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  • Writer's pictureSimone Grove

4 steps to help with anxiety and panic attacks

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

Anxiety is becoming more and more common – affecting over 8.2 million people in the UK. Women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety than men.

The busy, ‘always doing’ nature of modern life and its many pressures have supported an increase in cases of anxiety, with many people struggling with some form of anxiety and worry each and every day.

As someone who used to suffer from anxiety I know first-hand how painful and debilitating it can be. But the good news is there are lots of ways in which you can help yourself to overcome anxiety and live better day-to-day, whether you have a diagnosis or are simply a ‘worrier’ by nature.

How does anxiety affect us?

Anxiety occurs when our ‘fight or flight’ response is triggered, without a ‘real’ source of fear present. It can affect us mentally, physically and emotionally – influencing how we think and feel and manifesting as pain, palpitations and jittery feelings in the body. Anxiety is often chronic and can be initially tied to certain events in our lives.

Anxiety affects everyone differently – sometimes it’s a feeling of general nervousness and restlessness, for others it’s a constant sense of panic and worry over every little thing. As anxiety manifests differently in everyone, an individualised approach to treatment and managing symptoms is really important.

In my role as a specialist physiotherapist working in cancer care and palliative care I find many patients suffer with anxiety, as the uncertainty of the illness and prognosis can be unsettling and upsetting. This and my personal experience with anxiety motivated me to support my patients with their mental and emotional wellbeing through my clinical treatments and NLP therapy.

Why do panic attacks occur?

Panic attacks occur when your body’s fear response is triggered, producing intense physical and psychological symptoms. This is an intense fear response in the body which is traditionally associated with a major life or death event, but panic attacks often occur in ‘ordinary’ situations, or can be triggered by non-life threatening (but psychologically upsetting) events.

Symptoms of panic attacks include breathlessness, nausea, palpitations and stomach pains. Chronic panic attacks with or without a known trigger can significantly impact on a person’s day to day life and may stop them doing things they’d usually enjoy for fear of a panic attack occurring.

4 steps to help with anxiety and panic attacks

1/ Learn relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques can be learned and employed throughout your day to help you during times of anxiety. These can differ from person to person, and should be easy and accessible so that you can call on them whenever you need to.

Breathwork is a great way to help slow down feelings of anxiety and using one simple tool – your breath. There are a variety of breathing techniques you can learn to help you during times of heightened anxiety. You may also want to try some holistic therapies, which can have a deeply relaxing effect and help you to feel calmer and more at ease on a regular basis.

Relaxation techniques don’t need to be recognised like meditation and yoga. Just talking to a friend, going for a walk, reading a book or listening to music can give you that feeling of relaxation and peace of mind. Discover and do what works well for you.

2/ Incorporate a daily routine

Keeping to a loose daily routine may help your anxiety as you know what to expect from each day. This is especially true if you are living with cancer or chronic illness and have lost some of your existing routine, which may have included work or school runs or exercise.

3/ Seek professional help

If anxiety is taking over your life and affecting you on a daily basis, you might like to look into professional therapy to help you to overcome it. You don’t need to tackle anxiety alone, and in many cases people need professional support to help them overcome chronic anxiety.

There are a variety of therapies available specifically tailored to anxiety, including CBT, DBT, NLP and Time Line Therapy(TM)

4/ Exercise regularly

Exercise can relieve anxiety as it helps to release certain chemicals in the brain which boost our mood and can lessen feelings of anxiety and worry. You don’t need to do anything strenuous or have a gym membership to benefit from exercise - a brisk walk, swimming, jogging or stretching counts. Studies have shown that exercising out in nature is even more beneficial for people suffering with anxiety and depression, so get outdoors where you can.

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