Only two short years ago I suffered debilitating panic attacks almost nightly. I felt anxiety every day, and the combination rattled my body to the point that I was no longer enjoying work, friends, social outings, or even the simple things in life. I overcame anxiety naturally and holistically, and I want to share the natural methods I used to lift the weight of anxiety off my shoulders. Today I am one of the happiest people I know, and I love taking on adventure in any shape and form without fear and anxiousness. I opened my mind and spirit and shook off debilitating anxiety attacks with just a few changes!
During the worst anxiety phases of my early adult life, I felt that at any moment a panic attack would ensue if I were in large crowds, or even just trying to relax in my bed at night. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders in America, affecting 40 million adults in the United States aged 18 and older (18% of U.S. population). People who also suffer from panic attacks have to endure what feels like a heart attack coming on in full flight. Panic attacks can happen without warning, causing uproar of fear and anxiety that can last for minutes as your limbs tense up, your body begins to sweat, your heart starts to pound as your pulse becomes faster, and you feel totally out of control with yourself and your surroundings. In the United States, women are twice as likely to suffer from panic attacks, and a mix of environmental factors, lifestyle, and family history seem to be behind the cause.
1. Eating Habits: I had to really look at what I was putting inside my body. I went completely vegan and opened myself up to a new level of spiritually and connectedness with nature and the environment, and ditched gluten to relieve brain fog and become more centered. My metabolism and digestion improved, and I naturally wanted to eat more raw fruits and veggies. Instead of having a glass of wine at night I started drinking chamomile tea to ward of anxiety and relieve tension after a long day at work. I started eating ginger daily by adding it to smoothies or mincing it in tea. Ginger is a natural stress reliever that calms the stomach down and relieves IBS symptoms. I looked for natural sources to minerals and vitamins that I knew I was lacking, like B12 and Magnesium, and made the time in my schedule to eat meals peacefully and mindfully, focusing on the colors and aromas, and focusing less on time and obligations.
2. Pills and supplements: I stopped taking the type of birth control pill I was on, as I realized it was changing my personality, making me more irritable, decreasing my sex drive, and was causing me to suffer from chest pain. I realized all of this after making a list of things that had changed since going on birth control. Now I take some natural supplements, a quality pro-biotic every day, and decided to opt for natural remedies to headaches and body pains. I love eating a handful of almonds to relax, as they are a great source of magnesium and a great way to relieve headaches! Once I began treating my body more tenderly, my body and soul felt lighter and I was able to deal with stressors on my own time and in my own way.
3. Exercise: We all know that exercising at least 3-5 times a week has great mental and physical benefits, but changing the nature of your workouts and how you approach that slot of time in your schedule can greatly reduce anxiety. I used to drive in a rush to the gym between jobs and obligations, to cram in a workout by pounding away at an exercise machine while staring at a TV. I realized this sort of approach heightened my anxiety, and although I felt better after workouts, something was off. I ditched my gym membership and began running or walking outdoors to clear my mind in the fresh air (even in winter). Now when my body needs a more nurturing and softer flow, I do yoga at home or go to a class with a friend. Yoga relaxes the blood vessels and increases circulation, thus lowering blood pressure. It is amazing for restarting your system, easing tension from your shoulders and neck, and providing an overall positive and life affirming experience.
4. Attitude: Be in the present moment during an anxiety attack, and don’t allow your mind to imagine how much worse symptoms can get. Just remember that a panic attack is a jumble of fear-based emotions that are causing physical discomfort and a distorted view of our surroundings. Keep in mind you are not in danger, but rather just experiencing discomfort. Whenever I feel overwhelmed with pressure, I stop to do triangle breathing by sitting up tall, inhaling through my nose for a count of 4, holding for 4, and exhaling through my nose for 4. If I am in the workplace, or at a packed restaurant and am starting to get anxious, I simply step out into the fresh air, give thanks for the positive things that happened that day, breathe, stretch and go back inside. I try to enter the space with a smile, ease my shoulders, and keep my head high. If you know you have a stressful few weeks coming up, marking events on your calendar allows you to plan and deal with each problem directly, and thus see the events in a more positive light. Sometimes even a slight shift in attitude can make all the difference!
5. Communication: Having someone you can call when you feel the onset of a panic attack can make all the difference. Laughter is an amazing tool, so hearing some jokes from a best friend, or calling up your mom to let her know what is going on can help distract you mentally, and put your body more at ease. Remember to ask for help if you feel you have taken on more responsibilities than you can deal with, whether it is at home or the work place. Sometimes we over-burden ourselves emotionally and spiritually, but by opening up to friends and family, we can lighten our load and lessen our anxiety.
Do you have experience dealing with anxiety attacks? How do you deal with them?
Also by Irena: Peach Basil Avocado Salsa
Also see: 6 Natural Ways to Treat Anxiety