• Anxiety

    Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It helps one deal with a tense 
    situation in the office, study harder for an exam, keep focused on an 
    important speech. In general, it helps one cope. But when anxiety becomes an 
    excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it has become a disabling 
    People with generalized anxiety disorder can't seem to shake their concerns. 
    Their worries are accompanied by physical symptoms, especially fatigue, 
    headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, 
    twitching, irritability, sweating, and hot flashes.
    Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by unexpected and 
    repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may 
    include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or 
    abdominal distress.
    People with panic disorder have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and 
    repeatedly with no warning. During a PANIC ATTACK, most likely your heart 
    will pound and you may feel sweaty, weak, faint, or dizzy. Your hands may 
    tingle or feel numb, and you might feel flushed or chilled. You may have 
    nausea, chest pain or smothering sensations, a sense of unreality, or fear of 
    impending doom or loss of control.       
    Here are 5 steps that have proven to be helpful to those who experience panic 
    Step 1: R-e-l-a-x...
    One step that helps lots of people get a handle on their panic attacks is to 
    learn and practice relaxation strategies. Here are three different types of 
    relaxation strategies you can try:
    First, try changing your breathing patterns. Stress often causes us to 
    breathe shallowly. Unfortunately, breathing shallowly can actually prolong 
    stress by depleting your oxygen supply and increasing muscle tension. This 
    can lead to headaches, nervousness and a lowered threshold to panic attacks. 
    To overcome this, practice monitoring your breathing and noticing when it 
    becomes shallow or rapid. When this happens, take a minute to slow down, get 
    comfortable, and breathe deeply. Begin this process by slowly but forcefully 
    blowing all of the air out of your lungs, deep-down into your belly. This 
    allows you to slowly and effortlessly "refill" your lungs with fresh air. Try 
    breathing in through your nose and focusing on filling the bottom of your 
    lungs first before filling the top. As you breathe in, your abdomen should 
    rise slowly; and, as you breathe out, it should fall slowly. Gradually 
    breathe more deeply and more slowly until you reach a comfortable plateau. 
    Sighhh . . . .
    A second technique is to scan your entire body, tensing and relaxing all your 
    muscles. Begin by sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Focus 
    on your feet and notice any muscle tension in your feet or toes. Tense your 
    feet muscles by curling your toes like you're trying to dig into the carpet. 
    Tense the muscles for a five-count, then allow them to go limp and release 
    all the tension. It helps to exhale deeply and think the word "relax" at the 
    moment you release the tension. After relaxing your feet, move up to your 
    calves, tense and release. To your thighs, tense and release, and so on. Try 
    to move through all of the following muscle groups: your feet, calves, 
    thighs, "glutes," abdomen, lower back, chest, upper back, neck and shoulders, 
    and finally, facial muscles. To tense up your facial muscles, squint hard and 
    press your lips together (think Clint Eastwood), then just let your face go 
    slack and expressionless. When you've completely covered your entire body, 
    your muscles should feel warm and relaxed. Ahhhhh....
    Finally, try taking a "mental vacation." No, not a trip to the BEACH - just 
    an imaginary visualization of a peaceful place. Mental imagery can be a great 
    way of creating peaceful feelings. Start by imagining a peaceful, serene 
    setting. Perhaps this will be someplace you've gone before where you felt 
    totally calm and relaxed. Or maybe it can be a fantasy place with all the 
    ingredients to help you relax and unwind. Once you've imagined this fantasy 
    place, take a "sensory inventory" by asking yourself: "What do I see that's 
    peaceful or beautiful?" "What do I hear that's soothing?" "What do I smell 
    that reminds me of pleasant, peaceful feelings?" "What do I feel on my skin 
    (is it warm, cool, breezy, still?)" and "What do I taste?" For example, 
    someone who loves the beach might think about seeing a beautiful sunset over 
    the water, hearing the waves gently lapping at the shore or the seagulls 
    peacefully calling, smelling the scent of suntan oil, feeling the warmth of 
    the sun and the gentle breeze, and tasting the salty air.
    Imagining each of these sensations in detail actually helps to create the 
    same peaceful feelings in your body that you'd experience if you were 
    actually at the beach. Plus, no sand in your clothes.
    By themselves, deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and mental imagery can be 
    very powerful. When you put them all together, you've got a combination that 
    can melt away your physical tension and anxious thoughts and replace them 
    with peace and relaxation.
    Step 2: Change Habits
    Sometimes it helps to make some changes in your daily routine, like adding 
    exercise and reducing or eliminating stimulants like caffeine, nicotine and 
    sugar. Exercise helps to burn off excess tension that might otherwise come 
    out as anxiety or panic. Eliminating stimulants, like caffeine, helps prevent 
    your cup from "running over" with anxiety.
    If you tend to bottle up your feelings and worry a lot by yourself, it may be 
    helpful to pay more attention to your emotions and become more willing to 
    express them to others.
    Step 3: Discover The Power of Positive Thinking
    Another way of tackling panic attacks is to look at the way you talk to 
    yourself, especially during times of stress and pressure. Panic attacks often 
    begin or escalate when you tell yourself scary things, like "I feel light-
    headed . . . I'm about to faint!" or "I'm trapped in this traffic jam and 
    something terrible is gonna happen!" or "If I go outside, I'll freak out." 
    These are called "negative predictions" and they have a strong influence on 
    the way your body feels. If you're mentally predicting a disaster, your 
    body's alarm response goes off and the "fight-flight response" kicks in.
    To combat this, try to focus on calming, positive thoughts, like "I'm 
    learning to deal with panicky feelings and I know that people overcome panic 
    all the time" or "This will pass quickly, and I can help myself by 
    concentrating on my breathing and imagining a relaxing place" or "These 
    feelings are uncomfortable, but they won't last forever."
    Sometimes it's helpful to remind yourself of these FACTS about panic attacks:
    A panic attack cannot cause heart failure or a heart attack. 
    A panic attack cannot cause you to stop breathing. 
    A panic attack cannot cause you to faint. 
    A panic attack cannot cause you to "go crazy." 
    A panic attack cannot cause you to lose control of yourself.
    If it's too hard for you to think calming thoughts or to concentrate on 
    relaxation strategies when you're having a panic attack, find ways to 
    distract yourself from the negative thoughts and feelings. Some people do 
    this by talking to other people when they feel the panic coming on. Others 
    prefer to exercise or work on a detailed project.  Changing scenery can 
    sometimes be helpful, too, but it's important not to get into a pattern of 
    avoiding necessary daily tasks. If you notice that you're regularly avoiding 
    things like driving, going shopping, going to class, or taking buses, it's 
    probably time to get some professional help.
    Step 4: Getting Help
    You might find that dealing with panic attacks will be easier if you have a 
    person who can act as a coach as you learn how to cope with the attacks. 
    Meeting with someone who has experience working with panic attacks and 
    anxiety can help you find the right mixture of strategies that will work for 
    you. This might be a therapist, psychiatrist or family doctor. In individual 
    counseling, group counseling, or a combination of the two, you'll probably be 
    able to learn the skills and develop the self-understanding you need to 
    overcome your panic. 
    Step 5: Keep the Faith!
    Above all, have faith that you CAN learn how to handle panic attacks. If you 
    practice the techniques you've learned about here, or seek out more 
    information through counseling, the chances are EXCELLENT that you'll be able 
    to overcome the panic problems in your life!