinaigrette”, and “luscious lean burgers”.
Steak with Mixed Mushroom Saute’
Cast your vote for Steak with Mixed Mushroom Saute’
•1 tbsp olive oil
•4 5-oz top loin steaks, about 3/4-inch thick
•1/2 tsp fine sea salt
•4 cloves galic, smashed
•1 lb mixed mushrooms
•1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
•1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
•1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1.In a large skillet or saute’ pan (not nonstick), heat oil on medium-high heat. Season both sides of steaks with salt and pepper. Add steaks to skillet and cook to desired doneness, about 3 1/2 minutes per side for medium-rare and 4 minutes per side for medium. Transfer steaks to serving plates and let rest for 5 minutes.
2.Meanwhile, place same skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add mushrooms, 1 variety at a time, leaving 1 minute between additions. Add thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender, 3 to 6 minutes, depending on the varieties of mushrooms used. Add broth and soy sauce, deglazing the pan by scraping up any browned bits from bottom of skillet with a heatproof spoon or spatula. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to a thin layer, 1 to 2 minutes.
3.Serve steaks with mushroom mixture over to, dividing evenly, and garnish with additional thyme sprigs.
Serving size: 1 steak and 1/2 mushroom
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value *
Fat 10 g
Saturated fat 3 g
Unsaturated fat 1 g
Carbohydrates 5 g
Sugar 2 g
Fiber 1 g
Protein 36 g
Cholesterol 59 mg
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.
“It is not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. The good news is that these disorders are both treatable, separately and together,” according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
More than 40 million Americans (18% of the U.S. population) over the age of 18 are affected by depression, according to ADAA. “Depression is a condition in which a person feels discouraged, sad, hopeless, unmotivated, or disinterested in life in general,” states the ADAA. According to Depression Statistics, a person must experience at least five of the following symptoms for a two-week period, during which time these symptoms must represent a significant difference from previous moods that the patient exhibited:
1.Depressed mood, nearly every day for most of the day
2.Marked diminished interest in pleasure in almost all activities
3.Significant weight loss or weight gain due to appetite changes
4.Insomnia or hypersomnia
5.Psychomotor agitation or psychomotor retardation, that is hyperactivity or lethargy
6.Fatigue and/or weakness
7.Feelings of worthlessness or invalidated guilt
8.Impaired ability to concentrate
9.Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation
11.Hypochondriasis – a belief that physical symptoms are signs of a serious illness, even when there is no medical evidence to support the presence of an illness.
12.Sadness, irritability, uncontrollable crying
Although its hard to remember much from my depressive states, thankfully my supportive husband provided me with some examples of my behavior. These included, drinking heavily, constantly asking for a divorce due to extreme irritability, becoming combative, weight loss, decreased need for sleep and the need for undesirable attention.
Types of depression
According to the ADAA, there are three types of depressive disorders – major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder – can occur with any of the anxiety disorders.
Major depression – involves at least five of the symptoms mentioned above for a two-week period. “Such an episode is disabling and will interfere with the ability to work, study, eat and sleep. Major depressive episodes may occur once or twice in a lifetime, or they may re-occur frequently. They may also take place spontaneously, during or after the death of a loved one, a romantic breakup, a medical illness, or other life event,” according to the ADAA.
Dysthymia – “is a less severe, long-term, and chronic form of depression.” It involves the same symptoms as major depression, mainly low energy, poor appetite or overeating, and insomnia or oversleeping. It can manifest as stress, irritability, and mild anhedonia, which is the inability to derive pleasure from most activities,” states the ADAA.
Bipolar disorder – “…is characterized by a mood cycle that shifts from severe highs (mania) or mild highs (hypomania) to severe lows (depression),” says the ADAA. “During the depressive phase a person experiences the same symptoms as one would a sufferer of major depression. Mood swings from manic to depressive are often gradual, although occasionally they can occur abruptly.”
In my most dark times, I’ve cut my wrists as a way to relieve tension and tried on a couple different occasions to commit suicide, thankfully unsuccessful. Even though I have two young children who are my world and a loving support system of family and friends, my line of sight was so narrow that the only solution to my hopelessness was killing myself. Even just the thought of being gone was a comfort to me. Now, the thought is unimaginable since I’ve undergone intensive outpatient therapy and on medication.
People with mood disorders often times need others to point out their symptoms. When affected by depression, our thinking is affected and the way we see things is skewed. Oneself with depression typically piles on the blame for not taking action, which increases the self-loathing and further insures the depressed will not be able to act and seek treatment.
Stigma, unfortunately, still exists when it comes to depressive disorders. The depressed will blame it on the flu, the job, the spouse and any number of “acceptable” conditions. A common way of thinking for those afflicted with depression is, “Somehow, if we were stronger – this wouldn’t have happened,” according to The Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety. When we are depressed, we have somehow failed miserably at just living.
According to the Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety, the following are some helpful guidelines for family and friends to help anyone they may feel is suffering from depression:
1.Family and friends need to step in and encourage the depressed person to get treatment. Go with them and wait in the waiting room.
2.Help give the history of the depression if your loved one would like. Sometimes an observer can point out things the sufferer woudln’t notice or not remember.
3.Be reassuring. “This is temporary. This is very treatable. You are not weak. You are not a failure.”
4.Get beyond judgment. Your loved one is not doing this for attention. Depression hurts and it’s real.
5.Keep your relationship as normal as possible; this helps provide the feelings of security and stability.
6.It’s important to acknowledge their pain but never say, “I know how you feel,” unless you truly do. “I’m so sorry this is happening to you,” is comforting.
7.Communicating that there is help and the “you will feel better,” is vital.
8.Be extra generous with sincere compliments and kindness, even if your loved one seems to brush them aside.
9.Treat the depressed person as you’ve always treated them, with respect.