In times of pandemic and uncertainty, anxiety and panic attacks aren’t something you should feel embarrassed about. They are more common than you might think and they’re treatable.
Don’t suffer alone when you can find relief. You can overcome your fears and feel normal again.
Already before the pandemic outbreak, anxiety disorders were the most common form of mental illness in Australia. Originally, anxiety was a healthy protective function in the face of impending danger. Fear always becomes problematic when it becomes excessive or appears disproportionately strong.
If a great deal of your daily thoughts and actions revolve around anxiety and anxious situations, such as fear of getting an infectious disease, and you spend most of your time thinking about the danger of getting infected, it may indicate an anxiety disorder. If you find the scope of your activity continues to shrink and you’re retreating into a private shell, this is also a typical symptom.
In many cases, anxiety can cause symptoms such as sweating, nausea, dizziness, heart palpitations and shortness of breath. In severe cases, it can also cause panic attacks and doctors may diagnose a panic disorder. If a person cannot overcome the stressful situation through their own efforts they may need assistance from a specialist, especially when symptoms significantly affect their life.
Life seems threatening
In many cases, anxiety is not fixed on specific situations or things. Rather, the person becomes anxious about many fears, usually without concrete reasons. They dwell on problems such as illness, financial ruin, a car crash or any other misfortune, even though they’re unfounded fears.
These unfounded worries make daily life appear very threatening. Consequently, besides constant restlessness and nervousness, problems such as sleep disorders, and dizziness can occur. This often affects health, performance, and relationships too. When this happens, experts often refer to the condition as generalized anxiety disorder. An estimated five percent of all people have GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder), and most are middle-aged.
The causes of anxiety gone wild are many fold. As a rule, the interplay of various biological, social and psychological factors leads to disruption. In my experience, people with underlying immune disorders, low self-esteem, and difficult childhood experiences are particularly affected. An anxiety disorder can even hide behind some form of depression.
In most cases, the triggers that lead to an anxiety attack are related to negative past experiences. For this reason, drugs and mainstream psychotherapy alone may not succeed. You need a holistic approach, including trauma relief, relaxation techniques, breathing techniques, cognitive behavioural therapy, nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle.
The fear of fear
If your fear focuses on certain situations or objects (such as spiders or dogs), it’s called a phobia. Particularly widespread is agoraphobia. Agoraphobics often become anxious in public busy places or in situations that you cannot immediately escape (such as a crowd, a busy supermarket, or a full metro). Consequently, they increasingly avoid these situations and withdraw more and more into their home. Eventually, they cannot leave at all. Very often, panic attacks become part of their phobia.
Other more common phobias include fear of confined spaces (claustrophobia), height (bathophobia) or aviation (aviophobia). Encounters with other people or groups can also create panic, (social phobia), which negatively impacts everyday life. Actually, anything in a person’s physical and emotional awareness can create fear. Even the fear of fear or phobia(s), or “phobophobia” occurs.
While fear of heights or claustrophobia rarely requires professional assistance, agoraphobia, panic disorders, or social phobias often require therapeutic treatment. Depending on the nature and extent of the symptoms, a holistic approach offers great promise.
Practical tips to overcome anxiety & panic attacks
First, and most importantly, you are not alone with this problem, even if it may feel like it. Realize you have no concrete or realistic reason for your fears.
Don’t immediately consider the worst-case scenario. For example, when your partner does not pick up the phone or comes home from work later than usual it does not mean they’ve been in an accident or left the country. More likely, they just didn’t hear their phone or they’re still in a meeting with colleagues.
Gradually increase your awareness and notice the triggers causing the emotion. Pay close attention to past experiences too. We tend to repeat unresolved emotional traumas. You want to identify past and present triggers and break the vicious circle. Imagine anxious situations, instead of avoiding them. Every time you face a fear, it’s a win.
Improve your well-being. Put your health first and avoid drinking any stimulants like coffee and soft drinks, and depressants like alcohol. Sometimes your lifestyle choices create a physical response you associate with anxiety, which triggers negative thoughts and fears.
Take a few small breaks every day. Relaxation exercises such as Qigong or simply walking your dog can be extremely helpful. Take a break when you’ve finished a task too.
Create a more positive and energizing environment in and around your house. Let natural light in during the day and spend time in nature. Reduce your exposure to electromagnetic pollution. Switch your mobile phone to flight mode as often as possible. Switch off your phone and wireless router during the night.
Finally, don’t be afraid to seek assistance. You’re not alone, and with support, you’re one step closer to a better life.
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