I’ve been perusing WordPress for anxiety/panic attack related blogs and I have seen so many people that are suffering, just like me. It’s literally heartbreaking and also, sort of comforting to know that there are others like me out there. I’ve been doing this anxiety/panic gig for about 20 years now, so have learned a lot along and way and nothing would make me happier or more fulfilled than to share some of the knowledge about what works with others who are having a rough time. I know these methods are not the end all, be all, but sometimes just a small life style change can make you feel more level.
I’m going to go through a list of ways/methods to relieve anxiety below. The overall summary of these methods is that living a clean lifestyle, a healthy lifestyle really is what it’s all about.
After I stopped taking my medication (Paxil first, then Lexapro) a few years ago this was one of the methods that I tried to relieve my anxiety. The fear and panic had slowly started creeping its way back into my life again (although it was never really gone on medication) and I needed something. Exercise is helpful. It increases the feel good chemicals in the brain and does lift mood and energy. But it can’t be a one time thing or once a week. Exercise takes commitment, both physically and mentally. If you want this method to work, I would recommend getting cardio exercise at least 3 times per week, for at least 30 minutes each session. This has to be exercise that gets your heart rate up and ideally gets you sweating. This method does seem to work fairly well, but it’s best if used in conjunction with other methods.
This method actually amazes me, still after using it for a few years. My mom, who also suffers from panic attacks and anxiety was the first person to tell me about this and of course, being a person in my early 20’s I didn’t want to listen to her. But after someone else told me about GABA, a chemical in the brain that helps you to feel calm, I started to believe her. GABA can be found in bananas. This method has really been amazing for me recently. I eat 1 banana per day, every single day and I try not to skip because I can tell that I feel more anxious when I do. This is so simple, and it’s definitely worth a try, but you need to give it a few weeks to start to see results.
Staying hydrated is important anyway, but it’s even more important than I thought because I recently learned through an online search that being dehydrated can also lead to anxiety! For most of my life I have been dehydrated. It’s pretty terrible when I think about how little I used to drink. But now I am very careful to get plenty of water because it helps me feel better in so many other ways. It helps me sleep at night, it helps my anxiety, it helps my body feel and run better. I’ve found that often my sleep is restless and I feel overheated if I’ve not had enough to drink during the day.
Sleep is SUPER important too! I am always more anxious when I get a bad night’s sleep. So get to bed early and give yourself time to unwind. Take a shower, read a book, don’t watch TV! You need something that is soothing. Listening to soothing music can help too and make sure your room is dark. A dark room helps you sleep deeper and better. Or find a sleep mask. That’s what I’ve been using for the past few years and I really do feel that I sleep better in complete darkness. Plus remember to get enough water during the day to ensure you will sleep good!
Alcohol is BAD:
It took me a long time to accept or realize this. Not only does alcohol dehydrate you like crazy, it also makes you sleep poorly. I used to have a glass of wine every night with dinner and every night I could not sleep! I would fall asleep fine, but by 2:00 am I was awake and burning hot with weird dreams. It was miserable and it made me feel horrible the next day. I won’t say that I never drink now, but I do notice a difference in how I feel after I drink, sometimes even several days later I will still feel horrible, especially if I drink to excess. A hangover is SURE to bring out panic. Not only does it make you feel physically ill which can bring on panic, but it also just seems to make me feel terrible mentally.
Meditation is a great way to relax and let go of stress. I bought some really great meditation music from Amazon (type in meditation music and you’ll come up with some good stuff for any taste) and I lay back, put in my head phone and just zone. It feels amazing to try to think of nothing. It’s very very hard to achieve but when you live with racing, crowding thoughts much of the time, being able to be quiet, to try to shut off those thoughts is like heaven. This method can also be used before bed to help you get to sleep. Sometimes when I wake in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, I find this helpful as well. Another great resource is a guided meditation, where someone guides you through imagery and helps you relax. A lot of times they will guide you through relaxing each and every muscle, until you are truly relaxed. Hearing someone else tell you these things is really great, especially when they say, You are in CONTROL of your BODY and YOUR MIND!! You really really are. It’s just hard to realize that you are.
Search and Destroy Tension:
This is so easy!!! Anyone can do it. Simply sit down and search out the tension in your body. You will find it in many places, often unexpected and often much deeper than you can imagine. Trust me, you have muscles inside you that you never knew you had and you are clenching them like mad when you panic. Trying to let go of the clench is really difficult, but if you practice it gets easier. I’ve noticed that I clench my stomach, hence always feeling sick to my stomach and sometimes even in my forehead. The stomach clench is quite deep. So I try to force myself to relax, to force the muscles to let go, to stop and often if I can get them to stop, I feel so much better. Plus this tells me that I am in control. I don’t always feel in control and I can’t always stop the clench, but when I can, I know that I am master of my domain!! haha.
I know, I know, a writer telling you to write. However since many of you have blogs, you are probably already doing this. Writing out your feelings really does help. It gets them on to paper and out of your head. A lot of times when my thoughts are spinning with worries this can really help.
Buy a Book:
When I was in therapy, I used The Anxiety and Panic Workbook which I found to be helpful and a friend told me about Anxiety, Phobias and Panic by Reneau Peurifoy. I have not finished this book yet, so can’t speak to the entire thing, however from what I have read it is a very easy read and it really speaks to the psychology of why we feel the way we do. Often certain personality types will be more likely to have a panic disorder. It really helps to understand why some of your assumptions about yourself, or expectations are not rational or healthy for you.
A Final Solution, if necessary:
Medication for me is a final solution, a solution that should not be for everyone and does not necessarily solve everything. Again, most of the methods above are aimed at getting your body and mind in the right place. Medication for me, was more of a bandage. Did it make me panic less? It did. Did it save me when I was in a bad place? It did. But do I recommend it long term or as the savior solution to all your problems? No. For me, medication took the edge off my panic, but it did not make it go away. I still had all my old fears of certain situations, and my life was still somewhat restricted but I did panic less than before. The problem for me with meds is that they took the creative aspect of me away. I no longer felt like me. I wasn’t interested in my old creative pursuits and I didn’t like the fact that I was pumping myself full of unknown chemicals everyday. I wanted creative crazy me back and a healthy natural body. So eventually I tried to get off meds. The first time was a disaster but the second time was a success because I had armed myself with more tools to help me. This is not to say that life is all peachy keen and perfect, it’s not and I’m still restricted. I know it’s probably pessimistic but I don’t think this will ever go away for me no matter what I do. So I try to live as full as life as I am able.
Another quick word about meds is that I do have a prescription for Xanax that I used on an as-needed basis. I have my doctor prescribe 30 pills for the entire year and then I use them when I need to do something that makes me particularly nervous. This is helpful, although the idea of the unknown chemicals in my body is still not pleasant to me. I want to be as natural as possible, as healthy as possible because that is the way that makes me feel best.
I wish you all the best, fellow panic attack sufferers. I hope you will try some of these methods and see what works best for you. Listen to your body! Pay attention to how you feel after you do something/eat something and notice what things make you feel good or make you feel bad. You really can live life this way. Don’t give up. It does get better. When you are in the darkest place you can be, know that there is light out there, and you will reach it eventually.
If I think of anything else that I’ve missed, I’ll write an update post. 🙂