Understanding Anxiety Attacks
Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, are episodes of intense panic or fear. Anxiety attacks usually occur suddenly and without warning. Sometimes there’s an obvious trigger— getting stuck in an elevator, for example, or thinking about the big speech you have to give—but in other cases, the attacks come out of the blue.
Anxiety attacks usually peak within ten minutes, and they rarely last more than thirty minutes. But during that short time, the terror can be so severe that you feel as if you’re about to die or totally lose control. The physical symptoms of anxiety attacks are themselves so frightening that many people believe they’re having a heart attack.
Symptoms of anxiety attacks include:
· Surge of overwhelming panic
· Feeling of losing control or going crazy
· Heart palpitations or chest pain
· Feeling like you’re going to pass out
· Trouble breathing or choking sensation
· Hot flashes or chills
· Trembling or shaking
· Nausea or stomach cramps
· Feeling detached or unreal
Self-help for anxiety attacks and anxiety disorders #1: Challenge negative thoughts
· Write down your worries. Keep a pad and pencil on you, or type on a laptop, smartphone, or tablet. When you experience anxiety, write down your worries. Writing down is harder work than simply thinking them, so your negative thoughts are likely to disappear sooner.
· Create an anxiety worry period. Choose one or two 10 minute “worry periods” each day, time you can devote to anxiety. During your worry period, focus only on negative, anxious thoughts without trying to correct them. The rest of the day, however, is to be designated free of anxiety. When anxious thoughts come into your head during the day, write them down and “postpone” them to your worry period.
· Accept uncertainty. Unfortunately, worrying about all the things that could go wrong doesn’t make life any more predictable—it only keeps you from enjoying the good things happening in the present. Learn to accept uncertainty and not require immediate solutions to life’s problems.
Self-help for anxiety attacks and anxiety disorders #2: Take care of yourself
· Practice relaxation techniques. When practiced regularly, relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing can reduce anxiety symptoms and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional well-being.
· Adopt healthy eating habits. Start the day right with breakfast, and continue with frequent small meals throughout the day. Going too long without eating leads to low blood sugar, which can make you feel more anxious.
· Reduce alcohol and nicotine. They lead to more anxiety, not less.
· Exercise regularly. Exercise is a natural stress buster and anxiety reliever. To achieve the maximum benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days.
· Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can exacerbate anxious thoughts and feelings, so try to get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep a night.