Anxiety and Panic Attacks:
What they are and natural ways to deal with them.
Anxiety, or panic, attacks are the response of your body due to fear. This fear can be brought on by anything from being chased by a grizzly bear, anxiety from a speech you have to give, too much to do in too little time, fear from not knowing how you are going to pay the rent or other bills this month, or even fear with no known origin. That feeling of fear sends an emergency message to your adrenal glands, two pea-sized organs that sit above your kidneys, to release adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone. Once the adrenaline is released, it sets up the body to be prepared to either fight or flee. You may start breathing faster, but more shallowly. Your heart starts pumping extra blood into your major muscles in your arms and legs, and into your brain. This gives you the extra strength and speed to deal with the impending emergency. Until the adrenal glands are notified that the danger is gone and that they can stop releasing adrenaline, they will keep it up.
Some say there are no warning signs, but often periods of stress, insomnia, and poor eating habits precede panic attacks. Other things that could trigger an attack are long term financial insecurity, relationship or job difficulties, food allergies, nutritional deficiencies, or even noise.
Things that may be adding to the problem include:
· Loud noises, which can bring on stressful feelings.
· Stimulants, such as nicotine or caffeine, which can overwork the adrenals.
· Prescription antidepressants, like Prozac, which have side effects and change body chemistry. (They are also very acidic to the body.)
· Food allergies, which can cause emotional as well as physical upset.
· Poor food combining, which blocks absorption of important nutrients.
You can stop this, and probably even prevent future attacks with nutrition, aromatherapy, regular exercise, adequate sleep, deep breathing, a simple four-step relaxation technique, counseling, and even hypnotherapy.
· Be mindful of caffeine intake, which can tax the adrenals.
· Ditch the processed food, which often contains hormone disrupting additives.
· Get enough fresh water throughout the day.
· Vitamins and minerals that may help include:
- Calcium, which helps with stress. Foods rich in calcium include sesame seeds, almonds, dairy, and leafy greens.
- Magnesium, which protects nerves. Foods rich in magnesium include sea greens, wheat germ, bran, and most nuts.
- B vitamins, which support the adrenals and fuel the nerves. Foods rich in B vitamins include nutritional yeast, whole grains, bran, nuts, and beans.
- Vitamin C, which helps to control stress response. Foods rich in vitamin C include peppers, greens, broccoli, and kiwi.
Digestive help (so that the nutrition can be absorbed and utilized by the body):
· Allergies and sensitivities or intolerances to food can cause a lot of digestive problem. Allergies cause inflammation. Foods that can cause this are gluten (in wheat, barley and rye), casein (found in dairy), soy products (They hide in processed food.), or nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers).
· Poor food combining is main cause of digestive disorders. It blocks the absorption of important nutrients. A wonderful plan for correct food combining can be found by clicking here.
Herbs or essential oils that help relieve stress and help calm the body include lavender, chamomile, ylang ylang, bergamot, frankincense, marjoram, myrrh, rosemary, sandalwood, spruce, thyme, and wintergreen. As a preventive measure or during an attack, you can diffuse them; breathe them in right from the bottle, add them to your bath water; or apply them to the back of your neck, temples, or bottoms of your feet. (Check the directions on the bottle to see if they should be diluted before applying to the skin.)
Regular exercise, on a daily basis, reduces symptoms of stress, and may prevent anxiety attacks.
Be sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep at night. Sleep deficiencies cause all types of havoc to the body and mind.
Deep breathing is a natural tranquilizer. Also, if you think about it, lack of oxygen throughout your body might be enough for your brain to set off an alarm of emergency to your adrenals. Breathe! (A deep breathing technique is described next.)
4 Step Relaxation Technique:
1. RELAX: Take slow, deep, breaths that completely fill your stomach. Slowly in through your nose as your stomach expands, and slowly out through almost closed "whistle lips" as your stomach contracts. Remind yourself that you are only having a panic attack and that you are not really in danger. This will help to stop releasing adrenalin.
2. STOP NEGATIVE THINKING: Inside your head --not out loud, unless you are alone--shout the word, STOP!!! as loud as you can to yourself. This interrupts the negative loop of devastating thoughts that are most likely cycling through your mind over and over. Next you will transplant the stressful thoughts with calming thoughts.
3. "TALK NICE" TO YOURSELF: Have statements all planned out and written down, on a card that you keep in your wallet and/or on your night stand, that you will tell yourself. If you are afraid you are having a heart attack, tell yourself something like, "My heart is fine. It is just my adrenalin that is causing my heart to pump so hard." If your fear is about financial problems, your self-talk may be, "I know I can figure it out. I've handled this problem before." Something I like to tell myself is, "This too shall pass." Think about it. Every problem you have ever had is IN THE PAST, and soon this one will be too.
4. ACCEPT YOUR FEELINGS: Recognize that your fear is real and you have a good reason to feel this fear. Don't tell yourself you are crazy, and that you are stupid to be so afraid of nothing. Give yourself permission to feel the fear, but remind yourself that you are really not in danger. Identify the reason for your fear, or other emotions, that you are feeling during the attack. It could be because you are worried about money, problems in a relationship, fear of dying, or even a recurring fear of suffocating or falling that overtakes your thoughts. These feelings are very real, and should be validated. If you are worried for your health, have a check-up to make sure everything is okay.
I have a friend whose mother had breast cancer, and my friend started having serious panic attacks, that affected her daily functioning, at about the time she found out about her mother's condition. Months later, she saw a counselor who helped her to pinpoint her fear. She was afraid of getting breast cancer herself! Once she identified it, she was able to deal with the fear and the panic attacks ended, with the help of therapy and nutrition counseling. Happily, her mother is alive and well today.
Hypnotherapists claim that this type of therapy can change your thinking process and may help end the panic attacks for good.
As you can see, there are many ways you can approach anxiety issues. The body and mind are very complex and very connected. Please realize these are just ideas and not intended to diagnose or treat an illness. You and your healthcare provider know your own health history the best . Just know that you aren't alone. If you have any other questions, please let me know. To your health!
Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes
Linda Page's Healthy Healing Guide
Reference Guide for Essential Oils, by Connie and Alan Higley
Great Taste No Pain, by Sherry Brescia