Today’s blog is on anxiety, panic attacks and the importance of breathing.
In my last article, I briefly mentioned breathing exercises as one way to get your stress and anxiety levels under more control. Let’s have a closer look at how all these elements tie in together.
Many of us experience stress, anxiety or panic from time to time. It is a natural reaction to our fear we are feeling arising from a threatening situation we find ourselves in sometimes. Fear is natural and normal. It is when our fear and constant pressures become too much that we feel we can’t get it under control. We may become more prone to anxiety and panic. Everyone experiences these feelings on their individual level and manages them in their own way. We often read about different techniques that help us manage our stress and anxiety levels – from meditation, mindfulness to fitness or yoga.
External forces such as work, family, relationship or finances can cause stress. It is our body’s physical and emotional reaction to being under pressure or feeling threatened. Not only our palms get sweaty, we feel like we cannot breathe and we are going to faint.
A high level of stress regularly can trigger anxiety; a feeling of constant unease or worry as a result of threat – real or imagined, with a similar physical reaction to stress – shortness of breath, dizziness or a racing heart. Feeling anxious daily can make it harder for us to relax, focus at work, sleep and it can make us feel worried and tearful. Anxiety can further make us avoid situations that heighten any of these physical and mental symptoms. As a result, we may gradually become more withdrawn and isolated, potentially leading to a depressive mood.
Once we get into a cycle of the ‘what if’ scenario, where we ‘catastrophize’ and think of every possible scenario of what could go wrong in the near future, it becomes more difficult to reverse. I always say to my clients: “Excessive, unhealthy thoughts about what could go wrong instead of right in our future feed our anxiety levels – like fuel to fire”. Not being present, focusing on the ‘here and now’ and what is good about our lives, takes our focus away from reality. Stopping to pause to reason with oneself and look at what is real and what is imagined could slowly reverse this vicious cycle.
Ongoing increased stress and anxiety levels can cause panic attacks and even lead to panic disorder. Lives of those of us who experience anxiety and panic attacks regularly can suffer in every sense – personal, emotional, professional, physical.
Have you ever gone shopping to a supermarket and suddenly felt like your life is going to end? Like you were suffocating? Like you were drowning? Most of the time, anxiety and panic attacks happen internally – they are invisible. We could be stood right next to a person who is having a panic attack without knowing what is happening to them.
Anxiety and panic attacks often stem from traumatic childhood experiences. They can also occur at any point in our lives for a mixture of reasons. There are many ways to manage anxiety and panic disorders, including CBT, counselling, meditation or anti-depressants, to help us cope better.
Lower Your Anxiety and Panic with Online Therapy
When you take on therapy sessions, your counsellor can help you identify the causes of your anxiety or panic. Counselling can help you talk through these causes and work through them to identify your coping mechanisms in order to get your anxiety and panic under control. You will eventually return to living a more healthy and fulfilling life. You will face your fear instead of ‘masking it’, with a counsellor by your side supporting you on your journey.
I suffered work-related stress that led to huge anxiety and panic attacks in the past. I would see my counsellor regularly until I felt confident and ready to continue my journey by myself. I confronted my deepest fear and explored any connecting links. One thing I believe is important to work on from the start is your BREATHING. You might wonder what breathing has to do with anxiety or panic disorders.
The Importance of Breathing
As a counsellor, I could not do much work with my client who enters the session with me feeling anxious and panicky. I need my client to be present and to think as clearly as they can; be focused in order to be able to work through their difficulties.
When we experience fear, real or imagined, our body enters the ‘fight or flight’ mode. We face our fear and stay with it or we run away from it. Either way, fear makes our body release stress hormones that cause the levels of oxygen intake to decrease. Hence the shortness of breath, fast breathing and dizziness symptoms. Our brain is not getting enough oxygen in, therefore we cannot function properly. We feel like we cannot breathe and we panic. We experience an enormous amount of fear.
What happens if you dive and you run out of oxygen? You can’t breathe, you fear that you might die; your body is not getting what it needs to function properly, you panic. It’s basic biology. Basic and yet so vital for our normal functioning. Without getting a regular amount of oxygen, you are not going anywhere. Without learning to get your breathing under control when you experience anxiety or panic, you cannot think straight. Everything you can think of will make you feel like it is spiralling out of your control. ‘Fear is healthy, panic is deadly’. That is why teaching my clients to breathe is such an important part of my work with those who suffer from moderate to severe stress and anxiety and panic disorders.
You can practise breathing exercises anywhere and anytime you have a spare few minutes. You can use breathing techniques anytime you start to feel out of control; before an important meeting at work, before a date, meeting your friends, getting on a plane or before you need to have an important conversation with your family. As long as you notice when it is happening; just pause, acknowledge it, take some deep breaths for a few minutes to get your breathing under control and to maintain a clear mind. It is so important that you try to focus on ‘here and now’ while you are doing so. Focus on inhaling and exhaling. Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth. Feel your lungs. Breathe through your tummy. Focus on your body. Again, this takes practice, consistency and time.
We will look at some breathing techniques in my next article. Until then, keep well and stay safe.a logical mind
If you need to talk to someone, face-to-face or online counselling can help. If you are not enjoying the things in life you used to love and your mental health is suffering, get in touch with me via my enquiry form to find out how counselling can help you.