Monday, 8 April 2013

Lifestyle | Dealing With Stress, Anxiety & Panic Attacks

Hey everyone!


Since I posted about Self, Skin and Body Confidence, many people asked me to write some more lifestyle related posts with similar themes.
Today I am writing about dealing with stress, anxiety and panic attacks. I have seen a few YouTube videos and blog posts about anxiety and panic attacks and decided to write about my own experience. I am also including a little about stress in my post as it is both linked to and can cause both anxiety and panic attacks.

I will be writing from my own experience, symptoms and information I have found online that I feel could be helpful for anyone who is dealing with stress, anxiety or panic attacks themselves and also information that I feel both I and whoever is reading this may be able to relate to in some way as well. This will be a long post but if you suffer from stress, anxiety or panic attacks yourself or know somebody who suffers from either all or just one of these, please read this so that you understand what happens and to see how you could help them to cope with it in the future.

Stress
What is stress?
Stress can be described as how you feel whilst under pressure. This can be pressure from work/school, a relationship or many number of other things. Too much stress can be harmful for your emotional, mental and physical well-being. Our bodies are able to cope with small amounts of stress however they can't cope when we feel too much pressure. This is when we show signs of stress. Stress often comes when you have several pressures that slowly wear down your ability to be able to cope and deal with them effectively. This could leave you feeling both physically and mentally exhausted.
Everyone at some point in their life will deal with any level of stress whether it's exam related, family problems, illness, death etc. Stress affects every individual in a different way, some people may feel more determined to sort a problem to allow themselves to escape the stress. However, others can allow it to interfere with other aspects of their life and is taken in a much more negative way.

Find what is best for you
If there are any situations that you may be stressing about and that are able to be resolved, there are many ways of solving the problem but you need to find one that works for you. However, problems that are unable to be resolved at all or easily, you will need to find a way of relaxing, think about why or what you are stressing about and talking to either a friend or relative can also help you to overcome the stress.
Some ways of helping to cope with stress can be; making lists, set realistic deadlines, talk over worries with somebody, don't be afraid to ask for or take up an offer of help, don't be critical of yourself, use relaxation techniques, practise deep and slow breathing and let off steam in a healthy way.

My experience
Personally, I am someone to takes stress in a negative way and I unintentionally allow stress to impact pretty much every other aspect of my life. This often makes me worry about other situations in my life that I don't need to worry about, this results in stress pretty much almost taking over my life. This is able to cause some of my anxiety. I find coping with stress a lot easier by talking to either a friend or relative to ask for their advice if I need to and it can give me a sense of relief rather than keeping it all to myself.


Anxiety
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state and it is the feeling of both fear and concern and it is very often described as intense nervousness. Anxiety is often confused with fear; fear is concrete and a real danger however anxiety is the paranoia of something that seems menacing but isn't and may not even exist. Anxiety is able to affect and/or stop any aspect of your life. It is able to cause agoraphobia (the phobia of leaving your home), cause you to worry everyday about how anxiety can control both upcoming events and your day-to-day life and it can also make you worry about your health and how your social life will be affected by your anxiety. You will also start wanting to be free of anxiety but are too scared to do anything as you begin to worry about how anxiety can affect you whilst also trying to stop experiencing it; this can also lead to panic. Finally, anxiety is capable to make you think constantly about how the next 24 hours of your life will be affected; meaning you will become even more worried to leave your house.
I haven't been diagnosed with any anxiety disorder however after researching, I am able to relate a little to both GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) and more to Social Anxiety Disorder.

Many people suffer from anxiety, however there are different anxiety disorders;
GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) - This is a chronic disorder which is characterised by excessive, long-lasting anxiety and it also means that you worry about non-specific life events, objects and situations. GAD sufferers often feel afraid and worry about things such as health, money, work or school although they have trouble both identifying the specific fear and controlling the worries they have. The fear GAD sufferers have is usually unrealistic or out of proportion with whatever may be expected in their situation. Sufferers also expect failure and disaster to the point that it interferes with daily functions such as work, school, relationships and social activities.
Social Anxiety Disorder LINK - This is a type of social phobia which is characterised by a fear of being negatively judged by others or a fear of public embarrassment due to impulsive actions. This can include feelings such as stage fright, a fear of humiliation and a fear of intimacy. This disorder is able to cause people to avoid public situations and human contact to the point that normal life is rendered impossible.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - This is anxiety that results from previous trauma such as military combat, rape, hostage situations or a serious accident. PTSD very often leads to flashbacks and behavioral changes.
Separation Anxiety Disorder - This is characterized by high levels of anxiety when separated from a person or place that provides feelings of security or safety. Sometimes separation results in panic and is considered a disorder when the response is excessive or inappropriate.

