The Stress of Anxiety

The Exhausted Woman's Handbook(Excerpt taken from The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook)

Ziana struggled with worry, anxiety, and panic attacks ever since the accidental car death of her twin brother 7 years ago. Her mind often raced with imagined future accidents, her response, and the ensuing added sadness. Driving on highways was still not possible for her and she was unable to remain silent when others were driving.

Her panic attacks were debilitating. Her heart would start pounding and racing, her stomach felt like it was in her throat, her palms became sweaty, she got lightheaded and dizzy, her breath became shallow and her thoughts were out of control leaving her completely exhausted. Since medical conditions were ruled out, it was diagnosed as a panic attack. Worse yet, the fear that the attack could happen again (as it frequently did) had a lasting exhausting effect.

Perhaps you’ve had a panic attack recently. Maybe you encountered someone unexpectedly, witnessed something on TV, were in the middle of a presentation or simply were eating out. All of a sudden, your heart started pounding and you were filled with anxiety. It seemed to come out of nowhere when in reality it was triggered by something. The anxiety attack could indicate a major unresolved event still causing problems in your everyday life. Fortunately, there are things you can do:

Mental Solution. Look for an unusual distraction around the room to minimize the intensity. Just focusing your thoughts on something else other than the attack is helpful. The odder the distraction, the better, but it usually isn’t enough to stop it completely. For instance, you might notice a picture that is not straight or a child laughing.

Physical Solution. Next, focus on your breathing. Breathe in for a count of five, hold it for another count of five and let it out for a count of seven. Try this for at least four times in a row. Be aware of the tension in your face, shoulders, hands and even toes and use the breaths to bring relaxation. Don’t beat yourself up when your breaths are short. Do the best you can and try practicing this exercise when you are not in the middle of an attack.

Emotional Solution. Close your eyes and remember a place of serenity and calm. Try going deep into your memory, remembering colors around you, peaceful weather, gentle sounds, the feel of something soft or an enticing smell. Smells are particularly calming as they are easily remembered and can bring about almost instant relaxation. Strangely enough, drinking a very cold glass of ice water (or my personal favorites: an Icee, a Slurpee or a Frappuccino) in an attempt to get a brain freeze can also be very effective. Your brain must wake up first before dealing with the anxiety.

Spiritual Solution. Say a prayer or recall a verse to help ease your emotions. You can also make a mental list of the many things you are thankful for or the numerous blessings in your life. Keep a card in your wallet or a note in your phone to aid your recall when under stress.

Psychological Solution. After the intensity of the attack is over, ponder the cause. There is usually a reason the anxiety was triggered and resolving the underlying issue will lessen future attacks. Triggers like strong emotions of fear or anger, the pressure created by certain people, or perceived potential danger can contribute to an attack. Identify the trigger, and then allow it to point you to a life-altering moment in your history. You may need assistance to process the root cause of your anxiety.

Ziana knew the source of her anxiety, but she had not fully grieved the loss of her brother. Though it was hard at first, she confronted her fears through therapy and her panic attacks eventually disappeared. You can experience the same success; it takes courage to tackle the anxiety caused by a tree ring moment. While it may be difficult at first, the new lasting impression is worth the effort.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

You may purchase The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook at Xulon Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. Or just click on the picture on the right.

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Do You Have Unexpected Anxiety Attacks?

Anxiety AttackI was in the dentist office watching my daughter have some work done on her teeth when my heart began pounding  and racing. My daughter was fine. She was not in any pain as the dentist and assistant were very polite and the environment was extremely friendly. But I felt like I was losing it.

Shortly afterwards my stomach took it’s turn. It felt like it was in my throat, my palms became sweaty, I felt light-headed, my breath became shallow and my thoughts began to race. I am physically healthy with very low blood pressure and normal cholesterol levels so this was clearly not a heart attack.  Rather, it was an anxiety attack.

Perhaps this has happened to you recently. You run into someone unexpectedly, walk into a hospital room, watch something on TV, or eating dinner out and all of a sudden, for no particular reason, you have an anxiety attack. At the moment, it seems as if the attack comes out of nowhere. You realize that analyzing the problem in the moment is futile. So instead, you need a quick solution to settle down immediately and then later evaluate the potential cause.

Mental Solution. During my anxiety attack, I looked for a distraction in the room to minimize the intensity. Sometimes, just focusing your thoughts on something else other than how you feel can be helpful. There was a picture hanging on the wall that caught my attention. It seemed a bit out-of-place and overly simplistic yet the image of the fish was very colorful and the fish seemed to be smiling. This odd distraction reduced the intensity but it was not enough to remove all of the anxiety.

