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What to Do when the Stress Gets to Be Too Much
Anxiety attacks are no fun, especially if you have them frequently and you aren’t sure what is causing them. As a sufferer of these kinds of attacks myself, I know what it is like when one happens, and it is not a pleasant experience. In fact, it can be downright scary! The main thing that you have to tell yourself the minute that one of these events happens is that when it does happen that you at all times remind yourself that you can take control. I am going to show you how to do this, and it is actually as simple (*if not simpler) than putting on a pair of socks or getting ready for work in the morning.
The biggest, if not most common, factor that can cause an anxiety attack is stress and/or high blood pressure, and both of these are something that we can all do without. We may be stressed about being out of work, family problems, problems with our boss or spouse, bill collectors, and so on, which can cause any normal person to feel if the world is crashing down on them with no way to get out. When and if this happens, here are surefire signs that you can use to identify if you are having an anxiety attack:
1) The chest becomes tight: When an anxiety attack occurs, all of the adrenaline that is in your system is surging, causing those muscles to tighten and make it feel like there is an elephant sitting on your chest. They also have the ability to disguise themselves as the on-set of a heart attack. If your chest immediately goes tight, do not assume that it is a heart attack, as it could very well be just simply that your anxiety has hit the top of the scale.
2) Shaking: During an attack, there is a good chance that your hands, and sometimes your whole body, will shake. This is the adrenaline effect also, as the adrenaline that is coming from your adrenal glands is shooting so hard and so fast that your body cannot compensate for the extra surge that is coming at you.
3) Nervousness: It is very easy to become nervous when this happens, and you may want to cry, shout, and a great many other things, as when your body is full of this much chemical, your body does not have a way to burn it off, and it becomes harder to process.
4) Disorientation: If you become disoriented, do not worry as this is a common after-effect of an anxiety attack, where you may feel tired, listless, and you may not want to think at all. If this happpens, take heart that it is only your body trying to calm down after the extreme stress that it has been put under.
5) Cold sweats: These are another common side effect, which can make your skin feel cold and clammy, like you were just inside of a haunted house. You may also feel very thirsty and want to drink lots of fluids. If you do this, make sure it is water!
Now that you know what an anxiety attack looks like, I am going to give you the best way to combat it and how to take control of yourself when it does happen. All it takes to do is one small thing, and it’s something that you do every day… it’s called breathing. That’s right, breathing. Sounds simple ,doesn’t it? This is a technique that I actually learned from a family member who suffered from the same ailment, and she was the one who taught me what to do the minute that one of these attacks takes place. Here’s what you do:
1) Attempt to calm yourself. Whatever has been bothering you, if you think about it, will only make the attack worse as it comes on. The best thing to do is to try to eliminate it from your mind and think of something else, something positive. It can be anything from your favorite sports team all the way down to how much you love your wife and kids. Anything that will help you feel better when this happens.
2) Start after that with taking a deep breath. Pull in as much air as possible until your stomach puffs out, and then hold it for a few seconds. After you have done that, let the air out slowly. (* Note: Do not breath in and out through your nose. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth). Do this as many times as needed, and as the more you breath deeply, the more that you kill the sensation of being out of control, and deep breathing also curbs the adrenaline surge. While you may still have some in your system, it will stop the further surging and will allow your body to process what it already has.
3) When the attack is over, keep thinking positive. Tell yourself little things like ‘It’s going to be okay’ or ‘It really wasn’t as bad as I thought. It could have been worse’, and so on. These little, what I like to call ‘mantras’, will help you resolve the situation in your own mind and will allow you to finally come back down to earth and let your body to return to normal. If you feel like you need to sleep after one, do so, as anxiety attacks can last from a few minutes up to several hours, depending on how severe the attack. I have found that sleep can be therapeutic in these times, and also allows the body to relax even further, so that way when you do wake up, even though you may still feel drained and a little tight, it will still be better than where you have been. Also, after you awake, do something relaxing, like put on a light movie, such as a comedy or cartoon, as laughter will also help put the nasty anxiety beast on the run if he hears that, and will only further your healing as the day progresses. If it happens at work, ask your boss to take a few minutes of ‘time-out’ in order to regain your composure. Even if it looks bad and may put your employment in jeopardy, it’s better to take the few minutes than to have the boss look for your replacement and be out of a day to several days work.
There are also other ways that people can conquer anxiety attacks, and it comes in the way of lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes can be extremely difficult, as we being creatures of habit, we always tend do things repeatedly, no matter if they are good or bad for us, and as we do that, it only furthers the cause for anxiety attacks to occur. Here are some other helpful hints that will help you in the further battle angainst anxiety that will not only make you feel better, but may also make your life better as well:
1) Anything that causes you stress, eliminate it. If it is a friend or family member that has been bothering you or you have had a disagreement or argument, leave them alone for a while. Give your body and mind a chance to heal. If you have already had one attack, there is a good chance that you may have more, because not only does the mind learn, the body learns habits as well, and will trigger an attack at any given time after it has learned from your own body habits what it needs to spring an attack. You need to be ready when this happens, and unless you know about the times that it does happen, it can make for a very long and unpleasant experience.