My experience
Thinking about GAD, like I mentioned when talking about stress, I tend to and have an uncontrollable habit of worrying about the smallest things that may be happening in my life a very significant amount. However, I'm not always able to identify what I have a fear of or why I am worrying. Also, whatever I am worrying about, the fear I have is often unrealistic or very out of proportion with what is expected in any situation I may be dealing with or what I am worrying about. Lastly, I am also a person who very often expects failure with a lot of things that I do. This has affected my school work for a number of years however I think it began or got worse roughly around the beginning of year 10. This often and currently interferes with my AS coursework and revision for my exams. This is because I have a large amount of anxiety which causes me to believe I am going to fail and expect failure a lot more than I should.

I am able to relate to Social Anxiety Disorder in a many different ways, however I haven't been diagnosed with this. Social anxiety can make you very self-consciousness and these both arise from a fear of being closely watched, judged and/or criticised by others. I suffer from this quite badly and almost always believe I am being judged or watched by doing simple things such as just walking through town, shopping or sitting in either a classroom or an exam hall. If you read my Self, Skin and Body Confidence post, then you will understand that I am incredibly self-conscious about both my weight and size. I have been given many negative comments and put down many different times because of it. Unintentionally, linking with social anxiety, I very often think I am being judged on my size or as though people are watching and silently criticising me. I think the amount I worry about this has been made even worse by my social anxiety as I believe I am being permanently watched. Social Anxiety Disorder has many triggers including; meeting new people, public speaking, being teased or criticised, eating or drinking in public and making phone calls. I have a lot of social anxiety when meeting new people for the first time and I never have known and probably never will know why or what has caused it. Social Anxiety Disorder is very capable of interfering with your usual routine and if you do have social anxiety, then you may worry about something for days, weeks or even months ahead of time. This happens to me a vast amount and I can worry for situations for months or weeks before. For example, I was told in September 2012 that I would need to make a speech for some of my coursework, I was worrying about this for months as I didn't need to present until January. Like I said, another situation that can cause me to have a high level of social anxiety is meeting new people for the first time. This causes me to panic a little, experience anxiety symptoms and occasionally I will feel the need to delay it which makes my anxiety even worse than it already is for when I do meet them.

My experience and what else does anxiety include?
What I was unaware of until I researched anxiety more was that OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and phobias fall into the category of anxiety. I suffer quite a lot from arachnophobia, a little from claustrophobia and I also have small amounts of OCD.

Larger cases of OCD are considered as an anxiety disorder as well as a mental health condition. The obsessive thoughts and/or compulsive behaviour you may have and be experiencing can be absolutely anything; it can be both the smallest things and even more dramatic. There isn't really anything you can do to overcome OCD as you become used to doing the same thing over and over again; such as turning the light on and off a specific amount of times when leaving or entering a room. If you do this yourself, you could try and start to stop yourself from turning the lights off the same amount of times or you could try to reduce the amount of times you are doing it. When I was younger, if I ever saw the letter 'S' on a screen, I would feel as though I needed to write the letter in the air with my finger as small and as discrete as I could. I started to tell myself to stop doing it, I managed to reduce the amount of times I did and eventually managed to stop and overcome the OCD. This does silly however it is considered as OCD as it was obsessive behaviour. Not everyone is affected by OCD but there are a very large number of people who are.

Firstly, a phobia is very different to a fear although many people think that they are the same. Everyone will have a fear of something but it is not necessarily a phobia. A phobia is an anxiety disorder and is referred to as a 'phobic anxiety disorder.' A fear is a normal emotion that everyone experiences and it is easy for everyone to overcome them. Like I said, a phobia is a type of anxiety disorder and they are irrational fears of a certain object or situation. Phobias are very difficult to overcome and the feeling is uncontrollable. As I said, I have both arachnophobia (phobia of spiders) and a small case of claustrophobia (phobia of small/confined spaces.)
I have suffered from arachnophobia for many years since I was very young and on some occasions it has caused me to panic a little. I haven't suffered from claustrophobia for as long as I have suffered from arachnophobia. Many people experience claustrophobia in all or a majority of small/confined spaces, however I personally experience the symptoms of this phobia most often whilst travelling on coaches. I begin to feel very ill, shake, sometimes experience tingling in my hands and feet and I can become very dizzy. The symptoms I experience from this can also cause me to panic causing my symptoms to become, appear and feel worse than they are in reality.

