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Anxiety is very common. Some types of anxiety are healthy, but you may be living with an anxiety disorder if it starts to overwhelm your everyday life. It can strike in many forms; incessant worry, panic attacks, and fear of social situations, to name a few.
Anxiety is actually part of our natural survival instinct. It triggers the fight-or-flight response, which makes us feel worked up and alerts us that we could be in danger or that something bad could happen. However, when the feared situation is nerve-racking but not truly life-threatening, such as an important meeting with a boss, the fight-or-flight system can be quite uncomfortable to experience.
The surest path to deal with anxiety attacks is to train calming yourself down during an attack. As you read these 10 ways how to deal with anxiety and panic attacks, you will find this anxiety and panic experience a solvable problem.
What are the Differences Between Anxiety and Panic Attacks?
Panic attack and anxiety attack may share some symptoms, but they are not the same. The most important difference is that panic attack is a defined medical condition while anxiety attack s a term that is widely used by people with anxiety disorders to describe heightened periods of anxiousness. Other differences may include:
- Panic attacks can occur without a trigger whereas anxiety usually occurs in response to a stress, worry or threat
- Panic attacks are intense and disruptive and sometimes the physical symptoms are worse than the anxiety
- Panic attacks often involve a sense of “unreality” and detachment. Anxiety attacks can vary from mild to severe
- Panic attacks usually happen suddenly, while anxiety attacks become gradually more intense over minutes, hours, or days
- Symptoms of a panic attack are usually short-lived, lasting around 10-15 minutes, while symptoms of these anxiety attacks are more severe and may be short-lived or persist for days, weeks, or months.
What Causes Anxiety and Panic Attacks?
Life experiences such as traumatic events appear to trigger anxiety disorders in people who are already prone to anxiety. Inherited traits also can be a factor.
Factors that causes anxiety are:
- Stress due to an illness
- Stress buildup
- Other mental health disorders
- Having blood relatives with an anxiety disorder
- Drugs or alcohol
Panic attacks often strike out of the blue, without any warning, and sometimes with no clear trigger. They may even occur when you’re relaxed or asleep.
Panic attacks may come on suddenly and without warning at first, but over time, they’re usually triggered by certain situations. Recurrent panic attacks are often triggered by a specific situation such as:
- Severe stress, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss
- A traumatic event, such as sexual assault or a serious accident
- Major changes in your life, such as a divorce or the addition of a baby
- Smoking or excessive caffeine intake
- History of childhood physical or sexual abuse
- Family history of panic attacks or panic disorder
- Panic attacks can also be caused by medical conditions and other physical causes
What are the Symptoms of Anxiety and Panic Attacks?
Panic attacks typically include some of these signs or symptoms:
- Sense of impending doom or danger
- Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy
- Rapid, pounding heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
- Hot flashes
- Abdominal cramping
- Chest pain
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
- Numbness or tingling sensation
- Feeling of unreality or detachment
Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
- Having an increased heart rate
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Feeling weak or tired
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
- Having difficulty controlling worry
- Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
How to Deal with Anxiety and Panic Attacks?
In order to be the most of yourself and the most empowered in your life, you have to take care of your mental health. That means finding ways to cope with anxiety and panic attacks and calming yourself down. Here is a list of strategies, developed by experts on how to deal with anxiety attacks which you can adopt in those moments when you start to feel overwhelmed, when you feel triggered emotionally, and your anxiety starts to build.
Breathe it out.
Take some time out and breathe. It sounds obvious, but focusing on your breathing can help calm you down. The reason why health experts encourage deep breaths is it increases the supply of oxygen to the brain, which helps calm your nervous system.
A simple place to start is with the 4-7-8 breathing method. This means breathing in for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7, and breathing out for 8. By focusing on your breathing, it’s easier to ignore any bad thoughts trying to creep their way into your subconscious.
Practice positive thinking.
If you’re feeling anxious, go outside and get some fresh air. Start listening to your favorite relaxing music while going for a brisk walk. Try to take your mind away from what’s bothering you. Focus on positive thoughts that will make you feel safe, accepted, loved, and honored. And, reflect on how fortunate and blessed you actually are.
Exercise can help reduce symptoms of anxiety. A study by the University of Leeds showed that both aerobic and non-aerobic exercise can help reduce anxiety symptoms. Whether it’s a brisk stroll around the block or a spin class at your local gym, get moving to feel calmer.
Talk about it.
Just talking to your family or someone about how you feel can take a weight off your shoulders. Make sure you trust the person, then work out what you want to say to them.
Focus on the present.
Have you ever noticed that feeling stressed or anxious often coincides with dwelling on the past or worrying about the future? Simply focus your mind on the present moment can help you feel a little more relaxed.
Repeat soothing words.
Chanting not only focuses on the mind but also reduces heart rate and blood pressure, both of which spike when you’re anxious. And the practice stimulates the vagus nerve, which helps regulate mood. Not sure what to chant? Try to say to yourself, “I am OK. These feelings will pass.”
Face your fear.
By exposing yourself to whatever it is you fear, it loses its power and control over you. No matter what it is that you fear, if you literally submerge yourself in it for a long enough period of time, the illusion of fear will eventually be gone. That weakness becomes your great strength. When you figure out the thing that you fear, it’s usually the most important thing you need to make yourself or your business successful.
What we eat and how we eat it are closely associated with our emotions and mental health. Vegetables and fruit almost always contain more vitamins and minerals than highly processed foods or snack foods and that’s a plus for mental health.
Medication is effective for some anxiety disorders, but it isn’t right for everyone. Talk to your doctor if you’re wondering if medication is an option for you. If you’re prescribed with medication for your anxiety disorder, keep track of how you’re feeling each day. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any side effects.
Talk to a professional.
If you continue to suffer from severe anxiety despite implementing some of the natural methods, you can get in touch with one of our doctors in Premier Health & Wellness Center. Our doctors will be able to help you manage triggers and symptoms of anxiety. They may also prescribe medication to help manage your mental health.
Remember, it’s always okay to ask for help. In fact, asking for help is brave. Try talking to our doctors to learn more about ways how to deal with anxiety attacks and take care of your mental health.
Schedule your appointment today or visit us at 38 King Street, Hamilton, Bermuda.