Dear Candy Q & A: Panic Attacks/Severe Anxiety; Retraining the Immune System

In addition to brain retraining rounds, below is some information and tools for addressing panic attacks or severe anxiety as it arises.


Panic Attacks & Severe Anxiety

(Adapted From The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne)

Panic is a natural body reaction, except it is happening out of context. A fight or flight reaction is natural and even helpful when we are in danger. It is not helpful, however, when it happens at other times.

Things to know

A panic attack will not:

  • Cause you to stop breathing

  • Make you faint

  • Cause you to lose your balance, fall over, or be unable to walk (cause you feel weak in the knees)

  • Cause you to go crazy

  • Cause you to lose control of yourself

It is important to recognize that what we think about what is happening affects the outcome. If we start to have mild body symptoms and then think “I am dying” or “something is really wrong with me”, we will go into full-on panic. The good news is we can change our thinking patterns to have a positive effect, rather than making things worse.


Don’t fight panic

  1. Face the symptoms – don’t try to suppress or run away from them. That will just make things worse. Think constructively (e.g. “Here it is again. I can allow my body to go its reactions and I can handle this. I’ve done it before.”)

  2. Accept what your body is doing. Don’t fight against it. When you try to fight panic and tense up against it, it makes the anxiety worse. Try the opposite, allow and let go. It will move you through the symptoms much quicker. The key is to be able to step back and watch or observe your symptoms without reacting to them.

  3. Float with a wave of panic rather than trying to force yourself through it. Avoid adding to the reaction by telling yourself things like, “I can’t handle this.”

  4. Allow time to pass. Panic attacks are time limited. They are caused by a surge of adrenalin and in most cases they will start to pass within a few minutes. Making reassuring statements to yourself will help you pass the time without aggravating the panic by adding more fear.

Notice what happens just before you panic

Were you stressed out? Were you with someone or by yourself? What was your mood? Were you too hot or cold? Did you have caffeine or sugar before the panic? Understanding what leads up to your panic can help you overcome and prevent your attacks. (And this would be good things to use as triggers before retraining rounds)

Coping strategies

When the panic is mild to moderate:

  • Deep breathing. Focus on breathing into your abdomen and slowing down your breath.

  • Use positive coping statements (see list attached)

  • Move around or get some exercise. This helps to release the adrenalin and return to a more relaxed state.

  • Talk to a supportive person. This can help get your mind off anxious thoughts or symptoms.

  • Focus on your immediate surroundings. Notice the things close around you. Take in the details. Touch things closeby to help keep your attention in the present moment and away from the “what-if” thoughts.

  • Use simple distraction techniques. Chewing a piece of gum, counting backwards by 3’s, counting the number of people in line, snapping a rubber band on your wrist, take a cold shower, sing a favourite song.

  • Evoke other emotions. Anxiety is incompatible with other emotions, such as anger, happiness, and gratitude. Hitting a pillow, reading or watching something funny, listing all the things you are grateful for are examples of how you can use other emotions to end the feelings of anxiety.


When the panic is moderate to severe:

  • Get out of the panic provoking situation if possible.

  • Don’t try to control or fight your symptoms. Ride them out.

  • Call someone and express your feelings to them.

  • Move around or get some exercise.

  • Focus on simple objects around you.

  • Touch the floor or objects around you. Use any grounding or relaxation techniques that you have.

  • Use positive self-talk

  • Breathe deeply and slowly through your nose.

  • If you are in a place where you can, release some tension by pounding your fists, screaming, or crying.

You may feel very confused or disoriented during times of intense panic. To increase your objectivity, ask yourself the following questions: 1) Are the symptoms I’m feeling truly dangerous? (the answer is no) 2) What is the absolute worst thing that could happen to me? (Typical answer: I might have to leave this situation or ask for assistance), 3) Am I telling myself anything that is making this worse? 4) What is the most helpful thing I could do for myself right now?

Lifestyle changes are key to reducing the severity of panic attacks.

  • Have a relaxation practice

  • Exercise regularly

  • Eliminate stimulants from your diet (e.g. caffeine, sugar, nicotine)

  • Acknowledge and express your feelings

  • Adopt positive beliefs and self-talk that help you feel calm


Three-step technique to managing panic

  1. Accept your symptoms. Riding the wave will help them pass more quickly.

  2. Practice deep breathing. This tells your body it is time to relax.

  3. Use a coping strategy that works for you. Practise your strategies when you aren’t panicking so they become second nature.

Positive Coping Statements

  • This feeling isn’t comfortable or pleasant, but I can accept it

  • I can be anxious and still deal with this situation

  • I can handle these sensations/symptoms

  • This isn’t an emergency. It is okay to think slowly about what I need to do

  • This isn’t the worst thing that could happen

  • I’m going to go with this and wait for the feelings to decrease

  • This is a chance for me to learn to cope with my fears

  • I’ll just let my body do its thing. This will pass

  • I can take all the time I need to let go and relax

  • I’ve gotten through this before. I will get through it again this time

  • These are just thoughts – not reality

  • Nothing serious is going to happen to me

  • Fighting this will make it worse, so I am going to relax

  • Even though this doesn’t feel good, this anxiety will not hurt me

  • I don’t need these thoughts – I choose to think differently

  • So what

  • I can do my coping strategies and allow this to pass

  • I deserve to feel okay right now

  • Just breathe. I will get through this

Retraining the Immune System


Q: Do you have any tips for how to train around your immune system? I frequently get sick and for much longer and worse than anyone else around me. I know it's common to get sick frequently when your immune system is coming back online. I also have very low vitamin D and have been unable to get my levels up even with supplementation.


A: The best thing we can do for our immune system is to elevate our emotional state. Elevated emotion has been shown to boost the immune system. It also blocks the inflammatory response and takes us out of a stress response, both of which contribute to a better functioning or more effective immune system. Meditation and mindfulness practices have also been shown through research to have a positive effect on immune function. Consider adding in daily practices if. you do not do so already. Ultimately, the more we can be in an elevated or mindful state, the better off we are from an immune perspective.


You may also want to consider visualizing your body easily absorbing the vitamin D and benefitting from it. You can also visualize a healthy functioning and effective immune system and get into the feeling state of how you would feel if your immune system was working optimally and your body had lots of vitamin D. How you would visualize that is up to you. Use whatever makes sense in your mind - the sky is the limit to the creativity used here. Some people might see their bodies filled with bright light that is eliminating and transforming all unhelpful bacteria, viruses, etc. I have also heard of others using a Pac-Man character to eat up all the "bad" stuff, or flames blue flames moving through their system stimulating all the good cells and healthy functions of the body. Whatever makes the most sense to you, or is the easiest to visualize and to feel.


Until next time!


Next week: Training with EHS


If you have a question, please email me at dearcandyquestions@gmail.com

 

Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. Her modalities include coaching, therapy, Reiki and the Safe & Sound Protocol. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com




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