If you struggle with chronic anxiety and panic attacks, you may be acquainted with the sensations of dread and the physical symptoms of chest tightness and shortness of breath. The first time you experience anxiety and panic attacks is scary, and the symptoms can leave you feeling like you are dying.
You can manage your anxiety symptoms and stop panic attacks with counseling and a few psychotherapy techniques.
What is anxiety?Most people experience a mild form of anxiety. You might feel it when stuck in traffic or expecting a severe storm. Most people will become anxious when awaiting lab results or taking an exam. This type of anxiety is typical as your fight-or-flight response kicks in. You are ready to either fight the bad guy or run away.
However, chronic anxiety is a concern for the future, a person, or an event that may or may not happen. This type of anxiety leads to extreme physical sensations, has the potential for debilitating diseases, and hinders your daily life.
The symptoms of chronic anxiety and long-term effects include:
- Rapid heart rate.
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest tightness or pain.
- Shallow breathing.
- Sensations of dread.
- Insomnia or trouble staying asleep.
- Changes in appetite.
- Trouble concentrating or staying focused.
- Digestive problems, heartburn, and acid reflux.
- High blood pressure.
- Heart disease.
- Obesity or eating disorders.
- Type II diabetes.
- Heart attack or stroke.
- Fatigue or weariness.
The more you stay in an anxious state, the lower your immune system dips making you susceptible to viruses and other conditions.
Is it a panic attack?
Panic attacks come on suddenly, and you can feel as if you are having a heart attack. If you experience the following symptoms for the first time, contact your primary care physician to rule out any physical conditions, such as a heart attack. Once you have the all-clear, keep the symptoms in mind. Your counselor can teach you methods to stop a panic attack when one starts. That includes relief from:
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest tightening.
- Trouble swallowing.
- Lightheadedness or dizziness.
- Fatigue or weakness.
- Tingling or numbness in hands and face.
As you can see, the above symptoms mimic a severe heart attack, so make sure that you check in with your physician, especially if you experience chest pain.
How counseling can help with anxiety and panic attacks.
Counseling is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Since everyone is different, with various needs and personalities, counseling provides a customized approach to healing. When you schedule an initial session, your counselor will take an assessment to determine the best course of action for you. The counselor may suggest multiple techniques and lifestyle changes to help ease anxiety symptoms.
You can meet with your counselor for in-person sessions at the center or virtual sessions from the comfort of your home. If you prefer in-person counseling for anxiety and panic attacks, you will meet with your counselor in a safe and confidential environment. If virtual is better for your schedule, you will meet with your counselor over a video call at least once a week.
Therapy is available in individual, group sessions, family counseling, or couples counseling. Many clients choose the individual option, preferring to work one-on-one in a private setting. The counselor will teach you techniques to manage your symptoms while uncovering what triggers your anxiety and panic attacks.
Counseling is not something that you do forever. Most people leave counseling after six to twenty sessions with an armory of new skills to help them reduce anxiety symptoms and stop panic attacks.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps you identify the stressors and find ways to delete, avoid, manage, or reframe your thoughts and feelings. Your counselor will help you identify and analyze the negative thoughts about a stressor, be it a person, place, event, or situation. You will work together to reframe your ideas, taking the power back from these anxious thoughts.
As a result of reframing, your feelings about the situation will change. Eventually, how you respond to these stressors will also change. CBT takes practice but is effective in various mental health conditions.
Deep breathing.When anxious, we tend to breathe rapidly, not allowing enough air to fill our lungs. This is one of the reasons we can feel dizzy and lightheaded during a panic attack. Practicing deep breathing can help to calm our frayed nerves and get oxygen back into the bloodstream.
There are various ways to practice deep breathing, but to get started, try this simple exercise: Sit on a chair or the floor and close your eyes. Inhale through your nose for the count of four, filling your lungs. Pause at the top of the inhale for four beats, then slowly exhale through your mouth. Repeat this deep breathing exercise a few times until you feel your body releasing the stress. You can also practice deep breathing while lying in bed.
Chronic stress is the main culprit behind anxiety and panic attacks. If you can learn how to manage your stress, you can lower your anxiety and decrease the number and frequency of symptoms. Deep breathing is an excellent relaxation technique, but several other methods exist.
Gentle exercise includes strolling through a park or neighborhood and practicing yoga, Tai Chi, or stretching exercises. These exercises relax the muscles and work out tight knots. When anxious, we hold our bodies rigid, waiting for the fight-or-flight response to kick in. Yoga, Tai Chi, and stretching poses release tense muscles, decreasing the likelihood of headaches and muscle aches.
Music and art therapy.
In our hectic lives, we often eliminate tasks that feel luxurious, such as creating music or art or doing any other creative work. We begin to feel guilty for indulging ourselves in these hobbies. But God Himself is creative. We know this by looking at the landscape and listening to the birds sing. Music or art therapy can help relieve stress by allowing you to express yourself creatively.
Scents can relax or energize you. For example, you may feel empowered in the mornings by using a citrus-scented body wash. The same holds for relaxing scents. Consider using a lavender-scented body oil in the bathtub or lighting a vanilla or jasmine-scented candle in the evenings after dinner. You can also purchase roll-on tubes in these scents for on-the-go aromatherapy sessions.
Nothing is too small or inconsequential for God. Do you think your concerns bother the Creator of the world? God sent His only Son to die on the cross and rise again for you. Your concerns are His concerns, but He is waiting for you to reach out to Him so He can give you the grace and peace you need most right now. Spend time daily in prayer and the Bible, asking for comfort and insight.
Your counselor may recommend more relaxation techniques.
Changes in diet and lifestyle.
It may be hard to believe, but your diet and lifestyle have a great deal to do with your anxiety level. Too much consumption of chemicals and ingredients that can raise your blood pressure and increase your heart rate can contribute to anxious thoughts and feelings.
For example, overconsumption of alcohol, caffeine, and sugar and using illegal substances can cause anxiety in many people. These substances trigger physical effects that lead to anxiety and panic attacks.
Consider removing triggers from your diet and incorporating more nutritious whole foods for a natural solution to anxiety. Lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, and good-for-you fats like nuts and seeds are best to start. You may want to consult a nutritionist about a menu plan to start.
Are you ready to manage your anxiety and panic attacks?
If counseling sounds like a good fit for you or you want to know more about psychotherapy techniques for reducing anxiety and panic attacks, complete the contact form on our site or call our center. We would love to work with you.
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