Physical Solution.  Next, I focused on my breathing taking not so obvious deep breaths. There was no need to alarm the dentist or my daughter about my anxiety. I breathed in for a count of four, held it for another count of four and breathed out for a count of four. Repeating this four times while simultaneously becoming aware of the tension in my face, shoulders, hands and even toes. These breaths brought relaxation to tense areas, reducing the anxiety even more.

Needing more help, I remembered my “happy place” on the beach, a place of serenity and calm.  Despite the drilling sound, I imagined the crashing of the waves, the birds singing in the air, the smell of the sea, the soft cold sand in between my toes and the warmth of the sun. A feeling of peace began to peek through the anxiety but the drilling sound was far too distracting. So I moved onto the next solution.

Spiritual Solution. Finally I recalled a passage in Scripture that reminds us to have no anxiety but instead with thanksgiving make your request known to God (Phil. 4:4-6). So I prayed. Thought about all the things I had to be thankful for and the many blessings in my life. That worked, the anxiety disappeared. The rest of the visit was spent focusing on my daughter’s needs instead of fearing that I would pass out.

Several hours later, I reflected on the real cause behind the anxiety attack. My fear was really about not having any control over the potential pain my daughter maybe in during the visit. Although she reported no pain, as a mother I was still concerned for her and wanted the visit to go well.

The next time you have an anxiety attack, try some of the solutions above including spending time later to discover the real cause behind the attack. Knowing your real cause and addressing it quickly can keep the attacks to a minimum and help you to focus on what really matters.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Too Anxious, Too Exhausted, and Too Stressed for Friendships

business meetingYou are in a meeting that took weeks to arrange when your phone starts vibrating every 30 seconds.  You immediately run through the whereabouts of your family: kids are at school, husband is at work, and mom is playing golf so what could be so important.  Then panic begins as you imagine your child having an accident and being rushed to the hospital, your husband in a deadly car accident, or someone in the family dying.  So you check your phone discreetly only to find 15 messages from your friend.

Really?  Can’t this latest drama last till the end of the meeting?  But your phone keeps going off with new additional messages until you find that you are no longer participating in the meeting and severely distracted by the thoughts circling in your head wondering if your house is on fire or your friend is in jail.  So you cave and excuse yourself to return the dreaded phone call.

“I need to know what pumps to wear with my new black dress”, the panicked voice on the other end says.  Now you are angry that you go so anxious over nothing, exhausted from the million catastrophes that raided your mind, and stressed out from the unending craziness that hovers over your friend like a black cloud constantly raining on your parade.

Reasons for friendships.  You thought that having friendships would reduce your anxiety through shared experiences, alleviate your exhaustion by providing much-needed emotional support and minimize your stress by having someone to talk to.  But it doesn’t or at least has not in this case or the case before.  Now you are left wondering how to get rid of this ridiculous friendship and wondering if the risk of adding another friendship, even if it might be helpful, is really worth all of the effort.  After all, friendships require an investment of time, energy and intimacy all of which has long been long depleted from your account.

Get rid of the baggage.  Begin with the end in mind.  Friendships can be extremely helpful but if you find that you no longer care about which color pumps to wear then it is time to get rid of the friendships that do.  Backing away from a friend is difficult and there are two ways to effectively go about it.  One is the direct approach where you explain that you need to stop the friendship; the old “it’s not you, it’s me” approach.  The other way is to pull back a little at a time until the friendship is in the distance instead of so close by waiting 24 hours to return phone calls or respond to texts.

Less is more. In the end, you are better off with a few close friends that mutually support and encourage you instead of more friends that drain you.  But having a few close friends means kissing a lot of frogs along the way to see which will turn into a treasure.  More importantly, it means being a good friend to others so you can attract quality friendships.

Making the first move.  Sometimes you have to initiate a friendship by doing an act of kindness, listening to them complain, being empathetic when there is a problem, or just simply asking them to join you for a cup of coffee.  Don’t wait for others to make the first move or you are likely to fall into the dysfunctional friendship all over again.  Dysfunctional people are like leeches sticking to whatever surface that doesn’t repel them.  So stop being a target for them and make the first move.

Allow for grace.  Once you have started a friendship, have a couple of boundaries ready to keep you from falling back into your old pattern.  If for instance, your friend crosses a boundary such as calling after midnight, give grace once but after that if your boundary keeps being violated, then cut the friendship off.  The sooner you do this the better the result.

Risk intimacy.  In order for a friendship to reduce anxiety, alleviate exhaustion and minimize stress intimacy must be a two-way street.  You should not be giving more intimacy than your friend nor the other way around.  It must work together and naturally.  If not, this is not a close friend.

