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Anxiety and panic attacks

For Time to Talk Day 2017 I have decided to write about two common problems. They are not unrelated. If you are troubled by anxiety with or without panic attacks, I hope you will find something useful here.

People, who are happy-go-lucky and sail through life as if they hadn’t a care in the world, do not understand what it is like for people who think too much. If you are one of those lucky ones, please read on!

Some people worry about everything. They just don’t seem to be able to help it. It has become a habit. It can become debilitating, especially if it leads to panic attacks.

Let me give you an example of a worry and how to stop it developing.

The worrier knows where a friend or family member is travelling and has given them some advice. The time for them to arrive at their destination has past and they have not posted anything on social media to say they have arrived. The person travelling has not been on this route before, but the worrier has. The worrier is aware of all the dangers along the way. Risk assessment has become a fashionable exercise. People have had serious accidents on that route. Some have even died. Although the worrier has not asked the traveller to let them know they are safe, it is second-nature to become anxious. An escape mechanism is needed. In this case, the worrier can be reassured by choosing a different thought pattern.

The person is an adult with experience of making journeys in new places. They do not post on social media every day. The worrier is not responsible for the behaviour and safety of the other person. Contacting them would be an unnecessary nuisance to the other person and would make the worrier look foolish. It is possible to set this worry on one side and have a good night’s sleep.

The alternative of allowing the worry to take over and possibly result in a panic attack is best avoided. Some panic attacks are due to allowing worries to escalate. Others may come for no obvious reason.

Panic attacks come in different forms. One common form is hyper-ventilating, where the breathing is affected. However, like frightened animals, humans may find that other bodily functions are affected. They may have the runs, for example. Or, like a rabbit frozen in the headlights of an on-coming vehicle, they may be unable to act. Or they may become hot and bothered for no apparent reason.

Like anxiety, panic attacks may be averted.

For example, a thought comes to a sufferer: they may have forgotten to switch something off. They are in a situation, where they cannot immediately go and check or ask someone else to. They can dismiss the thought before it worries them sick, bringing on a panic attack.

These coping strategies need practice.

First the worrier has to recognise that they are worrying. Then they have to decide whether they need to do anything about the worry or whether it is not their responsibility. If action helps, fine. If not, perhaps they can set their own mind at rest, as in the first example above. If not, doing something to take one’s mind off the worry may help. At night silently praying or reciting poetry may help. (If anxiety affects one’s sleep, worrying about not sleeping does more harm than good.) In the daytime, distracting activities need to occupy the mind, such as writing, doing puzzles, or physical activities, requiring concentration.

Getting enough rest can also help to avert worrying, but there are times, when it is necessary to keep going in spite of tiredness.

Talking to a sympathetic person can be helpful. However, many people do not understand.

Medical help is available for anxiety. I have resorted to it in the past, but I prefer to use the methods outlined above. The word I have chosen for this year is Trust. If  I really trust God I have no need to become anxious.

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What I learned in May 2016

I have already written and published a post about what I read in May 2016.  I’ll be linking both of these with emily p. freeman.

The first thing I learned was not to set off on a long distance train journey without checking the National Rail app on my phone for the whole of the journey.  (Although it is possible for disruption to occur once I have boarded the first train!)

Next I learned that it is best to answer the question, “May I phone you?” with some delaying tactic, like “It might be better if I phone you. When would be a good time?”

Then there was the problem of dealing with panic attacks.  I need to remind myself that the best reaction to a panic attack is not to panic, but to pray.  Believing the lies that come into my head during a panic attack can lead to over-reacting and causing difficulties for myself and others.

In stressful situations I need more rest than usual.  Do other people find that too?

I was reminded that God really does answer prayer.  For example, I prayed about knowing when to return home.  I took into account the likely busyness of the day after the May Day Bank Holiday.  I consulted with family members.  I considered the other things that were going on and made a rational decision.  The train I travelled on was only going as far as I needed, although it usually continues on this route for over an hour longer.  As a result there were plenty of seats.  I didn’t worry when it was delayed a few minutes and just caught the connecting train.

I hope I have learned not to expect things to go wrong and prevent me from doing the things I really want to do.  I hadn’t previously recognised that I have this tendency.  If I make my decisions prayerfully, it does not make sense to expect that I’ll be prevented from acting on them.

Taking a break from my usual routine allowed me to stand back from my writing projects.  I have decided to abandon my work-in-progress and try to tell the story in a completely different way.  (But I haven’t begun yet!)