The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.
Anxiety is a disabling condition that changes your mindset and how you view the world. It is a fear based emotion. Symptoms can be anything from a feeling of mild discomfort, to a full blown panic attack. Anxiety involves fear and sometimes even the fear of being afraid. Please keep in mind that anxiety by itself cannot hurt you and it is only a feeling.
Anxiety itself is not harmful to you, but a symptom of another underlying cause in your body. The most common reasons for anxiety and panic attacks are hormone changes, such as pre-menopausal symptoms, menopause, ova hysterectomies. auto-immune disorders and being unable to cope with stress due to traumatic events. There are different causes for anxiety as well as different types. This manual is geared toward women in their 30’s who acquire sudden anxiety symptoms due to hormonal changes and or autoimmune disorders, but may also apply to a broad range of anxiety sufferers. Because we live in a society that contains people, it is inevitable that we will experience stress. It is not the stress that gives us anxiety, but the inability to cope with stress. Some anxiety is normal. Our bodies are adept at helping us prepare for what we are about to face. Normal anxiety can arise when speaking in public, heading up a meeting, singing in front of people. This type of anxiety produces a normal stress response. Another example is when someone pulls out in front of us while driving and we have an adrenaline rush or when we get into a fight. Adrenaline is a normal stress response to help give us that extra push Anxiety by itself cannot hurt you. It’s only a feeling when we need it. Adrenaline and the stress response was created to help us.
In this article, we will focus on a few different areas we can work on to alleviate anxiety symptoms. We will strive to get to the source of our anxiety and work from there. The three main areas we will look at are; nutrition, environment and spiritual healing. We will also look at what triggers your anxiety and how to turn triggers into non-triggers. The first tab in this manual is your go-to source when you are experiencing an anxiety or panic attack. It will gently guide you through breathing exercises, grounding exercises as well as a way to change your perspective of the trigger that started the attack. On the following page are some common fears associated with anxiety and panic attacks.
Common Anxiety Triggers
A common trigger is worrying about health. A new symptom pops up, a weird pain in your body or even a headache can trigger some into thinking something is seriously wrong with them. Sickness in a loved one: Whenever those close to us are suffering, there is a fear of losing them. This can trigger many emotions, especially if it involves your children or spouse.
Whenever taking a new medication, there is always a little risk in our mind. This for some, is too much to bear, and if there is any change in feeling due to the medication, this can be a trigger. Most common are the effects of Benedryl, sleep medication, cold and flu medication, or others that may cause drowsiness. Also psychoactive drugs such as Marijuana can also be a trigger. Personally, I found if I take these at night before bed, there is a greater chance for them to trigger an attack. Being reminded of a traumatic event: If anxiety sufferers have had a past traumatic event in their life, anything that remotely reminds them of that event will bring back those emotions, therefore becoming a trigger. Some examples may include an auto accident, divorce, dog bite, a death in the family, abuse, being yelled at by someone, a confrontation, combat, etc. Stop thinking about the event in your mind. Here is a helpful visualization exercise you can do.
Make sure you are in a safe place. Close your eyes and visualize your traumatic memory as movie playing in a theater. Now, take the movie playing on the screen stop to a still image. Change it to black and white. Put the picture in a frame and hang it on the side wall of the theater. Get out of your seat and walk out of the theater. That is where the picture will stay. You never have to go back into the theater again. If the memory comes back, don’t worry, just put it back in the frame and re-hang it on the wall. After a while, the memory is rendered harmless in your mind and you will be able to move on.
Meeting new people or appointments: The fear of the unknown is enough to throw us into a panic attack. Doctor appointments, dentist appointments and even expecting an appointment at your own home such as a repair man can be a trigger.
I Need Help Right Now!
If you are experiencing a panic attack right now, you are not alone. Follow the tips on the next few pages and you will start to feel better. Do these exercises over and over until you feel the anxiety lift. Find the activity that helps you the most and do it several times. Most anxiety attacks rarely last over 20 minutes.