Know your seasons.  In every season of life, you will have different types of friends for different reasons.  When you were dating, your friendships were other single women.  When you got married and had kids, your friendships likewise were married with kids.  When you changed jobs, your friendships also changed.  This is normal.  Don’t try to force a friendship that was never meant to last beyond a season in your life.

Quality friendships can be extremely refreshing, encouraging, and are well worth the time, energy, risk and intimacy to achieve.  But with anything, practice makes perfect so don’t expect to have this down right away.

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

 

The Most Stressful Songs of Christmas

English: A rendition of the musical notation f...

English: A rendition of the musical notation for the chorus of “Jingle Bells”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you remember the old nursery lyric “Rock-a-bye Baby” that tells a story about a baby in a cradle in a tree that falls crashing down to the ground when the wind blows?  It’s not the most calming of lyrics nor is it a concept that is “baby appropriate”.  Yet the tune is sweet so we blindly sing the song.  But this is Christmas time and it is likewise full of similar songs that are more stress producing than peaceful.  Here are just a few samples:

  1. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas just like the ones I used to know. Where the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow.”  Perhaps your Christmas memories are different but I have yet to experience a Christmas when any “children listen” to bells or even adults for that matter.  Having an expectation that a child will be patiently listening for a bell in the snow is frankly silly and unrealistic.
  2. “Deck the halls with bounds of holly…tis the season to be jolly…strike the harp and join the chorus…follow me in merry measure.”  The demand of a decorated house, being happy all the time, playing cheerful music, singing, and dancing is a lot to accomplish when life usually hands the toughest of blows this time of year.  Statistically, this is the most depressed and lonely time of the year as many families are experiencing their first Christmas without a loved one, without a job or in worse financial condition than ever.
  3. “On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…on the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me.”  This song portrays 78 gifts that a “true love” gives to another which is an unusual amount of gift giving and excessive by most standards.  It sounds more like the “true love” is trying to buy love instead of showing love.
  4. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”  Have you ever tried to roast chestnuts in your oven?  If you don’t score them precisely, they will explode in such a mess that it will take weeks just to get all of the gummy like nut off the sides of your walls.  Forget about an open fire, where a chestnut exploding can knock an eye out!  That shiner will definitely be a Christmas to remember.
  5. Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go, Let It Snow!”   Just one look at your calendar will probably reveal that you already don’t have a free weekend and most of the weekdays are quickly filling up as well.  “No place to go”?  You must be kidding this season is packed with too many places to go and too many decisions to make resulting in too many people to disappoint.
  6. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.”  Any repetitive noise such as a bell for long periods of time is not likely to cause fun but rather a piercing migraine.  Add to that an open sleigh which is cold and horses that poop along the way which is smelly and there is definitely no fun to be had.  Just because one person believes an activity to be fun does not mean that another person is going to agree.
  7. “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?”  What is this song saying, that we should forget our acquaintances and not bring them up any more?  Granted there are usually some acquaintances that you want to forget and never bring up anymore but unfortunately these are usually the ones that seem to hang around into the New Year.

Sometimes reducing our stress during Christmas is more about thinking through the programmed songs that are sung and resetting your expectations to more realistic levels.  It might not be the “most wonderful time of year” for you but that is ok; it does not have to be.  You can however make it more wonderful by not expecting children to be patiently listening, decorating every inch of the house, insisting that others have fun your way or getting frustrated that you can’t forget something that you would rather not remember.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Are You At Higher Risk For PTSD?

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new study conducted in Japan analyzes brain scans of teens before and after the earthquake to see who is at higher risk for PTSD.  The study concluded that teens with weak front right connections in the brain had greater anxiety which can then lead to PTSD in traumatic situations.  While this is not conclusive and more studies need to be done, it is something to guard for if you have had prior damage in that area of the brain.  “The Magnificent Mind At Any Age” by Dr. Daniel Amen is an excellent book outlining other anxiety disorders and their relationship to the brain.  He also offers many suggestions as to how to deal with such injuries.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/10/22/brain-images-may-reveal-ptsd-risk-before-disasters/

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Ever Wondered If You Have An Anxiety Disorder?

One of several versions of the painting "...

One of several versions of the painting “The Scream”. The National Gallery, Oslo, Norway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Take this short quiz on-line to see if you have an anxiety disorder.  Some disorders can be minimized with medication, change in diet or talk therapy. There is no need to continue to struggle with the same issue when you have options for getting better which work.

http://psychcentral.com/quizzes/anxiety.htm

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Panic attacks

If you have ever wondered whether or not you have had a panic attack, here is a good article explaining one.

http://news.health.com/2012/09/19/did-i-have-a-panic-attack/

For more information on how to handle a panic attack, see the post titled “Unexpected anxiety attacks”.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.