Escaping Panic Attacks

Anxious man holding his head during a panic attack

How To Help Someone With Panic Attacks

Anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack will tell you that it’s one of their worst experiences; maybe more terrifying than a natural disaster. Panic attacks are like intruders who invade your mental space and do not allow you to have peace. They disrupt everything about you during those 5-10 minutes. Escaping panic attacks must be done right!

The more that you fight a panic attack, the greater it becomes in strength. Panic attacks want you to fight them, because they strive on your fear, pain and struggle. Panic attacks are also very sneaky: they’re like snakes coming from behind you and snapping without your awareness.

But once you become cornered by a panic attack, you become more aware of them than anything else. Your surroundings quickly become irrelevant as all you can focus on is the war zone that has just erupted in the depths of your mind. And just as any war zone, you become fearful for your life and consider running away from your current location to hide in a safe haven.

But there is no safe haven outside of your immediate surroundings. Because if you do run away, you are actually beating yourself up. What do you accomplish by running away? You may be in an important meeting, in a room full of people or even seeing a patient in the office; running away will make your current situation awkward.

The safe haven lies in your mind; it always has and it always will. Panic attacks are just intruders that capitalize on the chemical imbalance in your brain; their high is your low! As long as your serotonin levels remain on the low side, panic attacks remain high and elated. So when you attempt to run, you are actually running away from yourself, because everything is happening within your mind.

Besides medications such as antidepressants or benzodiazepines and psychotherapy, such as CBT or psychodynamic, the real way of helping yourself or someone else from panic attacks is by learning how to become comfortable with panic attacks when they do strike. Medications and psychotherapy do help a lot, but if you cannot learn how to become comfortable in your own skin during the attacks, you will continue to struggle.

Experience is key. The more panic attacks you have under your belt, the more comfortable that you become at handling them. And the way to handle them is to remain calm in your present environment and continue to focus on what you were doing prior to the attack. This technique helps prove to yourself that you are still in control of your mind and that you do not have to get up and leave.

You can also try incorporating a technique such as massaging your hands without making it noticeable to those around you. For most people, hand massages feel good and put you in a state of relaxation. Hand massages can be a coping mechanism that you only perform when cornered by a panic attack: they help redirect your thoughts to the good feeling of your hands, and take away your focus from the uncomfortable sensations of the panic. Call it a “hand job” if need be.

Overall, the only way to properly escape a panic attack is by not reacting to it. No matter how difficult and uncomfortable it may be to ride it out, the more experience you have remaining cool, calm and collected during the attacks, the more control that you will gain over future ones.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Attacked By Pressure

Stressed man wearing black shirt and beanie cap experiencing pressure

Anxiety Due To Pressure

Pressure is the feeling of discomfort, worry and even fear. Many of us feel pressure on a daily basis: bills to pay, relationships to live up to, jobs to hold onto, material to study up on, expectations to maintain, etc. Pressure is a natural feeling that accompanies our everyday lives: it’s part of motivation and drive but can also be associated with anxiety and panic.

If not handled properly, pressure can quickly alter your state of mind for the worse. Uncontrolled pressure can easily chip away at your sanity by introducing daily stressors and discomforts into your life, eventually turning your once peaceful state of mind into an anxious cyclone. And when this tropical storm makes landfall, you better have a strong grip on your mind.

When confronted with anxiety, the last thing that you want to do is freak out. Freaking out is when you start overthinking about the source that brought you pressure in the first place. You don’t want to deal with your anxiety by confronting its source. It’s quite the opposite: you want to alleviate your anxiety by redirecting your mind onto pleasant thoughts or activities.

One example is exercise. Whenever you feel pressure, you can start to exercise; it does a great job at neutralizing anxiety. That’s why you can even start using exercise as a preventative measure: keeping away anxiety in the first place. Whenever you get into a solid exercise routine, you’ll start to feel less pressure or at least not react to it as intensely as you once did.

Meditation is another great tool for alleviating anxiety due to pressure. By being present in the moment and allowing all of your thoughts to swarm your mind uncontrollably, you remain non-judgmental and observant. By building upon this skill, you will become more resilient to pressure in real time.

Talking to someone who you can trust also helps a lot. The act of verbal communication by getting your thoughts out is very soothing and comforting; it actually alleviates pressure and prevents it from boiling up in the depths of your mind. Always have someone who you can call or meet up with to talk to about your life.