"Look at your anxiety as a monster inside of you. You can either let it grow by giving it food (worries), or you can make it smaller by starving it." 


Panic Attacks
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is a period of intense fear or apprehension that are of sudden onset and are of variable duration from a number of minutes to hours. Panic is also described as a sudden and unexpected surge of anxiety and can be like a wave of fear that comes over you. A panic attack is a response of your Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS.) Panic attacks are very frightening, usually begin unexpectedly and last for a minimum of 5 minutes and the longest amount of time anyone can ever panic for in one block is 20 minutes, however you can panic around the clock in bursts for a number of hours. Individuals are more likely to panic for longer if they had the attack triggered by a situation from which they are unable to escape from.

What happens during a panic attack?
During a panic attack, many people claim that they had a fear/sense of dying, feel as though they are experiencing a heart attack, 'flashing vision', feeling faint, a numb sensation throughout their entire body and heavy breathing (this will very often turn into hyperventilation.) The strongest symptoms of a panic attack are most commonly the onset of shortness of breath and chest pain. The first trigger of a panic attack is in your brain. Chemical messengers called 'neurotransmitters' send signals to different brain structures that influence processes inside your body. As soon as signals have been initiated in your brain, there is an activation of your SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System) which is responsible for the "fight-or-flight" response you may experience. Also during a panic attack, Adrenaline is released into your bloodstream which causes feelings of panic as well as many bodily changes such as; dizziness, shortness of breath and an increased heart rate. Blood is diverted to your muscles making you pale and lightheaded as well as causing you to begin shaking. Your digestive system will begin to shut down meaning you will begin to feel sick or have a dry throat and your will senses also appear to become heightened meaning that you are more aware of sounds and smells that are surrounding you. Also, whilst you are experiencing a panic attack, you may start to begin feeling dizzy, experience heart palpitations or a very fast heart beat and you may also start to hyperventilate. During a panic attack, your brain is telling you get out of any situation you are in but at the same time telling you that you are trapped and can't get out, this can cause you to panic more because you feel like you are stuck in your current environment.

What is panic disorder?
I don't have Panic Disorder but if you don't know what it is, I will try to explain it for you. Panic disorder is a form of anxiety which is characterised by brief or sudden attacks of intense terror or apprehension which leads to shaking, confusion, dizziness and difficulty in breathing. Panic disorder usually occurs after frightening experiences or prolonged stress but they can also be spontaneous. Panic disorder when you experience panic attacks often and allow it to interfere and stop you from doing anything in your life. Panic disorder is also when you may experience a panic attack in any location or situation and your brain will remember specific details such as; where you were, who you were with, what happened etc. For example, if you experience a panic attack in a taxi, your brain will store the information and certain details of what happened and this means that you are more likely to experience another panic attack whilst in a taxi because your brain tells you that it is a dangerous place, that you need to get out and escape the situation.

If you have ever had a panic attack then you will know what they feel like and how it is to experience them. You may never really understand why you are experiencing a panic attack and there may not be any reason why you are panicking. There also isn't really any way of calming down whilst you are experiencing a panic attack, you will normally experience the symptoms until you eventually return to your usual state. If you only experience one panic attack during your lifetime, it may have just been too much stress or anxiety impacting on your life.

