Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Rochester, NY
| | Re: Anxiety, Panic & Disequilibrium **PART ONE, TWO & THREE**
These are the steps that I took to feel more like my old self:
1. Cut out caffeine! It truly does have an effect on your nervous system.
2. Learn to breathe right – now this sounds STUPID, but it will be the quickest thing you can do to feel better, even if it’s only short term. Breathing correctly will help stop your panic symptoms and calm you down internally. My counselor showed me this at our first session, and it was because of this “trick” that I was able to drive myself to work again.
- Sit or lie down (ha ha, I used to do this while I was driving because I have many panic attacks in the car).
- Put one hand on your stomach (upper abdomen).
- Put the other hand on your lower abdomen.
- Relax your body as much as possible (this will be hard if you’re right in the middle of a panic attack. It’s easier when you’re just very nervous and feel like you “gotta get out”).
- Pretend there’s a beach ball in your lower abdomen. Your goal is to fill it up slowly to the count of four.
- So, to the count of 4 (1-2-3-4) breathe in through your nose and extend your lower abdomen at the same time.
If your chest is rising, you are shallow breathing, and that won’t calm your body down internally.
- Now, exhale through your mouth to the count of 4 (1-2-3-4), slowly deflate that beach ball in your lower abdomen.
- If you feel lightheaded, that is normal (just what you want to hear when you’re panicking, right?). Just alter your breathing to a little faster or slower, until that feeling goes away. That is your body’s normal response to deep breathing.
- Basically, the hand on your lower abdomen should move; the hand on your stomach should not. This may take some practice – but it will work, even if you don’t believe it.
3. Make an appointment with your primary care doctor and be completely open and honest about what you’re going through. Once you can accept that there is nothing horribly medically wrong with you, DESPITE your dizziness, it will be easier for you to focus on dealing with your panic and anxiety. For me, this acceptance was a very hard part.
4. Spend a few dollars on a very simple but effective book called “Hope and Help for your Nerves” by Dr. Claire Weekes. As I mentioned, when I was first having panic attacks, I mostly stopped going to work and would lie around in bed all day waiting for the worst to happen. I constantly monitored my body functions and felt distraught most of the time. When I was beside myself with my panic symptoms, a neighbor helped me with an initial “plan of attack” (like I am suggesting here), and gave me her copy of the book I mentioned. I read it in one sitting and immediately felt better to the point where that week I set up counseling for myself. Eventually I bought my own copy of this book, and I carried it everywhere I went because it really calmed me down to read a passage when I was feeling anxious or out of control.
5. Have your doctor provide you with a referral with a counselor who specializes in panic disorders and anxiety. It felt good to be able to talk to someone freely about my fears and feelings – keeping them inside doesn’t make you feel any better.
I made a decision to get some counseling to help deal with my anxiety and to how to find better ways to cope with my disequilibrium condition.
6. Stop reading medical stuff (this includes testing). You should be able to talk to a doctor you feel comfortable with, and leave your medical diagnosis up to him or her. For people who are panic prone, who worry about medical issues, the more knowledge you have on that kind of topic can just be more stressful. You may think you’re helping yourself be more prepared “just in case”, but actually, you are only adding fuel to the fire. Been there, done that many times.
7. Take the time to listen your panic symptoms objectively. This is really hard to do when you’re right in the middle of a panic attack, I know. I had to stop being so afraid of the symptoms (accepting) before I was able to say, “Isn’t this interesting that my heart is racing just now”, instead of saying, “OHMYGAWDMYHEARTISRACINGRIGHTNOW”. But once I was able to nod to myself and acknowledge my symptoms, they didn’t seem so bad because after a while I realized that this was just the way my body was reacting to something, even if I didn’t know at the moment what it was it was reacting to. After a while, why it was reacting wasn’t so important as to how I was coping with the symptoms. After a while, I would just acknowledge my symptoms but not stop what I was doing as I would have in the past because I was so afraid of what was happening. I know also that I can give myself added panic symptoms by doing or saying something that makes me feel uncomfortable, so I’ve changed parts of myself to accommodate this – meaning I’m not so quick to jump on people, or get angry, or take things personally. It doesn’t mean I don’t get angry or I don’t criticize, but there’s less of a reason for it.