- Basic Grounding
-Find 5 things you can see
Look around and notice the mundane details of your environment. It could be the color of a light switch, a picture on the wall or the spackle pattern on the wall.
-Find 4 things you can touch
Notice how things feel. The softness of a fuzzy blanket, how smooth the kitchen counter top is, the coolness of a cold drink or the heat of your morning coffee.
-Find 3 things you can hear.
The sound of cars passing by outside, birds chirping, or the hum of the AC unit.
-Find 2 things you can smell.
The smell of breakfast in the morning, freshly cut grass or smell something close to you, like a pillow.
-Find 1 thing you can taste.
A salty snack, or the sweetness of an apple slice. Basic Grounding can help you when you feel like you’ve lost control of your surroundings. Remember: You are NOT in danger and this will soon pass. (Say this to yourself a few times in a row)
-Hold an ice cube in your hand for as long as you can bear
-Snap a rubber band on your wrist
-Take a cold shower
-Pinch some fat on your belly. Tactical grounding brings you back to the present moment by experiencing a slight discomfort.
-Notice as many things in your environment as possible.
-describe each thing you see
-take note of colors, textures, if it is crooked or straight, large or small, smooth or bumpy
-Find as many details of each object that you can think of.
Focusing on breathing can really help put you back into the correct state of mind. Here are some breathing exercises to try. Breathe with your belly.
A simple exercise of tapping certain points on the body can help relieve anxiety. Repeat steps 1-5 as often as you need.
Nutrition & Exercise
One of the best things you can do to prevent future anxiety attacks is a healthy diet and exercise. It seems simple, but most people have the hardest time keeping a good diet and a healthy body. If a person wants to change they will. If you truly want to get over your anxiety issues, you can. It all depends on how bad you want to change. To get over your anxiety symptoms, you need to be committed to a lifestyle change. There is not one magical cure that will work. It’s a combination of many things. Things that work for some may not work for others. You have to find the winning combination for you.
First thing you need to do, and this is going to be hard, is eliminate refined sugars and coffee. Are you still with me? Don’t worry, it is for the greater good. Trust me, you will feel so much better in a week’s time. Instead of coffee, try replacing it with a chai tea in the mornings. Matcha Green tea is also a great alternative. Try replacing your sugars with Agave or Honey if you feel you can’t live without some sweetness.
Second thing you must do is wean yourself off of all processed foods. That means fast food, packaged foods, or foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce. Instead cook simple meals at home like salmon and veggies, chicken and potatoes, or pork and beans. It is good to include some kind of vegetables in each serving. Food is the most abused anxiety drug and exercise is the most under utilized anti depressant. leafy greens are the best. Go organic if you can afford it. If you need snacks throughout the day, have fruit, like a banana, apple slices or a bowl of yogurt. Keep your diet simple and pure.
Although we try and get a complete diet through the foods we eat, we still lack certain nutrients. Below are some suggested supplements that worked for me personally, however, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any new nutrition program. Do not take anything that may interfere with your current medication. Many people who suffer from anxiety symptoms are Magnesium deficient. Find a good Calcium/ Magnesium supplement and start taking them daily. I personally like the Calcium/ Magnesium supplement from http://www.kirkmanlabs.com. Calcium Citrate is one form of magnesium that is easier for your body to absorb. If you are like me and suffer from anxiety due to an autoimmune disease, then I suggest you also start treating yourself for inflammation as well. Turmeric is a good natural supplement that reduces inflammation. I started with a turmeric supplement with 95% Curcumoids for three months, then went down to taking natural Turmeric powder supplements twice a day.
Vitamin D3 is another supplement to add to your medicine cabinet. I Take the recommended 2000 IU a day. Probiotics are vital in our path to healing as well. 75% of our immune system is directly related to our gut. If our gut is not functioning properly, it sends signals to our brain that something is wrong. Our brains try to tell us by giving us symptoms. Symptoms are just our bodies trying to tell us something. It is best not to ignore or cover up the symptoms, but try and find out what they are telling you. Probiotics are strains of beneficial bacteria. The help process food, keep bad bacteria at bay and help heal damage to our gut. Some natural sources of probiotics are fermented foods such as raw, unprocessed sauerkraut (found in the refrigerated section), kimchi, natto, kombucha and kefir. You can also find some probiotics in yogurt, but often with high levels of sugar as well. Keep in mind with all of these foods, the less processed, the better they are for you. Natural food stores usually have a great selection of raw, unprocessed fermented items.