My experience
I have only experienced one major and "full-blown" panic attack however I recall experiencing some smaller panic attacks in the past and every so often currently. If any of you are now wondering why I'm writing about panic attacks if I've only ever experienced one major panic attack, after experiencing it I researched them a lot more as I was originally unsure and concerned about what was happening to me. Panic attacks are a terrifying thing to experience so this also made me want to research them more. While I was experiencing my panic attack, I began to feel dizzy and I felt as though I was trapped in bedroom and couldn't get out. Eventually, I managed to get out of my location but this resulted in me panicking and I was very badly hyperventilating. I began to feel very lightheaded and very ill and my brain told me I needed to eat something. (Believe me, it is very hard to walk even short distances during a panic attack because your body feels like it is out of energy, you have "jelly legs" and you feel like you are about to collapse on the floor.) I sat on my sofa and eventually managed to tell myself to breathe deeply and eventually I returned to my usual state apart from feeling both very scared and concerned. I think what made it worse for me was that I was home alone meaning I had nobody to help me. I still don't know what caused my panic attack and most likely never will. My panic attack lasted for about 15-20 minutes but from the level of panic I experienced, it felt like it was at least half an hour. Like I mentioned when talking about anxiety, I can become very claustrophobic on coaches and I also recall a couple of months ago needing to travel on a coach. I was getting worried in the days leading to it and in the morning I remember starting to experience a panic attack however by recognising the symptoms, breathing deeply and pausing whatever I was doing helped me to overcome the panic quickly and return to my usual state.

What can you do to control your panic attacks?
Panic attacks are able to be controlled if you are able to identify the first signs that you are beginning to hyperventilate or about to have a panic attack.
Try holding your breath for 10 seconds, slowly exhale to the count of 3 and inhale to the rate of three. Ensure to keep your breathing rate slow so that it takes 3 seconds to breathe in and 3 seconds to breathe out and do this for at least one minute. If you are still feeling a sense of panic, hold your breath for 10 seconds and repeat the exercise I just mentioned. Continue to do this until your breathing returns to its usual state and your panic goes away.

What can you do to help?
If you are with somebody whilst they are experiencing a panic attack, there are a number of things you need to do to ensure they feel comfortable and so that they know you are there to comfort and help them. However, there are a number of things you need to ensure that you don't do;
1. Most importantly, you need to remain calm because if you begin to panic and freak out yourself, there is a chance that their panic attack will last longer and they will begin to panic more than they already are.
2. Ask them what they need, be patient and accepting, allow them to do things in their own time.
3. DON'T tell the individual to calm down! Many people believe that by simply telling somebody to calm down during a panic attack then they will return to their normal state.
4. DON'T tell them to get out. If somebody who is experiencing a panic attack says to you that they feel trapped, stuck and can't get out of their environment, make sure you don't tell them to just get out of the room they are in or wherever they are. This won't work! If they feel trapped, they honestly and 100% feel trapped and there really isn't anything you can say to stop that.
5. Don't try to distract them.
6. Be supportive and reassuring towards them.


If you are worried or concerned about stress, anxiety or panic attacks, I will advise you to search online for more information about any of them or any specific anxiety disorder I have mentioned.

Thank you for reading and I hope this has helped any of you!
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16 comments

  1. this was a really interesting post to read! Well done!
    You have a really gorgeous blog here and you can count me as a regular reader!
    I am a new follower, would you mind following my blog? I would love to get some readers!

    tawnyfawns.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you Tawny I'm glad you found it interesting!:) and thank you for following, I will take a look at your blog:) xxx

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  2. Thanks Molly. It was helpful to read your experience. I've struggled with anxiety, depression and OCD since I was 13, or perhaps younger. It's really supportive to know other people understand what you've (or you're) going through.
    I'm glad you're back blogging. I know I don't always comment on your posts, because my internet connection is usually awfully slow, but I really enjoy reading your blog. I think you are very nice and approachable.
    Thanks.

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    1. You're welcome Esther and I'm glad you found it helpful!:) and thankyou very much!:) xx

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  3. I don't suffer panic attacks but I do have anxiety and stress!! :(!!...Thanks for share it :) kiss!!-Visit My blog urbanfashionstylee.blogspot.mx

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  4. Great post, really helpful :) x

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    1. Thank you!:) glad you found it helpful!:) xx

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  5. I've suffered with an anxiety disorder and panic attacks for years now & I always find it so refreshing and helpful to read that other people have too - especially people with similar interests to me that I can relate to. I've actually met a few people with similar problems through blogging and it's so nice to have people to chat with! x

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    1. yeah, i had read about other peoples experiences and wanted to share mine as well! Many people who suffer with anxiety feel alone but there are many people around them who do also!:) and yeah its nice how you are able to relate to people via blogging in more than one way!:) xx

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  6. I love that more and more people are highlighting anxiety and panic disorders and stress and showing that it's a common problem that affects lots of people and that no one is alone! A really great post

    A little bit Unique - Blog // Facebook // Bloglovin



    x

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    1. Thankyou!!:) I wanted to share my experience as well so people know that they're not alone:) xxx

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