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Helpful ways to overcome anxiety symptoms

Physical Anxiety
Here is a list of some of the distressing symptoms of anxiety. Some people get all symptoms, some only a few. Some get symptoms not listed here. Though very unpleasant, they are not harmful. No one has ever died of fright!

  • Feeling short of breath
  • Feeling tight across the chest
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Tingling in the fingers
  • Racing heart beat
  • Palpitations
  • Muscle pains, including the neck pain and headache
  • Shakiness
  • Feeling hot or cold
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Sickness or wanting to go to the toilet

Managing Anxiety
  1. Acceptance - This means not fighting, nor to get frustrated, angry or quilty. Acceptance means letting the symptons happen. Accepting they will go in your own time. Think positively that it is a chance to practice what you have learnt, e.g, "I know I'm feeling awful, fighting it won't help. I know it'll go in it's own time. There's no point in getting frustrated."
  2. Breathing - Recap on the problems of over breathing. If we are not doing heavy exercise we should be breathing slowly and regulary - not the rapid chest breathing people often do when anxious.

    There are two ways to reduce the effects of overbreathing:
    • Paper bag method
      This is a good first step and can be particularly effective during panic attacks.
      • Place the paper bag over your nose and mouth.
      • Breathe in and out into the bag until you feel yourself calm down.
      • Breathing in the same air several time improves the balance of the gases in the lungs and blood.
      (A paper bag is completely safe. Do not use a plastic bag which is dangerous!)
    • Normal breathing method
      Unfortunately, a lot of the time it is not possible to use the paper bag. Nor does it stop the bad habit of overbreathing. So, practice a normal breathing pattern:
      • Take slow regular breaths. Not lots of erratic heaves and sighs.
      • Try to breath through your nose and not through your mouth.
      • A useful tip to start with is to count to yourself while breathing.
        Say "one thousand" to yourself while breathing in.
        Say "two thousand" to yourself while breathing out.
        So, your breathing pattern would be... "one thousand" IN "two thousand" OUT "one thousand" IN "two thousand" OUT...
      • Remember to keep practicing. Do not give up. It takes a while to learn. Try to do the breathing excercise whenever you feel anxious.
  3. Relaxation
    This is a way of dealing with muscle tension and the aches and pains it causes. To get the idea of muscle tension, clench your fists tightly together and feel the tension in the arms. Let go and feel the muscles relax. Repeat till you get the hang of it.

    Then do the same for the other muscles, particulary:
    • Scalp - Screw your forehead into a frown then relax.
    • Neck - Tighten head backwards then relax forwards.
    • Shoulders - Pull up then relax then down.

    Now do the same with the muscles that are tense.

    Yoga is a good way to relax and breath, it's calming and is quite fun.
  4. Stop rushing - Rushing causes anxiety and tiredness. Often we rush through the day without planning anything. This means everything takes much longer and need more effort than necessary. So try to plan your day. Perhaps make a list of the things you need to do, e.g., Breakfast, Prepare for school or college, Part-time job, Phone call, see friend etc...

    Do not plan too much. You will not succeed and just become more disappointed. Do things one at a time. Then tick off on the list. This way you will see your achievements and be able to congratulate yourself.

    Try not to be a perfectionist. Does it really matter, for example, that last speak of the dust is still there? Being a perfectionist takes much longer and you will never be satisfied.

    Give yourself 10 minutes or so sit or lie quietly each day. It may be helpful to do breathing and relaxation excercises. Try to think positive encouraging thoughts, avoiding all those "must do this - must do that." thoughts so many people seem to have. This is short rest is enoguh to keep you going in a more relaxed and cheerful mood for the rest of the day.
  5. Drinking drinks - Tea, coffee and coke drinks can add to anxiety so instead you should have a drink of refreshing, cold, water. Caffeine increases the affect of adrenaline so makes many symptoms worse. It also keep you awake at night. So try to cut down or stop these drinks. Change to decaffeinated coffee or something else.
  6. Panic planning - A panic is often like a brain storm. Thoughts seem to crowd in and race around the head. It is diffcult to think straight, easy to forget all you have learned. Of course, this is exactly when it is important to put what you have learned into practice.
  7. Personal panic plan reminder
    • Physical symptoms - overbreathing
    • Adrenaline
    • Vicious circle - Physical symptoms making thoughts worse.
    • Acceptance - Try letting the panic run it's own course.
    • Breathing - Slow, regular breathing.
    • "Oh no, here it comes again." - This is just anxiety, even if I do nothing it will subside after about 20 minutes.
    • "It's getting worse." - What is it that I have to do? Relaxation, cue word, abdominal breathing.
    • "I'm so stupid, everybody else is all right." - Yes, I'm feeling anxious. That makes me human, not stupid. I an not helpless. I am learning to cope. I'll use my anxiety management plan now.
    • "Oh gosh, I can't stand it." - I'm not going to let worries take over. I can decide what to think about. I'll think about the time I've managed reasonably before.
    • "Everyone is looking, they must think I'm mad." - Look around. Examine the facts - is anyone looking at me? Even if they are, I can't possible know what they are thinking.
    • "I've got to get out." - Stop! Count down from 10 to 0. Now use my coping methods - relaxation, cue word, abdominal breathing.
    • "I'm going to die." - My body is just responding to anxiety. It won't hurt me. The anxiety will soon be over.
Do you think this is useful information and if so what bits of it?

By the way you're not alone, I suffer from rare panic attacks sometimes.....

Thank you, Downer.
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