Because of my Crohn’s, I take some pretty heavy doses of probiotics in pill form as well as natural sources. Find a probiotic with multiple strains and cultures in the billions. It is best not to ignore or cover up the symptoms, but try and find out what they are trying to tell you.
Herbs and Essential Oils
There are some herbal supplements and essential oils now on the market that can bring some forms of relief from stress and anxiety. They may be worth looking into as anther tool to have in your anti-anxiety tool belt.
Herbal remedies have been used by centuries as natural healing medication. Before modern medicine, man had to rely solely on these herbs for healing and relief. Just because they are plant based, don’t think that they are less potent than modern day meds. Herbs have potency and just like synthetic medication, should be taken only under trained professional guidance. They have the power to help, but they also can do more harm if you don’t know what you are doing. So be sure to seek out a trained herbalist and make sure it is a safe route to explore with your doctor. Below are common herbs used for anxiety.
Like herbs, essential oils are also powerful and useful. Plant based extracts can be utilized in several different forms for calming effects. There are a lot of popular essential oil companies out there now that offer a large line of products. They all claim to be pure and the best, so it is recommended you do some research on the individual company to best fit your needs.
I went down to the health food store and picked up a few vials to use in my diffuser. Since most of my episodes were at night, I’d start the diffuser in the evening and let it run while I try and fall asleep. Follow the directions of the manufacturer of the product or products you choose to use. For me, the oils didn’t make a huge difference, but they were good to take the edge off.
Not a favorite subject by many, however, if you really want a good grasp on self control, exercise is crucial. Here’s the deal: start where you are at. if you start small and work your way up, it won’t be as bad and you’ll have a tendency to stick with it. Those who try to dive in the deep end of exercise burn out easily and give up too soon. (I wonder how many unopened video sets of Tae Bo there are out there?)
If you are overweight, eat junk food and watch TV all day, start by doing what you can. Do squats during commercials, walk around the block and reward yourself with an episode on Netflix. Start small. A gym membership and personal trainer may be of value if you have a hard time starting and staying motivated. Join a Zumba group. Others will understand if you don’t have the move just yet. Most groups are very supportive of newcomers. Even if your exercise is catching Pokemon, at least you are up and about! I personally enjoy martial arts. I joined a Kajukenbo group. Not only did I get exercise, but I learned self defense, breathing exercises and even a little tai chi! Learning how to do a choke hold or joint lock on someone really does wonders for your self confidence! I found even during my toughest weeks when I was anxiety stricken, as soon as I stepped into the dojo, the anxiety was gone! You are trained to set your focus on the instructor and the technique he or she is teaching. There is no room for worry or anxiety when you have complete focus! There were so many nights where I felt awful on the way to martial arts, almost enough to not want to go. On the way home, however, I was a totally different person! I was pumped and ready for life once more! There is no room for worry or anxiety when you have complete focus.
Try to start with 2-3 times a week with 30-60 minutes a day and work up from there. It’s always a good idea to exercise with a friend. Friends keep you accountable and boost your confidence!
Tai Chi is a form of exercise that includes meditation and control of the body. It’s very helpful with anxiety and learning to quite the soul. You can look on You tube for a qualified instructor and practice daily. It’s amazing how Tai Chi makes you feel after a week as part of your morning routine.
Rejuvenating the Spirit
We briefly touched upon the body, the mind and now let’s look at the spirit. Even if you are not a “spiritual” person, there are still some practical ideas to consider when discussing a spiritual cleansing. It is healthy to take a metaphorical step back and look at our life. What areas can we change to improve our life? What relationships need fixing? Where can we purge to see things more clearly? Where can we trim to make life a little less stressful? Do we have enough recreation to balance the stress load? What areas of our life gives us the most grief? What can we change to make it better?