We’re all attacked by pressure; it’s not something uncommon that only occurs to a select few. Some of us are naturally more resilient to it, while others are more prone to experiencing a mental or emotional hit. The key is to never allow pressure to break you down. Breakdowns can lead to job loss, broken relationships and even psychiatric admissions.

Always remain one step ahead of pressure.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Worried About Tomorrow

Worried bald man leaning and staring out of window

Uncomfortable Feeling In My Chest

Tomorrow is never promised, but how about today? The uncomfortable feeling one feels in their chest is certainly something to be worried about. Think of it like a Life’s Good (LG) washing machine, spinning all of your insecurities in one place, expecting them to be washed away of all the dirt. But oftentimes, the stains are still present the very next day after waking up.

Waking up the next day with a bunch of emotional stains and a stinky washing machine that apparently does you no good, you begin to feel even more weight piling on your chest as you make your way to school or work. You either end up having a good day which takes away some of the pain, or a terrible one, which cranks up the noise like a washing machine on high speed.

But no matter how many days that you go through, you just can’t seem to get rid of this monster of a worry hibernating in the center of your chest. Is this the monster under our bed which has been plaguing us since the days of watching Sesame Street? Perhaps it has taken residence within us all these years, only making its presence known as we grow older.

Is there a way to stop being worried about tomorrow? The inherent fear about something bad happening tomorrow is experienced by many people; some call it anticipatory anxiety. Maybe it’s a new person in your life who you don’t feel comfortable talking to, or maybe you’re afraid that you will do something bad at work, exposing your vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

There is a solution: remaining confidently calm, praying to God for guidance and enjoying life for what it brings you. There is no true way of getting rid of worries, but you can definitely live a happy and comfortable life while still experiencing them. The key is to avoid consistently paying attention to them; the more that you keep your eyes focused on these worries, the more that they will take advantage of your state of mind.

Your state of mind is as valuable as your organs throughout your body. Without a healthy state of mind, you become like a fully equipped vehicle with no GPS guiding you in the right direction. Freestyling your way throughout life is certainly not the path that you want to take, unless you really want to be worried about tomorrow!

We will always feel worried about tomorrow, but at least we can worry peacefully if we enter a right state of mind. You can start tapping into this state of mind today, by remaining confidently calm, praying to God for guidance and enjoying life for what it brings you. This doesn’t start tomorrow. It doesn’t start today. It starts now.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Living In Superstition

Assorted skull hangings and Halloween decors

Friday The 13th

Many people live in superstition because they seek reasons and explanations for the events which they have no answers for. For others, being superstitious is a fun mindset to apply because it brings them excitement, thrill and hope. On the other hand, there are people who are superstitious out of fear that something unlucky or bad is going to happen.

There are also many people who are not superstitious at all. For them, being superstitious is humorous and silly. They believe that it’s a waste of time and energy to sit around and analyze why a bird repeatedly pecked on their bedroom window at 11:11am, or why a cockroach fell on their shoulder at work.

Living in superstition is not the best way of living, because if randomly odd events do occur and you just so happen to pick up on them, they tend to leave you in a worried and frantic state of mind. When this happens, your superstition is being reinforced even more, increasing your chances of experiencing future episodes of unnecessary stress and worry.

Superstition can lead to chronic stress and anxiety. No one really thinks about it in this way, because not many people relate superstition with mental health. We kind of just take superstition for granted. But superstition can also affect you on an unconscious level, activating stress and anxiety when you least expect it.

Don’t give superstition power when it’s not necessary to do so. It’s completely unnecessary to hold a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation, leading to certain consequences of an action or event. You don’t have to incorporate “the supernatural” in your everyday events.

All you need in your life is God, the creator of what was before, what is now and what will soon be to come. If you dedicate your heart to God and his beloved son Jesus Christ who was sacrificed in order to save humanity on judgment day, then you are living in good hands. Step out of a superstitious state of mind and step into God’s heart.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Marijuana For Anxiety

Person holding marijuana joint in front of tree and body of water

Can Marijuana Help With Anxiety?

Marijuana is an interesting drug due to its intoxicating effect on the human mind. Many people swear by the fact that marijuana alleviates their anxiety by relaxing and calming them down. But others would argue otherwise, claiming that marijuana exacerbates their anxiety to the point of inducing panic-like symptoms.

But without randomized-controlled trials, we cannot assume that marijuana is efficacious for anxiety disorders. But that does not mean that we should discount the many user reports circulating around about marijuana’s positive effect on anxiety. If marijuana does alleviate anxiety, how does it do that?

