Does Approaching Holiday Anxiety Have You Geared For A Panic Attack?

November 15, 2010

The unease, apprehension, fear and worry that characterize anxiety are creeping up on many people about this time of the year. Family coming to visit, large meals to prepare, a struggling economy, and the irrational belief that the next few months must go off, or at least appear to be, perfect, weigh on our shoulders adding to the burden of anxiety.

Most anxiety derives from an unjustified fear, and can be controlled with relaxation and proper control of your thoughts. A healthy amount of anxiety can help you problem-solve and overcome a tough situation, but too much, too long can be both mentally and physically taxing–and if it’s an ongoing problem, it may actually be a disorder.

Anxiety is tied to stress, and if you know how to deal with stress, that will help you cope with anxiety (Click Here for Stress Management Tips). Anxiety is also tied to your genetics, the amount of pressure caused by recent life events (new family members, moving, change in work…) as well as your brain chemistry. There’s little you can do about your genetics. Change is tied into the way you deal with stress. Your brain chemistry might be better balanced if you eat a better diet and supplement it appropriately to fill nutritional gaps.

The first step in dealing with anxiety is to take time to sort through your thoughts. Making lists, writing in a journal, or talking with a confidant are all techniques that can be used, you just have to find what works for you. Then, breathe deeply, and reflect. Which problems are uncontrollable or unavoidable? If there is nothing you can do to mitigate it, then don’t worry about it. If there is something you can do, make a plan, and set it aside for when it is time to deal with it, and do not dwell.

Anxiety is future oriented, most of it is spent dreading future events. Once you’ve relaxed and made a plan, be confident in it, and watch for signs that anxiety is creeping up on you so you can regain control of your thought patterns.

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety:

  • Heart Palpitations/Irregularities
  • Chest Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Tension
  • Headache
  • Nausea/Stomach Aches

Sometimes:

  • Pale Skin
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Panic Attacks

The physical symptoms of anxiety derive from your fight or flight response mechanism. Blood pressure goes up, your muscles ready, and digestion is paused. When you feel these symptoms begin, stop and look at your thoughts: What are you dwelling on? Do you already have a plan to cope with it, or is it out of control and not worth your anxiety? Talking with someone else may help you maintain a realistic view of the problem.

If you are obsessed with a stressor, or you feel constant apprehension, irritability, restlessness, or are suffering from insomnia/nightmares, you should recognize these as symptoms of anxiety and take time to deal with the problem (rather than the symptoms). Anxiety is medically treated with tranquilizers, but these can lead to dependence, weight gain, sleepiness, sexual dysfunction, and other problems, depending on which tranquilizer is prescribed. It’s best to try and deal with anything causing your anxiety before reaching for control of physical symptoms.

If physical symptoms are standing in the way, try avoiding caffeine and refined sugars, eating more fruits and vegetables, and exercising. Exercising will release the tension of the fight or flight response, and may help you clear your mind.

Rarely, the source of anxiety is physical, and is caused by a heart disorder such as arrhythmia. See your general practitioner if you think you’re having heart problems, but note that overreacting to the physical symptoms of anxiety is also a symptom of anxiety. If a doctor does a full work up of your heart health, it’s probably okay to trust them. If you think you have symptoms of a heart attack (you turn blue, your left arm hurts, etc.) then go to the ER.

What causes anxiety for you, and how do you deal with it? In the role of helping others to deal with anxiety, what techniques do you use?

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