As some of you may know, I have suffered from anxiety attacks. I also have family members that suffer with them. Let me tell you, they suck. Anxiety and Panic in general is no fun. It is nothing but a thief. It steals joy and peace and no one should have to deal with them.
But the reality is that many of us do. They manifest themselves differently for most of us. And we all have individual things that trigger them. For some, the attacks are mild for some extremely debilitating. They have your mind (and body) feeling things that make you think you are dying or are going crazy. They can be all consuming. Even after one is over, the fear of when the next one will come is always looming.
There is hope, however. There are numerous ways to help prevent, tame or stop them. Various things we can do to help. Some may work for me and not for you. And vice versa. Unfortunately there is not a one-stop shop fix-it remedy. How I wish there were! We literally have to try a variety of methods or treatments to find what works best for each of us. It is a journey, but hold on. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
How to Deal with Them
I don’t know all the stats for anxiety levels today as compared to say, just 25 years ago. But from what I can tell just in my own little neck of the woods, I know numerous people who deal with anxiety and many who also suffer from attacks. Think about it. While we have everything at our fingertips with all this amazing technology and convenience, we have become screen addicts, socially isolated, less active and more worried. The state of the world is reported instantaneously. The media thrives on chaos and we are witnesses to it daily. The stresses of jobs, families, bills, health, school, social life…all of it can wear us down.
If you are someone who struggles with anxiety/panic I encourage you to think about yourself as a whole. Not just as your thoughts. But your physical body, your mind and your soul. We are humans and need to learn to take care of ALL parts of ourselves. Some of us just focus on one aspect. I am guilty of that myself.
What if we could really develop a plan to take care of our whole-selves what would that look like? Let’s start with The Body. Are you someone who spends a lot of time and thought caring for your body? Do you eat healthy, exercise, see your doctor regularly? Or do you eat whatever you can get your hands on and sit in a chair the majority of the day? (I am guilty!) If so, that needs to change.
I have learned over the last few years how the foods we eat and the exercises we do can have a huge impact on our mental wellness.
A few foods I know for sure are to be avoided for anxiety are:
- Caffeine (opt for decaf instead)
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Foods High in Sugar
- Sodas (reg or diet)
- Energy Drinks
A few foods to help relieve anxiety (and depression) are :
- Foods high in Omega-3 (salmon, spinach, canola oil) You can also take a Omega-3 supplement.
- Almonds, Walnuts
- Eggs ( also high in Vitamin D)
- Dark Chocolate (for the anti-oxidants)
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Green Tea (preferably decaf)
- Yogurt (probiotics)
- Fresh fruits and veggies (almost all of them provide benefits for various vitamins that counter act anxiety and depression)
While these lists are not exhaustive, it is a starting point. Anything with high sugar, artificial sweeteners or caffeine are definitely things to avoid to help keep your anxiety at a minimum.
As far as exercise, any physical activity that gets the blood pumping releases serotonin and dopamine in our brains and that can help to regulate moods. YOGA is a well known stress relieving exercise that incorporates mind and body. It can help to ease your stress and help you to feel better all over. It includes helping you focus on the present and to be mindful of your physical body.
We touched on the mind a bit while mentioning yoga, so let’s go there. You may think, What can I do about my mind? I can’t control it? While we can’t always control where our mind may drift to, we can redirect it and we can do our best to avoid filling it with garbage. Sometimes all the garbage we see and hear that has filled up our memory banks can trigger our minds to literally play tricks on us. Causing us to become anxious, when our rational self knows there is no actual threat. Our fight or flight response going into affect at the wrong time is basically what anxiety or panic attacks are.
While we can’t always avoid negative things from happening to us, we do have control (for the most part) over what we allow into your minds, via our eyes or ears. Remember this phrase, Guard Your Mind. This is a mantra of mine. I have to repeat it to myself sometimes. We often think very nonchalantly about the things we watch on TV, see online, read on social media, listen to or watch on YouTube.
I imagine we all have varying degrees of what we would consider good or bad for our minds but think about the things you have seen or read lately. Distressing news reports about a kidnapping, hearing about a murder or a car crash. Seeing a click bait ad on Facebook about some horrible event. While we can’t simply ignore all the atrocities going on in the world, we shouldn’t be fueling our mind with those over and over again. Sometimes we actually do need to take a break from it all. Simply for our own mental well-being. That is part of self-care.
So what do we do as part of the self-care for our mind? Feed your mind with positive things. Uplifting or funny videos, music, movies, books, blogs, etc. Look to various places to seek out the good in the world. Surround yourself with people who are uplifting. Avoid (if possible) people who are negative, pessimistic or who simply complain all the time. And don’t be a complainer your self. Practice positive self-talk. Chose to see the good in even the most challenging situations.
Don’t forget seeking help from medical professionals, family doctor, therapist, counselors, etc. Maybe medication will help, maybe therapy or both. They often times can be utilized together for a great treatment option. This is all part of caring for your mind. I know often times we can be afraid of seeking medical/therapy treatments, not knowing what to expect or worrying about the stigma that it sometimes holds. But be brave and do what is best for you and your well being.
I often wonder if this isn’t the most important part of the equation. Our soul is truly the essence of who we are. This entails our emotions, our connections with others and with God. We can feed our soul by doing things that are enjoyable and calming to us.
- Spend time talking with a friend and sharing. Open up your heart.
- Pray. Connect or Reconnect with God. I don’t know what that will look like for you. Perhaps it means being in nature. Seeing a sunset and actually stopping to enjoy it’s beauty.
- Grow a garden and enjoy the wonder of nurturing growing plants.
- Going to church. Read your bible.
- Find a charity in the community where you can help out. Giving to others is an amazing way to not only help people but it has a huge impact on your own sense of well-being.
- Find ways to be a blessing to others. Seek out things you can actively do to make someone’s day better. Whoever that might be…a family member, a friend, a stranger.
- Give yourself permission to be you. Act silly, sing off tune at the top of your lungs, have a dance party in your living room (alone or with a friend), try out a new recipe.
- If you feel adventurous, travel to a new place. Doesn’t’ have to be far from home, but somewhere you haven’t been before and take it all in. Really be in the moment and look around.
- Find 5 things each day to be thankful for. Keep a list daily and reread before bed.
- Be kind to you. Forgive yourself when you mess up or don’t live up to your own expectations.
There will be days that are great. There will be days that are awful. When things aren’t going well emotionally remind yourself that you have gotten through this before and you will again. Make a promise to yourself that you will care for yourself as a whole. Body, Mind and Soul.
I pray for peace for you today!