We know that THC, the intoxicating chemical found in marijuana, binds to CB1 receptors in the brain and CB2 receptors in the periphery. We also know that there are two strains of marijuana: indica which produces more of a body high and sativa which produces more of a head high.

Which strain alleviates anxiety more depends on the user. Many would attest that indica highs do a better job at alleviating anxiety, because the high is more directed towards the body. This results in a lesser head high and potentially less anxious symptoms. On the other hand, sativa may exacerbate anxiety in users because it mainly provides a head high.

What is a typical user experience on marijuana that leads to less anxiety? If you’re feeling on edge, worried and anxious, within the first 5 minutes of inhaling marijuana, the user will feel their state of consciousness slowly being altered. The feeling is a sense of mental relaxation with the perception of slowed time.

The user also becomes more aware of their bodily sensations and their surroundings; everything becomes more alive and interesting to the senses. Because of this, it may take away the user’s focus on their anxiety symptoms; their attention becomes redirected to other activities which become more interesting, such as music and movies.

But what about a user’s experience with marijuana exacerbating anxiety? The anxious symptoms can escalate within a few minutes of inhaling or later on in the journey. The anxious symptoms can be quite severe, to the point of inducing a panic state or the thought of “losing one’s mind.”

An example of anxiety while on marijuana may include something of this sort: you’re standing in your kitchen high and eating a delicious delicacy. Your taste buds are on fire while you slowly allow your masticatory muscles to chew away your small piece of heaven. But all of a sudden, out of no where, your perception of you standing in place and eating becomes magnified and blown out of proportion!

There is way too much unnecessary focus by your mind on your current situation: your posture, your chewing, your bodily sensations such as your heart rate and breathing, and your thoughts. The next thing you know, you’re starting to experience anxious thoughts: “oh my god, I’m freaking out! I feel uncomfortable. Something bad is going to happen! I wish I could end this high!”

And that’s how one potentially experiences a panic attack while under the influence of marijuana. Therefore, we do not yet know if marijuana is a good medicine for anxiety. For some people it works wonders, while for others, it wreaks havoc! Until we have conclusive RCT results, we can only go by user reports.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Worrying Can Kill You

Worried man sitting outside with hand on face

Worrying: A Catalyst To Mental Illness

The act of allowing your mind to dwell on difficulties, troubles or unnecessary thoughts promotes stress, fatigue and even the development of a mental illness. This act is called worrying and we do it all the time; day and night. If you are worrying a lot during the day, then you can bet that you are unconsciously worrying throughout the night.

Worrying is your mind becoming stuck in a repetitive loop that is focused on a certain set of thoughts; it’s very much tied in to anxiety. But it doesn’t mean that you have anxiety if you are constantly worrying. It can just be a bad habit which you have developed secondary to your life circumstances.

People who live in urban environments are especially prone to worry about many different things. This has to do with living a fast-paced life, environmental stress, over-population, traffic and feeling rushed a lot of times. Whenever you are feeling rushed, you start to experience pressure regarding certain thoughts and behaviors.

For instance, you might feel rushed to leave your home in the morning and make it to work on time. In the process, you forget if you turned off the stove or closed the fridge from 5 minutes ago. So you go back and check them, but because you are in a rush, you end up worrying about your kitchen later on that day.

And this pattern of worrying may continue to get worse. Your worrying can even start encompassing new thoughts and behaviors; the more you feed into it, the more powerful your worries become. Worrying is also very much tied in to OCD. Once these thoughts become too negative to handle, they’re often followed by compulsions in order to alleviate them.

Excessive worrying, stress, anxiety and other symptoms can lead you to feeling suicidal. Your brain becomes overloaded with negative clutter, which distracts you from thinking clearly about your life. When you are distracted, other things in your life start to crumble; as those things go down, they also pull onto you to sink you down with them.

Keep your worries at a minimum. Often times, they’re actually never really needed.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Controlling Your Nerves

Anxious and nervous woman holding her face with hands

How To Calm Nerves And Anxiety

Nobody wants to be around a hothead. Controlling your nerves is crucial to avoid losing your cool and turning an innocent situation into an awkward and disappointing one. Life is unexpected and can present you with situations that can easily irritate you. You have to learn how to handle uncomfortable situations.

First things first: there is always an alternative way of dealing with anger and nerves. When you feel it slowly building up, you must find a way to extinguish it before it blows up. Remind yourself that it’s not worth getting angry: it ruins friendships, relationships and situations.

