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Don’t panic! A simple, three step guide to managing anxiety

Don’t panic! A simple, three step guide to managing anxiety.

Anxiety and it’s associated panic attacks can be crippling, and a lot of the time it is hard to understand and even harder to rationalise. Many people treat anxiety as something to be banished, defeated, cured, but in a lot of cases, that can only exacerbate your symptoms. My fiancé suffers from anxiety, and the effect on his life has been horrible, but recently, we’ve managed to get a handle on it and the improvements have been unreal! Acceptance is key, because once you put a face to the demon, you can start to manage it better. In this, I’ll run through three steps you can use to help you, from the moment of an attack.


1. Breathe!

Something happens, you have to go somewhere, you get news that hits you, and it starts. Your chest tightens, pure dread runs through your head, bouncing around off the inside of your skull like the scene from Flubber (yes, I put the video in below, it's hilarious!) The world shrinks and everything seems far too much. Most of the time, people try to be stubborn and fight it, or they give in and go to pieces and let it win. Both options will prolong the episode, when really, the quicker you can get out of the panic attack, the better it is for you.

When you have an attack, try and focus on one thing. Normally, breathing is a great thing to focus on, as you can kill two birds with one stone. You will likely be hyperventilating, so try and control it. Breathe in for a count of four, pause, and breathe out for a count of four. Don’t worry if you can’t get that straight away, just work towards it. This has the dual effect of giving you a simple thing to focus on, which helps calm the mind, but it also helps you physiologically. During a panic attack, your heart rate climbs and oxygen and blood sugar levels in the head can drop, causing dizziness and impaired cognitive abilities, exacerbating the situation. Trying to regulate your breathing can help open up the vascular system and get oxygen back to where it needs to be and the heart rate down, triggering the recovery process. Remember, in for four, hold, out for four. Repeat.



2. Analyse

So, the panic attack is over, maybe it's later that day, maybe it is the next day. Either way, you're back to being you! Brilliant. It can be easy to forget about it, put it to the back of your mind until it rears it's ugly head again. Humans seem to be naturally wired to hide the difficult things away and not deal with them, so the next step requires conscious effort. When you are calm, you need to try and look at what the preceding factors to the attack are, that is to say, what caused it? It might help if you can talk to someone, whether they be a professional or a friend/family member. Mentally go through the few hours before and look at the aggravating factors and your response to them. To give you an example, Gareth had a bit of an episode the other night, when looking back at this he realised that the knowledge that he had to go to sleep 'early' as he had to be up the next day was worrying him, and he responded to this by getting worked up, which just snowballed. You can do the same. Work out the trigger, look at when things started to go downhill, look at how you responded to the negative stimulus and where things went wrong. It can be difficult, as anxiety can build up over a period of time and it can be an event from hours ago that causes a panic attack later in the day. Try to analyse your emotional state throughout the preceding hours, and this leads on to the next bit...



3. Pre-empt

Great, you got over your panic attack. You even know why it happened. You're starting to get a bit of insight, and that leads to more control. But until you can practically apply this, not much will change. A big thing is learning to recognise these triggers as early as possible, and intervening before they become a full blown attack. One method is, when you start getting stress reactions, is to stop. Take a step back and try and look at the situation from an 'out of mind' way. Count to ten, or whatever other number you like, before you do anything else, then see if there is another way round the situation at hand that causes you less stress. Self care and management is key. It isn't selfish to take care of yourself, and the long term result of you looking after yourself is that you are your best you for others too. If you can nip it in the bud early and avoid the triggers, you can minimise the impact anxiety has on your life.  Obviously, it won't be perfect. It isn't going to go away, and there are going to be unavoidable things that cause problems. But by pre-empting and developing coping strategies for the avoidable stuff, you can make it a little better. A massive key is to make your life as stress free as possible. Cut out toxic people in your life, they aren't worth it. Avoid drama. If everyday tasks can cause you issues, try and find easier ways to do them, for example, online shopping if crowds can cause stress, or paying a cleaner to come in occasionally if some domestic tasks can trigger your anxiety. A quote I always say to Gareth is "There's always another way." And it's true. You can look for a way around issues and ways to cope with them. Reduce your stress, pre-empt the attacks and take back control!



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No, it's not perfect. Sadly, there is no easy fix for anxiety. It doesn't go away. But by improving your management skills, you can minimise the effects. It's a long and hard process, and there is bound to be slips and backslides. But worth it. If you like this article, please subscribe to our mailing list through the pop up box or by going to our sign up page.

This article is in no way medical advice or a substitute for professional therapy. It is just a set of techniques to help control anxiety, and works best in conjunction with the help of medical professionals. 

Comments

Elizabeth said…
Breathing is so critical! I think people dismiss it as a way to combat anxiety because it is so SIMPLE. But it works not just mentally but physiologically.

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