ANXIETY & PANIC ATTACKS
May be you’ve invited forty guests for a pot luck dinner and all of a sudden you’re beginning to wonder what you’ve gotten into. Your internal dialogue may sound something like this: “What was I thinking? I can’t handle this big a crowd! Besides, no one’s going to show up anyway. If they do, they’ll probably leave early because they’re bored. Have I bought enough wine. Is the house really clean enough?”.
Sound familiar? Nearly everyone experiences periodic bouts of anxiety and panic. It’s normal to feel frightened by life’s stresses-an upcoming job interview, meeting your in laws for the first time, or having a dinner party. But sometimes these emotions spiral out of control, causing your heart to pound and your mind to go blank. Panic makes you feel as though the worst is about to happen and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
There will always be times when you feel like you’re in over your head. But doctors have found that it’s not stress itself but how you react to stress that determines whether you’ll experience a little anxiety or a full-blown panic attack. Here are a few ways to give you a moment’s peace and put the brakes on panic and fear.
Take a deep breath . It sounds like a cliché, but taking deep, regular breaths is one of the best ways to keep panic and anxiety under control. People breathe very rapidly when they’re anxious – a symptom called hyperventilation. Rapid breathing actually reduces the amount of oxygen in the body, which makes you feel nervous and out of control. Slow, deep breaths, on the other hand, flood your body with oxygen, making you feel calmer. In addition, taking a few minutes to breathe deeply is like counting to ten; it gives you time to think and to put things in perspective, instead of merely reacting to emotions.
The next time you feel panic coming on, stop what you’re doing and take a deep breath. Breathe in slowly while counting to five. Hold the breath for one second, then slowly breathe out. Continue doing this for a minute or two. The surge of oxygen will help you feel calmer and more in control – and better able to handle the stress that’s bothering you.
Get a whiff of relaxation . Your nose is one of your most powerful weapons for countering anxiety and panic. Evidence suggests that certain scents can stimulate feelings of calm and relaxation. A whiff of lavender (dharu) or sandalwood incense, for example, can help take the edge off stress. So can the smell of a scented candle. Or you can simply sprinkle some cinnamon (dalchini) into a pot of boiling water. It will fill the air with a delicate, lovely smell that reminds many people of simpler, calmer times.
“B” calm. The B vitamins are nature’s stress relievers. Studies have shown the people who don’t get enough B vitamins in their diets may experience confusion, anxiety, or irritation. You can get a lot of B vitamins by eating a healthful diet. But when stress and anxiety are riding high, you may want to take a B-complex multivitamin, which will help fortify your emotional defenses.
Take some herbal relief. For thousands of years, people around the world have been finding emotional strength in their gardens, herbs such as chamomile (babunah), ginkgo, kava, valerian (jalakan), and St. John’s Wort may be as effective as some prescription drugs for imparting feelings of calm and well being. You can buy these healing herbs at natural food stores or from natural apothecaries. Many people prefer to buy dried herbs and make a tea. Some take herbs in capsule form. They can be as effective When taking herbal supplements, be sure to read the label carefully to ensure taking the proper amount.
Put water to work. When your emotions are running high and you feel as though you’re about to collapse, nothing is more soothing than taking a long, relaxing bath. Many people prefer their baths hot, but before you fill that tub full of steaming hot water, keep this in mind: Some experts believe that a lukewarm or slightly cool bath does a better job of relieving tension and anxiety. Fill the bath with water until it feels comfortable and soak for about twenty minutes, adding hot or cool water to keep the temperature constant.
Rub yourself the right way . Massage is one of the quickest ways to take the edge off panic and anxiety. There’s good reason for this. Massage improves the circulation, removes waste products like lactic acid from the muscles, and helps take your mind off stress. And, it just plain feels good. Even if you don’t feel like having a professional massage, it’s easy to take ten to fifteen minutes a day to indulge yourself in a little self-massage. Take a few moments to rub your neck. Rub your fingers across your scalp. Squeeze your shoulders, your thighs, and your calves. You can even try rolling a tennis ball along your arms to relieve tension, or roll a rolling pin on the long muscles of your upper legs. Doing this regularly helps lower stress and ease anxiety.
Walk off your stress . Many people, when they first start feeling anxious, put on their sneakers and head outside. Taking a long walk – or, if you’re athletically inclined, a jog or a bike ride – is one of the best ways to put the brakes on panic attacks. Research has shown that exercise can increase your tolerance to stress and make you more optimistic and upbeat. Walking, swimming, or even dancing several times a week will help you feel more confident and in control – and less vulnerable to anxiety.
Be careful what you eat . Just as some foods, like carbohydrates, can help you feel calm and relaxed, others can put your nerves on edge. When you’re feeling stressed, it’s good idea to avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can boost your anxiety levels. During high-stress times, you may want to drink soothing, non-caffeinated herbal teas or simple some ice water flavored with lemon or lime. You should also avoid sweets and eat more filling “comfort” foods, such as potatoes, pasta, or whole-grain breads.
Turn off the internal chatter . Many doctors believe that negative thinking can have a profound impact on how we feel. Unfortunately, negative thoughts are hard to avoid. We all get panicky from time to time. But many of us have the equivalent of little tape machines in our heads that are constantly playing irrational and negative messages: “I am losing control,” or “I’m so stupid, what was I thinking?” Sound familiar? If so, you can turn things around by changing what’s on the tape. Start “playing” positive messages: “I’m strong. I’m in control. I’m nervous, but that’s OK,” If you constantly replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll still experience stress and anxiety, but you’ll feel better able to handle them and this is the key to keeping panic under control.
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