2) If you are on high-blood pressure medications, make sure that you stick to your regiment. If you miss a dose, this can actually trigger an attack as your body is readjusting to the fact that it has not had its daily dose of whatever prescription you are on. Just make sure that you take it every day. If you do realize that you have missed the time for taking the dose, take it anyway. It may mean readjusting your schedule, but at least you are giving yourself another line of defense. If you feel that you are having them too frequently (*more than one per day), see your doctor. It could very well simply mean that you may need a stronger blood pressure medication, or they may simply put you on other medications that will help in case you do have an anxiety attack. What has to be known, though, is that medications given for anxiety, such as Lorazapan, for example, are a narcotic form of assistance, and could very well put you on the road to dependency if you are not careful. Carefully explore all of the options with your doctor, and see if there might be a way to keep these anxious feelings at bay in the form of lifestyle changes, such as maybe changing careers, a new diet, an exercise plan, and so forth.
3) Pets are an excellent stress reliever, and believe it or not, animals do sense when there is something wrong with their masters, and we all know how much our pets love us when we give that love in return. Stroke your dog or cat or whatever pet you have. Let them give you that affection, as the sounds of their purring or whimpering or chirping, can have a great calming effect when we feel anxious, stressed, or nervous. If you do not have a pet, check your local animal shelters and see which pet may be right for you. If you get them as pups or kittens, take into account that the stress that you may be feeling from rearing them at this stage will pass as they get older, and the medical benefits that they supply will be well worth it in the long run. On top of that, they are some of the best family members one can ask for if we are not married or have no children.
4) Limit your amount of caffeine during the day and at night. That cup of coffee in the morning can be a great way to first wake up, but if you are on medication, it can actually have a harmful affect, as caffeine increases stress, quickens the heart rate, as well as the flow of blood as it courses through our system. What most people may not commonly know is that blood pressure can have a major effect on anxiety attacks, as when our blood pressure goes up, that can immediately trigger it, and then its off to the races. Energy drinks, such as Full Throttle and Monster, for example, are even worse for it, as they not only have the caffeine but also the other natural stimulants within it that gives us that extra kick we need. But, for those of us that have high blood pressure and/or anxious, this is a sure bet that our bodies are going to be going for another ride, and this is something that we want to avoid all together. At night, switch that soda or coffee for a glass of water or milk. (*Note: Milk is better for sleep, as it has natural melatonin in it, as water is fantastic for flushing a system out when we become too stressed.)
5) Always mix up your reading materials, movies, and what you watch on TV. The media is great for that night of fast-paced action, chilling thrills, and fantastic plots, but they can also be too much if you watch too much or read too much of the same thing. As a suspense author by trade, I have had to learn to even curb myself on how much I write and what I read, as they are two of my favorite pasttimes. In essence, it’s the same as saying don’t read Stephen King, watch ‘The Bone Collector’ and ‘Ghost Rider’, and then plop down and watch ‘CSI’ all in one sitting. Not only will it get your adrenaline surging, it can also make your mind more active and interrupt sleeping habits, and can also possibly cause nightmares.
6) If you get an attack at night and find that you cannot sleep, simply get up and do something. It can be as simple as playing a light video game, such as ‘Harvest Moon’ or ‘Poppit!’ (*just as examples), or maybe read a light book or listen to some quiet music, such as classical or New Age. (* I have found that Enya can be an great de-stresser in moments like this).
7) If you smoke, cut back. Smoking is just like caffeine, as it speeds the blood and the heart rate, and then guess what happens? You guessed it! If you cannot quit, cutting back is the next best thing. Being a smoker myself, I have cut way back on how much I smoke now, and I have found that it really helps.
8) Find a way to exercise your energies. It can be physical or mental, but physical is always the best as it will not only make you feel healthier and better, it also will help you get that rock-hard or toned body that you are looking for. Go for a leisurely bike ride, take a walk, play frisbee with the kids and the dog. Even cleaning your house can be a form of exercise. While it may not feel as stimulating, you are not only exercising your body, but also your mind, as well.
Anxiety attacks are the worst feeling in the world. They make us feel helpless, as we sometimes feel that we cannot take control of them in our lives. But, the real truth of the matter is even if we cannot take control of our lives or our attacks, we can take charge of the things that trigger them and the stressful things in our lives that makes us feel anxious. If you feel anxious, try these methods and see if they work for you. Talking can also be a great way of working out our stresses in everyday life, whether it be with a family member, pastor, friend, or even a therapist if need be. But, by all means, do not let anxiety take over your life, as life already poses us enough challenges without creating more for ourselves.
In closing, if you know that this is not an anxiety attack and is a real heart attack, call 911 immediately for an ambulance. Don’t take a chance on your life or your heart. Rather than let these medical conditions control you, take the control for yourself instead!