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.

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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.

When Small Spaces Equal Big Fears

Have you ever found yourself in a small tight space like a storage closet, a closed MRI, or an elevator and out of nowhere you felt like you were going to lose it?  Suddenly your breath seems lost, your palms and underarms sweat, your heart races, you feel light-headed and your stomach does flips.  The next thing you know, you are looking for a way out and analyzing how fast you can escape.  Then you become angry because you have not escaped yet and the desire to run away fast is so overwhelming that you could scream.  If so, you might have experienced an anxiety attack.

The problem with anxiety attacks is they happen when you least expect it or worse, when you really don’t have the time to properly deal with it.  But it cannot be ignored.  If you chose to ignore the anxiety attack and deny its’ existence, it will come back again and again with a vengeance.  The best plan for action is to revisit your last attack in your mind and look for the following clues as to the cause.

Check your environment.  Many people do not handle small tight spaces well and have a fear that the space is closing in on them.  If this sounds like you then analyze the other times when you have experienced an anxiety attack in the past.  Is it only in small spaces?  Does the size or location of the exit have an effect?  Look for patterns in your anxiety as a clue to what maybe causing the anxiety in the first place.

Check your thoughts.  Once you have identified a pattern ask yourself, “What was I thinking?”  Were you thinking that you could not escape?  Were you thinking that the space was getting smaller and smaller?  Were you thinking that you could be attacked?  Once you know your thoughts and now that you are no longer in that same environment, ask yourself, “How realistic was my fear?”  Even mild fears tend to be irrational at times but when mixed with anxiety, they can grow into a larger than life fear that becomes hard to overcome.

Check your emotions.  Now that you know your pattern and have identified your thoughts, ask yourself, “How was I feeling?”  Your feelings in that moment are likely to be intense.  If you experienced anger or a form of it such as frustration, tension, irritation, hurt, hostile or rage then the event most likely triggered something from your past.  Ask, “What does this remind me of” to uncover the real anxiety producing event.

Anxiety attacks do not happen in a vacuum, they occur for a reason and sometimes that reason is rational but it manifests itself in irrational ways.  By spending some time analyzing you last event, you can prevent future events and learn to keep small spaces equaling small fears.

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 Stress of Moving: Setting Reasonable Expectations

Admittedly, the title of this article may cause you to respond with a “no duh” comment.  Having to pack up all of your belongings, sort and organize them, label boxes, hope that nothing breaks, and then unpack everything while trying to find a new home for your stuff is stressful enough.  Add to that whatever caused you to move in the first place: new job, new marriage, new house, new pet, more kids, divorce, foreclosure, loss of job, declining health, loss of a loved one, lifestyle change, change of schools, or expired rental agreement and you have a recipe for a full-blown panic attack.

It is no wonder why moving is so stressful and it should be stressful.  Yes, you read right, moving should be stressful.  One of the many contributing factors to increased stress and anxiety is unrealistic expectations.  Unrealistic expectations that the move will go smoothly, that everything you currently have will fit neatly into your new space, that everything will work properly, that you will have all of the boxes unpacked in a few days, or that your new space needs to look perfect before someone visits.  These expectations are unrealistic and add to your moving stress.  So what do you do?  Try these suggestions.

Set reasonable goals.  Before you move, establish a timeline for competing of getting settled into your new space.  For instance, if you have a one-bedroom apartment, it may take you a month to get fully settled into your space but if you have a four-bedroom home, it may take you six months to get fully settled into your space.  Take into account any additional changes, such as new job, relationship, or town and add an additional month for each major change.  This is a far more realistic goal.

Set reasonable boundaries.  You do not need to have a house-warming party within ten days of having moved into your space.  This is far too much stress to put yourself through and may cause you to crash if you try to achieve it.  Be kind to yourself and the people around you and set your house-warming party up following your goal month.  Allow others to help by bringing over a meal or helping to unpack some boxes while not allowing you to feel guilty for accepting help.  There is nothing wrong with needed and receiving help.

Set reasonable breaks.  One of the Ten Commandments is to take a Sabbath every week.  This is especially true when enduring major life changes.  The temptation is to work through the day of rest to get it all done but this is actually counter-productive as it leaves you sapped of your energy on the working days.  It also makes you a bit snappy, irritable, short-tempered, and overwhelmed.  Twenty-four hours of rest once a week is not too much and you will feel refreshed for the rest of the week.

Yes, moving is stressful but how you handle moving will determine your level of stress.  By setting reasonable goals, boundaries and breaks, you can reduce not eliminate the intensity of your stress and be more productive at the same time.

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.