Friday, 19 February 2016

Dealing with Anxiety and Panic Attacks


Today's blog post is a bit different. Slightly on the serious side. But I hope it's able to help you in some way.
First, I'd like to let you know that this is a very personal thing for me to be writing about, but I'm choosing to write it for anyone out there who is suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. On the other hand, if you're reading this to learn more about people who suffer with panic attacks, I hope this helps you to understand what they're going through and how you can show your support.

Anxiety is a horrible emotion to feel! It affects everyone differently, and there are different levels of anxiety in all of us, ranging from 'I'm nervous about a test I have tomorrow' to 'Help me I'm in danger I think I'm going to die'. When we're stressed our anxiety is heightened and some of us are a lot more sensitive to it. Extremely high levels of anxiety, in a lot of people, can lead to panic attacks, which are not very nice.

I've been suffering with Anxiety and Panic attacks for about 10 years, but it wasn't until I turned 18 that I had my first panic attack. 
I'm writing this, to help those of you that are struggling, feel alone, are looking for advice, or just need a person to relate to.

I know sometimes It's so easy to feel alone. So many people don't understand what its really like to live with panic attacks. Even after hours of explaining, unless someone has been through a panic attack, they're never fully going to understand. But on the flip side, there are so many people, like me, who do knew what it's like. Since I've told people about my anxiety, I've met so many people going through the same thing which I was surprised about. You're never alone in this world.

So, what is a panic attack you ask? well, let me explain,

A Panic attack is a sudden feeling of dread or inevitable danger. Your 'Sympathetic Nervous System kicks in and Adrenaline is released throughout your body to prepare yourself for 'fight or flight'. This dates back to the caveman times, where a caveman would be approached by a wild animal, and he could either choose to fight the wild animal or run away. Obviously we're not going to be approached by wild animals in this day and age, but our 'fight or flight' is still there, ready to prepare us for a dangerous situation. Our 'fight or flight' is triggered by our Sympathetic Nervous System.
 The Sympathetic Nervous System kicks in when we are approached with a dangerous situation such as, being thrown into a lion enclose at a zoo or even being scared by a movie. Although if you suffer with extreme anxiety, your Sympathetic Nervous System kicks in whenever it feels like it.
Panic attacks come quickly and violently, lasting anywhere between 5 to 25 minutes. Sometimes it can feel a lot longer than just 20 minutes, but this is usually you just experiencing one panic attack after another, after another, which is just as unpleasant.
When you're having a full blown panic attack, it can cause a number of different physical and emotional symptoms, such as:

Heart Palpitations
Chest Pain
Trembling or Shaking
Ringing in your ears
Numbing or tingling in hands and feet
Hot or Cold Flushes
Feeling nauseous
Feelings and thoughts of absolute terror
Fear of dying, loosing control, or going crazy

As well as Panic attacks coming on for no reason, Panic attacks can also be triggered by certain things and places. For example, if one day you have a panic attack at a train station or while watching a certain movie, your brain will store that information and now see being at a train station or watching that movie as a dangerous situation, thus making your 'fight or flight' kick in preparing your body to fight the situation or run away. The only problem is, you're not actually in any danger. The brain is very clever! And all it's doing is trying to protect you. I like to remember this when I start to feel a bit anxious.

When my anxiety was at It's worse I would always turn down opportunity's, as I was terrified that I'd panic. And It's not because I didn't want to go, I just physically could put myself in any situation where I thought I would panic. More recently, my anxiety has eased up enough for me to approach some of these situations without even thinking twice about it. I've found that I only start to panic if I'm in a situation where I'm unable to leave or get out quickly.  

One thing I wish more people understood, is that people who suffer with anxiety DON'T want to feel this way. We want to be normal! We wish that we could say "I don't worry about anyting, besides the normal things". After a panic attack, as well as feeling drained and emotinal, I also feel angry. Angry that I can't contol it, angry that I'm not like other people, and angry that not everyone understands.

Now from my experience, here are a few things that help me deal with my anxiety.

When I'm actually having a panic attack, the best thing that helps me is getting out of the situation as fast as possible. For so long I would never do this, as I was too embarrassed and never knew how to explain it to people. But it is honestly one of the best ways to keep your panic from spiraling.

As well as getting away, I also like to think happy thoughts. As cliche as that sounds you want to replace all of the thoughts of dread and terror with something happy and joyful. Putting on headphones and listening to a playlist of your favorite songs can also help a lot, so be sure to make a playlist on your phone so that you have it ready. 

When you're having a panic attack, adrenaline is being pumped throughout your body, so while your muscles are pumped you should do some form of exercise to use the Adrenalin. 

If you're an animal person, I'd suggest grabbing the closest animal to you whether that be your own pet, a animal at a friends house etc. As I find stroking and just being loved and comforted by an animal can instantly calm me down.

Have someone reassure you that everything is okay, unless you'd cope better being left alone. 

And obviously deep, slow breathing is a must!

As for long term treatment, There are a number of different things you can do, such as:

Support groups
Coping Techniques
Changing the way you think/your outlook on life
Going to church

I kept my anxiety a secret for a long time, which was a mistake. After I told my mum we sought help straight away. We decided it would be best to get me on some kind of medication to calm me down, and also look into some therapy.
 Now I'm not going to lie, the medication side of things was a long and painful process. I can't even tell you the number of different medications I've been put on; But that's the name of the game. 
No one is the same, and everyone reacts to medication differently. I've now been on the same medication for about six months and everything is going great. I definitely don't have as much panic attacks as as I was having, and my generalized anxiety isn't as strong as it once was. It's still there, but it's manageable; most of the time. 
As for the other forms of treatment, it just depends on the person really. 
Although I will say changing the way you think can have a huge impact on the way you feel. For example:

1. A panic attack is just your brain trying to keep you safe.
2. Look around, are you REALLY in danger?
3. You've felt anxious here before and nothing bad happened.
4. I'm surrounded by people who love and want to protect me. Nothing bad is going to happen.
5.You're a strong, kick ass person who isn't afraid of anything!

 Those are just a few things I like to keep in the back of my mind.

Help! How do I help someone who suffers from panic attacks?

This is a bit of a tricky question, only because everyone is different when it comes to their need and wants whilst having a panic attack. But I'll try my best. 

1. DO NOT FREAK OUT! I REPEAT DO NOT FREAK OUT! If someone is having a panic attack and you start yelling and squealing it's hardly gong to make them feel better, in fact it will most likely make them feel worse.
2. Don't get annoyed with them. Remember they can't control it. So if you're at the movies and you have to leave half way through don't show any disappointment, just continue to support them.
3. Answer Questions. There is a possibility that they're going to need some reassurance that everything is okay. No matter how many or how ridiculous the questions are, be patient and answer them.
4. Always ask if they need or want anything. They may not want you to do anything, in fact some people prefer to be left alone. So always ask, and don't make assumptions.

Wow! So I think I managed to cover everything. If not, be sure to leave any comments and questions you have below. 
I really do hope that this has helped some of you, and remember...

You are never alone, and there is always a way out. Don't let your anxiety control the way you think or live, just go out and live your life the way you want to live it!

That's all for me today! 

I hope you're all well, and please enjoy the rest of your day! <3

A photographers representation of anxiety feels like. He's got it pretty spot on to be fair.


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