The way to calm your nerves and anxiety is to change your thoughts in that moment. Distract yourself from what is making you angry or anxious and look at the positive side; there’s always something positive to look at. The reason many people lose their cool is because their negativity overpowers them faster than their positivity can take effect.

The key is controlling your nerves and anxiety within the first few minutes of onset. The more that you practice controlling negative situations, the easier it will become to deal with them in the future. Practice makes perfect. But if you give in and allow your nerves and anxiety to take over, you will become more prone to re-experiencing them in the near future.

Life is not meant for you to be irritable, nervous and anxious. It’s normal to be presented with upsetting situations and it’s normal to be disappointed at times! But there’s a difference from being upset and losing your cool versus being upset and remaining composed. The former is looked down upon; the latter is favored and appreciated.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

What Is Anxiety?

A scared man with his mouth open keeping his hands over his eyes

Anxiety: Entering Another Dimension

There are many forms of anxiety: panic attacks, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, substance-induced anxiety, agoraphobia, etc. Anxiety is prevalent in all cultures and nobody is immune to it. The Existential School of Thought actually believes that the source of anxiety is existence itself.

Not all anxiety is bad however; it is normal to have anxiety if you are being threatened. That means that your sympathetic system is warning you that potential danger lies ahead. On the other hand, other forms of anxiety can be very debilitating and paralyze people.

What are panic attacks? A panic attack is a sudden feeling of acute and disabling anxiety: a fear of the world coming to an end, sweating, palpitations (heart beating fast), a fear of being “doomed”, a fear of loss of control of oneself, trembling and shaking, shortness of breath or chest tightness, chills or even hot flashes.

Multiple recurrent panic attacks over a month with a future fear of having more panic attacks results in a diagnosis of Panic Disorder; this can be caused by genetics or substances such as excessive alcohol use.

If anyone has even experienced a panic attack, they know that it is extremely unpleasant. I have experienced panic attacks and I can attest that the feeling of “derealization” is very real: an alteration of the experience of your surroundings. For example, you may lose track of time or you may feel a sense of disconnection with your surroundings. On a positive note, panic attacks can be treated with medication and CBT.

What is generalized anxiety disorder? This is 6 months or more of excessive and exaggerated worrying and tension about everyday things, that other people would normally not worry about. For instance, a mother may excessively worry about: going to work, paying the bills, picking her son up from soccer practice, putting food on the table, doing the laundry, not making enough money, not exercising enough, not having enough friends, etc.

These are all normal things to worry about, but patients with GAD take it to the extreme where the worrying becomes debilitating: it interferes with their sleep and relationships and they may even experience feeling lightheaded or shortness of breath. Thankfully, GAD can be treated with medication and therapy.

What is social anxiety? This is the intense fear of being judged, negatively evaluated or rejected in a social situation. For instance, you go out with your friend to a bar on a Friday night and he suddenly storms out within 20 minutes of being there. When you find him outside on a bench down the street from the bar, his reasoning may be “I thought everyone was staring at me and judging me” when in fact, nobody was.

This disorder can be very debilitating because it prevents people from having a normal social life; some may not even go to work or school anymore due to a fear of being humiliated. The solution is medication, therapy and encouraging the person to socialize despite having the irrational fear.

What is substance-induced anxiety? As you can guess, it involves anxiety that has been brought upon by a drug, such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, K2, methamphetamine, etc. The anxiety usually occurs while the person is under the influence of the drug. They may feel panic, worried, have shortness of breath and sweating and feel like they are going to die.

The anxiety usually subsides after they come out of their high. Some drugs such as alcohol can cause panic disorder, which persists after the intoxication from alcohol goes away. This is treated with medication, therapy and sobriety.

And lastly, what is agoraphobia? This is an extreme fear of being in open places, such as a mall or college classroom, and results in the person not wanting to leave their home, in order to avoid the anxiety that comes upon them when they are in the open place. They interpret these open places as “being difficult to escape from.”

A lot of times, agoraphobia is associated with panic disorder, because the person may have had a panic attack in an open place (a mall, a college classroom, a gym, etc.) and therefore, has developed a fear of being in that open place; they try to avoid having a future panic attack by not going to that open place again.

Agoraphobia can be very serious as it can paralyze people and prevent them from leaving their home. It is a very depressing condition to have. This is treated with medication, therapy and encouraging the person to go into open places and live a normal life, despite their fear.

There are more anxiety disorders that haven’t been covered here, but I hope you are able to understand the serious nature of these disorders and their impact on humanity. The DSM movement encourages everyone to come together and share their experiences, so we can unify and tackle these problems together.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)