How to stop panic and anxiety attacks

Anxiety or worry is the body’s way of helping you. Stress activates our innate fight or flight instinct from getting ready to freeze flight or fight a ‘bear’ or some real danger. The fight or flight response kicked in when our ancestors needed to escape from some grizzly creature. But often, there is no actual danger in today’s world, and the thought must be challenged.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, the rates of individuals seeking and receiving treatment for anxiety have risen significantly, with over a third of individuals with symptoms of a common mental health problem receiving treatment. Medication is not always necessary to help you deal with panic and anxiety attacks.

So here are five practical steps to help stop panic and anxiety attacks.

Treatment for Panic Attacks and Anxiety

  1. The first step is to Breathe in the square pattern ten times to switch nervous systems (from Sympathetic fight and flight to Parasympathetic Rest & Digest). When you do this, inhale and exhale equally, and create a box with your breathing. So using the square breathing pattern: Imagine a square. Doing this, breathe in 2, 3, 4 and draw the first line of the square breathe out 2, 3, 4. Breathe in 2, 3, and 4, draw the line of the square, and Hold 2,3,4. Breathe out 2, 3, 4, Hold 2, 3, 4. (repeat nine more times). See the above video.
  2. Challenge the thought. Is it real? What is going on in your environment right now – look at it. Go from WHAT IF…to WHAT IS. Look at your physical surroundings, the people you are with, and the task you have to do right now, The antidote to anxiety/worry/panic is not positive thinking.it is accurate thinking. So what is accurate and truthful at this very moment?
  3. Decide what you want to feel in advance. Also, define the feeling that you want to feel. That emotional place that you want to get to. For example, is it excitement? And have a mental action plan about how to get there and the type of self-talk you will use. Practice, write, prepare, and rehearse it – verbally and mentally.
  4. You must put a daily routine in that honours you like it is not negotiable. And you have to exercise even if it’s a light walk, get sunlight, and sleep properly.
  5. Do NOT say ‘My anxiety’, or My depression’ – it is ‘The anxiety/depression.’ Do not claim it as yours if you want to eliminate it.

How We Create Anxiety and Panic

Remember you are the thinker of your thoughts so that you can control your thoughts. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains:

“Several parts of the brain are key actors in the production of fear and anxiety … scientists have discovered that the amygdala and the hippocampus play significant roles in most anxiety disorders.

The amygdala … is believed to be a communications hub between the parts of the brain that process incoming sensory signals and the parts that interpret these signals. It can alert the rest of the brain that a threat is present and trigger a fear or anxiety response.

The emotional memories stored in the central part of the amygdala may play a role in anxiety disorders involving very distinct fears, such as fears of dogs, spiders or flying. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that encodes threatening events into memories.”

For example, say you were bitten by a dog when you were younger. You store that memory. You instantly react when you see a dog down the street, even if it is harmless.  You may say to yourself, ‘OMG, it’s a dog, I remember when I was a child being bitten by one, so I have to be careful.’ And you get yourself worked up. However, you are no longer that child; not all dogs are harmful.

What Do You Say To Yourself

So it is essential to examine what you say to yourself when you feel panic and anxiety. Sometimes panic attacks & anxiety are about being scared about thoughts, not reality. Also, ask yourself, do you constantly worry about things? So the first thing is to check, is this thought real? Real is what you can see, feel, touch, taste, etc. So can I touch it?

What are you thinking? What words and pictures are you bringing into your mind that is causing this reaction in the body?

You have a choice as to how you deal with your thoughts. You only have a habit of thought. After telling yourself the truth about your thoughts, the fastest way out of it is to change your physical state.

(Thanks to the  Marisa Peer training and Katrina Roads for the above tips and tools.)