8. Remember, although it may not seem like it, in whatever stage of panic you are in, there is always a light at the end of that scary tunnel. And in your own time (no-one else’s), when you’re ready to move forward a little more, you will. People who tell you to “just get over it” are well meaning, but may not understand the depth of your experience. That’s ok. You will find many well intentioned people offering their advice. Deep down inside, you’ll find a way through panic that works for you. I always used to tell myself, “oh well, this is how it’s going to be right now, so I’ll find what enjoyment I am able to right now”. I felt sorry for myself because I was so outgoing and I remember how carefree I was before panic, AND wooziness.
9. Move your muscles! Exercise in any form really does make the body feel better (make sure you get your doctor's OK). For a time, I was even afraid of exercising because in some ways, exertion sensations can feel like panic symptoms, and they added to my disequilibrium symptoms. But exercise is a good way to calm your body down. If you are hyperventilating (for example), do jumping jacks! It sounds silly, but since these symptoms feel the same to your body, substitute one reason for having those symptoms, for another. Instead of pacing in worry, speed walk around the yard. Exercise releases natural chemicals in the body that aide in relaxation. It's hard to want to exercise in the middle of an anxiety or worry attack, but it truly does help. That's not to say that you always have to be in constant motion - the idea is to focus on your symptoms in a different way, not tire yourself out.
I had to work up to this, because my imbalance symptoms sometimes like to be in the lime light, and get in the way of me trying to be active. Some days, even walking is hard for me!
10. Keep a journal! It's amazing how much people hold things inside. Although a journal is not like confiding something to a real person who can give you feedback, psychological "airing it out" relieves stress and tension. It's like venting without voice! Journaling can be done anywhere, and allows you to alleviate immediate stress. This way, instead of playing over and over again a bad moment at work (for example), you can take a break and jot down your upset or worry to "get it off your chest". This will help you over time to not obsess about a thought or experience as much, and you will begin to rely more on yourself for problem solving and self-calm, than on others. I carry my journal with me, and it looks just like a dozen other notepads that anyone can have for any reason. I am able to look back at my entries and see the progress I have made (going from a daily, worry-wart writer to writing when I was in panic mode, to writing about good things).
11. Maybe I should list this first! Next to counseling, prayer has been for me the most effective way to calm myself. I usually repeat The Lord's Prayer, which is something I find comforting from my childhood, and that has the power to calm me now, almost immediately.
12. Get sleep, or at least rest. You may want to see about taking a mild sleeping aide. Sleep is restorative and rejuvenating, and lack of sleep will add to anxiety symptoms. For me, lack of sleep also will add to my disequilibrium symptoms. If you are not up to trying a sleeping aide, try (with your doctor’s permission) a teaspoon or two of liquid Benedryl. It’s an antihistamine, but is also used as a mild sedator for many things, to include aiding with sleeplessness. If I have trouble sleeping on occasion, I will take some antihistamine.
13. Make sure you eat well. Anxiety makes people either not hungry, or ravenous. If you are up, pacing and not sleeping – chances are right now you’re not eating or not eating healthy. Stick with dependable comfort food like baked potato, chicken soup, hot tea, peanut butter & jelly, applesauce….you need to eat! Not eating can give you bodily sensations that will make you feel panicky. It’s a natural reaction to the body not getting enough food. I’m not saying eat all the time – but maintain a diet even if you don’t feel like eating. Stay away from the “easy, quick” foods like Fast Food, candy, ice cream – these are just “fillers” for your tummy, and your body won’t benefit from ingesting it.
Not eating properly can also cause low blood sugar symptoms, which can feel sort of like dizziness. So, eat a little something at least three times a day.
14. Keep hydrated. Your body begins to feel the effects of dehydration long before you feel thirsty. Even slight dehydration can cause bodily symptoms that mimic panic and wooziness. That doesn’t mean you need to drink all the time, but a few tall glasses of something like water, Gatorade, or unsweetened ice tea is a good idea.