Senior Veteran (female)
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Rochester, NY
| | Dealing with Anxiety, Part 2 of 4
These are the steps that I took to feel more like my old self (1-7, out of 14):
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. Sometimes with anxiety also comes depression, and these feelings can also be addressed in counseling.
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.