Take about 5 minutes to jot down your priorities: For example,
You get the idea. It will be different for everyone. Now, make a
list of things you want to change for the better. Example:
1. Better health
2. Better relationship with ___________
3. Financial Health
4. Better friendships
5. Less Facebook/ TV
For each item on this list, jot down a few ideas on how you can improve each item. Over the next week, focus on your list and start taking steps to implement them. You don’t have to do everything at once. Again, start small. Call someone you want to have a better relationship and ask them out to coffee, (or Chai tea in your case) Sign up for that Zumba class, start walking the dog once a day, take a financial help course, etc. Try to improve your life about 2% each day.
Are you a church goer? If so, see how you can be more involved in church. Volunteer for the children’s ministry, offer to pass out bulletins, etc. When you help others, it takes the focus off of yourself. I feel at my best when I am helping others. Do you read the Bible? There are a lot of comforting scriptures that can help you rest at ease. (Hint: stick to the New Testament at first!) Psalms and Proverbs is a good place to start. I participate with the Life Journal reading program. After you read the passage, you write in the Life Journal of how the scripture can be applied to your life. You get a lot more out of it than by reading alone. Another great tool to improve focus.
If you are not yet a church goer, but are interested, keep in mind, there are many different types of churches and not all are created equal. Go church hopping for a while till you find one that really jives with your spirit. Don’t be discouraged after the first one you try. Every church has a little different flavor. You just have to find one you like and that is fulfilling to you. Stay away from churches where you feel pressured to do anything. Or one that forces you to do things in order to secure a place in heaven. Once, while in college, an acquaintance invited me to their church and I tried it out, it was OK, but didn’t really seem like an good fit. So I didn’t go the next week. To my surprise, some “friends” that I met at the church came knocking on my door to take me to church. I fibbed and said I wasn’t feeling well, but they came again the next few weeks in a row. Finally I had to tell them I just don’t want to go to your church! Please leave me alone! I later found out that this type of church is considered a cult and very hard to get out of once you are in! Please avoid those types of churches!
I feel most comfortable in Foursquare churches, Protestant or Open Bible. Some others to consider may be, Methodist, Presbyterian, and there are some good independent churches as well. Although churches vary depending on the leadership, generally they are open to newcomers and have a heart for people. If you want to explore other religions, that’s fine, I just don’t have any personal experience with them.
Other ways in which you can help others may include volunteering for the Red Cross, your local Search and Rescue team, food banks and pet shelters.
Helping Others to Understand
Because Anxiety is an invisible condition, meaning, there are usually no physical signs, others around us do not understand the turmoil we are going through. People react differently and sometimes badly, making us feel worse. Those suffering with anxiety can sometimes even manage to put a smile on their face in the midst of a panic attack! How is the best way to make others around us understand what we are going through? The answer is not an easy one. Because non-anxiety sufferers have never experienced a panic attack, they have no way of knowing how you are feeling. You look fine to them after all. Sometimes the way I explain it to others is to think of the poor people locked in the jail cells on board the Titanic and slowly sinking. That panic stricken feeling you are about to die? Yeah, that’s pretty much it, except in our case, there is no apparent reason for the panic. Here are some things to tell our friends and loved ones if they want to help:
- Please don’t try and fix anything, just being there helps me feel better.
Don’t tell me “not to worry”.
Helpful things friends can say: “You can get through this”, “It’s not the place that’s bothering you, it’s the thought”, “I’m proud of you, good job”, “What you are feeling is scary, but not dangerous”, “Concentrate on breathing, stay in the present.”.
Have friends help by finding a quiet, safe place to take you.
Have your friends speak in short, simple sentences and avoid surprises.
Most of all, friends and loved ones need to remember to stay calm.
Try to find friends that have a calming personality and are understanding. Accept the situation at hand, don’t try and fight it. Attacks only last about 20 minutes on average, so keep in mind, the episode will pass soon.
Keep an optimistic outlook, you can get rid of anxiety attacks!