How to Stay Calm With Anxiety and Fear
It’s so normal to feel afraid of anxiety, to want to run away from it and avoid it at all costs! Those dreaded physical feelings we get and the uncertainty of how we will cope if/when we have a panic attack. This will be sounding all too familiar to our lovely Mic in Eastenders (sorry can’t resist! It’s my favourite show, been a fan for 34 years, gasp!), the stress and pressure of his life that he has had to deal with and the panic attacks that had begun to cause fear and worry in his everyday life.
I first experienced a panic attack when I was just simply walking down the high street whilst out shopping on what was a really lovely day. Out of absolute know where my heart began to pound and palpitate, my legs felt shaky (like jelly), and I felt dizzy like I could faint. I had never experienced anything quite like it, and there are no two ways about it, it is frightening because you feel so out of control. However that's not quite true and the reality is, although this may sound like I’m talking nonsense! But you really can be in control of these feelings and learn to manage and even overcome them, imagine that, having that control back in your life and managing to live life to the full again.
But how can we do that, it’s impossible I hear you say, but you see the more we run away from anxiety and panic the more it will consume us. Let me explain that, so the more we think about them and the more we try to avoid them it will create more worry and more thinking surrounding panic, therefore increasing the chances of the panic attacks happening and becoming more frequent. So we become scared of the thought of having a panic attack and it’s this fear that creates a vicious cycle.
Some stress in small doses is normal and something we all experience from time to time in our life. It’s what keeps us focused on getting a job or a task done, and it drives us in our life, otherwise, we wouldn't have any get-up and go if there was no urgency.
The fight or flight/fear reaction is there to protect us when we are in a dangerous situation. I like to describe it like you are walking down the lane at night, no one or no houses around you when you notice a figure of another person standing only meters away from you holding a knife! Within a nanosecond your brain is making the decision of how to handle this situation, either run like hell or fight this person. Before you know it you are either running or fighting. Immediately and after the event, your body shakes, your heart is pounding, you’re short of breath, this is all part of panic, a fear reaction that is there to save our lives should we ever be faced with danger. These symptoms of a fear reaction are exactly the same as an anxiety attack, but the only difference is it’s the fight or flight kicking in at the wrong times. This can be because you are fearful of certain situations or it can be from underlying problems that have not been dealt with in the past, like some kind of trauma be it mild or more severe.
When you are feeling anxious and starting to feel like you are having a panic attack, try to stay with it, welcome it, say “hello panic attack” let it rise to its peak but stay calm, you will be ok and keep telling yourself that. As you experience it, think of ways you can relax. Change your thoughts there and then from fear to something calming. Some people might listen to their favourite music, others may practice deep breathing (the 4-4-6 is a great one, breath in for 4, hold for 4 and breath out for 6). Try this when you are in a particular situation that may trigger an attack, rather than avoiding it. There are lots of different ways you can ride the wave of a panic attack and its finding what works for you, but the more you can do this and not let yourself be scared the quicker you can learn to manage it and enjoy life once more.
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I have a wealth of experience with a diverse client base and problems working with adolescence in the NHS GP surgery as well as adults and teenagers in my private practice. I am also an anxiety approved therapist.