Many women suffer in silence through anxiety symptoms, not realising that they can be part of a larger problem that is usually treatable. Anxiety symptoms include sweating, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, feelings of unreality and even chest pain.
In a full-blown panic attack, some people think they are experiencing a heart attack and rush to the hospital.
Anxiety and panic attacks are extreme reactions to fearful events – whether these events are real or imagined. Walking in a dark alley in the middle of the night, being followed by a stranger will cause a racing heartbeat and sweaty palms. The senses are also heightened and there’s a rush of adrenalin, in a primal response to attack. The nervous system shifts into gear and produces a “flight or flight” response.
While everyone experiences anxiety in small ways, it can become a problem when it interferes with day-to-day living. It can lead to the mind and body reacting as though they are facing a life and death situation when experiencing normal events, such as driving, seeing a spider, being outdoors or within a closed environment such as an elevator. It can be very difficult for people who live feeling like everyday. Unchecked and undiagnosed, anxiety can lead to other problems such as depression, alcoholism and drug abuse.
If you do suffer from anxiety and/or panic attacks, here are seven steps to get it under control.
- Get help from a professional. Talk to your GP so that he or she can rule out any possibility that there is anything physically wrong. They can then make a referral to a mental health professional who can help you work through the anxiety either by talking, medication or other techniques.
- Sleep well. Your body needs sleep in order to repair itself, so people naturally feel better after a lengthy sleep that reaches the REM (rapid eye movement) stage. This is very restoring for the body.
- Daily exercise: Exercise helps the body use oxygen more effectively, which increases focus and benefits mood.
- Daily meditation: Spending time daily in focused relaxation clears the mind and fights anxiety. This can be in the form of yoga, meditation or prayer.
- Self talk: As soon as anxiety symptoms appear, don’t worry about them, but use self-talk to manage the symptoms. Talk calmly about what has happened, and alleviate the fear
- Breathe: Breathe deeply into the stomach. When in a panic, the body naturally starts shallow breathing in the upper chest, which can lead to feelings of light-headedness and increase the anxiety. Place hands on stomach and feel it expand like a balloon.
- Take time out: Ensure that there’s a balance between work, family and time out. Discover or reconnect with a hobby such as gardening, painting, reading or writing.
Anxiety and panic attacks can occur at any age, and should be quickly managed so that it doesn’t develop into other conditions. Seeking professional help as soon as possible is important.