November 11, 2015

You don’t have to suffer with anxiety and panic attacks

anxiety and panic attacks by Maeve Halpin, Registered Counselling Psychologist 

There are many different forms of anxiety, all of them distressing. Social anxiety refers to fear and worry in ordinary social situations. People with social anxiety can feel self-conscious and inhibited around others, with a fear of being judged or criticised. Phobias are specific fears that focus on one particular object or situation. This might be fear of heights, of insects or of going outdoors. If a phobia has begun to limit your life, it needs to be addressed professionally. Panic attacks are a form of anxiety that strike suddenly, often without warning.  They can cause shortness of breath, dizziness, quickened heartbeat and sweating palms. Generalised anxiety disorder  relates to a persistent, low-level feeling of worry and stress. A person with this disorder will always find something to worry about. They will rarely feel true peace of mind. Anxiety can also appear as a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), after a person has experienced a trauma such as a traffic accident or assault.

Managing Anxiety.

There are several ways to address feelings of anxiety and panic. You can learn practical skills to alleviate anxiety symptoms and bring them quickly under control.

Deep breathing for Peace 

The first skill is to learn how to use the breath to feel calm. When we are anxious, we breath quickly and our breath is shallow. This increases the body’s “fight-or-flight” response, releasing adrenaline into the bloodstream. To calm down, take several slow, deep breaths. The belly should expand rather then the chest. This means that we are breathing into the bottom of our lungs. This gives a message to the brain that there is nothing to fear: we do not need to fight or flee.  It releases feel-good, calming hormones like oxytocin into the bloodstream.  This type of breathing can initially be practiced when you are not anxious and can then be called on as a quick-acting antidote when anxiety or panic strikes.

Managing your Mind

How we talk to ourselves will affect our stress and anxiety levels. When anxious, our “inner voice” can be judgmental and harsh. Anxiety is very common and we do not have to criticise ourselves for it. Instead, silently repeating reassuring phrases such as “this will pass” and “everything is ok” will help to calm the mind and defuse the anxious feelings more quickly.

Nourishing the Nervous System

When hungry, we can feel irritable and bad-tempered. This is because the brain and nervous system need a constant supply of nutrition to function properly. If you are not eating healthy, natural food on a regular basis, you can be prone to generalised anxiety. Be aware that processed foods that contain artificial additives, preservatives, sugar, fat and salt can over-stimulate the nervous system, causing anxiety. Caffeine and alcohol are also stimulants that can make anxious symptoms worse. Wholefoods such as grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds will provide the essential minerals, vitamins and fatty acids needed for healthy brain function.

Exercising for Happiness

Exercise helps burn off excess nervous energy and improves mood, sleep and self-esteem. Research shows that just three 30-minute exercise sessions per week is as effective as a mild anti-depressant. Remember to start slowly, taking professional advice if you are out of shape. A regular exercise routine is is powerful natural buffer against anxiety and stress.

Getting Help

If you would like help with managing anxiety through counselling, call me on 087-2877837 or mail