WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Those who experience anxiety attacks know that there is no greater dread than the feeling of a panic attack approaching. It can come out of nowhere at times, when all seems to be going well and you are feeling totally fine. Panic and anxiety attacks can literally feel like you are having a heart attack. In fact, a great number of people who experience a panic attack for the first time go to the hospital with the belief that they are having a cardiac arrest.
This shows how impactful a panic attack is, negating the misconception that it is a thought-based or emotional experience in which the person is “hysterical.” The truth is that it is very much a physical experience and can feel like your body is on a spinning cycle inside your own skin, and nothing you can do will slow it down. You want to literally run away from yourself.
Anxiety and panic attacks can feel different in each person and manifest from completely different stimuli, and in many cases none at all.
There are some misconceptions regarding people with anxiety disorders, that they are unable to stop worrying about seemingly unimportant things, and they can perceive situations as much worse than they actually are. I feel that this is an oversimplification of another person’s life experience. For that person, their reality is just as accurate and real as mine; it’s the lens from which they see their world.
For example, take someone who has a fear of riding the train because they are afraid that something bad might happen. This is not an irrational fear; it’s a possibility—a really small possibility—but it’s there, so I don’t think that should be dismissed as irrational. There are more extreme examples and experiences where these hypothetical events, fears, and anxieties can hinder someone’s ability to live a happy and fulfilling life, and that’s where it can be life-altering.
HOW TO PREVENT AN ANXIETY ATTACK
Anxiety can interfere with the enjoyment of life and disrupts feeling and being productive in a way that you want. Thankfully, anxiety and panic are treatable conditions, and learning about them is an important first step. My first recommendation to anyone experiencing anxiety or panic is to look at what you are eating and putting in and around your body.
- Caffeine/Coffee or soda
- Sugar (even chocolate for some)
- Energy drinks
These are all potential triggers to an attack or continued anxiety. To put it simply, any substance you put in and or around your body that has the ability to accelerate or reduce your heart rate should be cut out asap!
Also, there are many cold and flu medications that contain ingredients that have the ability to affect some people’s heart rate, which can trigger anxiety symptoms. As always, ask your doctor first before taking anything. I’m not a doctor, but through my own research and experience, I have found that the following are some of the ingredients that can affect heart rate:
There are also physical factors that can be underlying triggers; for example, there are many heart conditions that cause a fluctuation or fluttering heartbeat that can trigger general anxiety or a panic attack. So if you have panic attacks, it’s a great first step to first ensure your physical health bases are covered.
Anxiety disorders can be caused by either one or a combination of factors. These include genetic factors, ongoing stress, family history, physical health issues, or trauma.
Here are some holistic options to deal with general anxiety and to help prevent attacks:
- Talk to a trusted friend or therapist
- Talk to yourself (ask yourself questions about how you feel)
- Get moderate exercise that helps you feel calm, such as yoga
- Get fresh air
- Take time to go to therapy
- Try your best to eat healthily (this is obvious, but it makes a difference)
- Journal how you are feeling to help track your moods
There are many times when someone can be dedicated to an anxiety awareness practice and still experience anxiety or anxiety attacks. In those cases, therapy and possibly medication are a great bridge of support.
There is no shame in asking for and getting help, and you should actually feel empowered and proud that you are choosing to take control of your panic or anxiety and taking steps toward living the life you want. If you feel you want to speak to a medical professional, talk to your doctor about your anxiety symptoms so he or she can make a proper diagnosis and help make the most accurate recommendations.