Another average day going through your daily activities and out of nowhere comes a sharp pang in your chest. You try to ignore it, but notice you can’t seem to catch your breath. The fluttering in your chest seems to come and go, but each inhalation becomes harder. You start feeling lightheaded; your skin gets clammy and you wonder: Is this what a heart attack is like?
Of course you should never ignore or take these symptoms for granted! You pop a baby aspirin and take yourself to the emergency room to be safe. But then you’re told you are having an anxiety attack. Relieved that you are NOT having a heart attack, you start to feel embarrassed over the ordeal. Now what?
Anxiety can creep up on us for no apparent reason! It can show itself when we least expect it and send us to our knees in a panic attack.
Every one of us has experienced anxiety. Most people lead a very stressful life. We juggle long work hours with family and social life, as well as additional obligations. We never know when the stress will show itself through physical symptoms. Sometimes it is just the nervousness of standing on the starting line of a race, anticipating your first marathon, speaking in front of a large audience, or even asking someone out on a date. Usually those situations are manageable and actually beneficial as they give us that boost of energy needed for achievement. In these circumstances, it is easier to turn the nervousness into excitement and use it to your advantage.
There are however attacks of anxiety that can have a crippling effect on us and even block us from rational thinking.
Anxiety has a direct correlation to any injury or trauma. Let’s face it, whether you fall off a bike or get struck by a car, it is a shock to the body and a jolt to our emotions. In these instances, it is vital to allow yourself to ‘feel’ the emotion so it can pass through you and not get stuck to come back and haunt you in the future.
Anyone who has ever suffered a panic attack knows the horror! You feel like you are going to die!
Many people feel a tightness in their chest, trouble breathing, sweating, lightheaded, a racing heartbeat, and a constrictive sensation in the throat. These symptoms are often mistaken for a heart attack and can land you in the emergency room where they will administer you a injection of an anti-anxiety drug.
There are some methods you can use that serve as an effective short-term treatment of an acute panic attack.
- Breathing into a paper bag. If there isn’t one available, cup your hands and take several breaths with them over your nose and mouth. This simple procedure slows down the heart and calms the nerves by releasing carbon dioxide into the blood stream.
CAUTION: This involves just a few breaths. Breathing into a paper bag too long can fatally lower oxygen in the blood stream. In severe cases it may be warranted to take anti-anxiety medication just long enough to get you through the initial period, but if it continues, you will want to seek professional trauma therapy.
- You can also step out of this mind-reeling spiral of panic, by purposefully doing something routine, such as brushing your teeth, shaving, doing a chore. The hope is that the routine task will switch your focus and break the cycle.
- One method that usually works is to take a deep breath and hold it for the count of three. As you exhale slowly, say out loud: ‘Calm down” three times. This is similar to the paper bag in that it slows down your bodily functions.
- Other helpful activities are relaxing in a warm bath, going outside for air, smelling the scent of lavender, drinking warm herbal tea.
Are There Any Supplements or Foods That Can Help?
Unless it is directly due to an episode or trauma, anxiety is stress and something troubling us that we are trying to avoid facing. The permanent cure for anxiety is to learn what those issues are and address them, but in the meantime there are some healthy foods that have calming qualities.
Here are some Healing foods, herbs and supplements that naturally soothe anxiety. You can make them a part of your daily diet.
Herbs/supplements for Anxiety
- Black cohosh
- Evening primrose
- Ginkgo biloba
- Kava kava
- Lemon balm
- Longan berries
- Passion flower
- St John’s Wort
- Vitamin B3
- Folic acid
- Pantothenic acid
Now I’d like to hear from you! Do you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks? In what ways do you manage them? Dawn Ciccone, You Certainly Can Run, LLC.