Whole Life Magazine

April/May 2013

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Page 15 of 43

A PAnIC-FrEE life Begins at HOME whole living Simple steps to keep your world from caving in By Jennifer Billock Breathe deeply: A simple breath can make all the differ- ence. Instead of running for cover or trying to push away the thoughts, force yourself to stop and breathe deeply, allowing thoughts to pass through you and out the other side. "If I feel myself becoming overwhelmed, I try to separate from the situation and focus on my breathing to re-center myself," says Amanda Norvell, a 30-year-old from Littleton, Colo. I magine standing in the middle of a crumbling building, anxiously watching the walls fall around you, scanning the ceiling for signs of cracks. Your palms are sweaty, your chest is heavy, your heart is racing. You try to hide from the crumbling walls under a blanket, but you can't hide from what isn't real; the structure is still intact. This is what it feels like to have a panic attack. This is how it feels for me at least once a week, as I chronically suffer from a barrage of anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 2.7 percent of American adults suffer from panic disorder. To put it in perspective, that's roughly three people on an average full passenger plane, or one person per every full L.A. Metro bus. During an attack, the body essentially tricks the brain into thinking a serious problem exists. And then, "Our bodies go into ight or light mode," explains Trudy Scott, author of The Antianxiety Food Solution. "The sympathetic nervous system kicks in and prepares us for action and danger. Most of the time, the parasympathetic nervous system will kick in and get us back to a calmer state. If it is unable to do this, you stay in the ired up danger mode and have a panic attack." A panic attack can be a single episode or a regular event. Sometimes a particular type of situation, such as public speaking, riding in an elevator or going over a bridge can trigger it, particularly if that type of situation has caused a previous panic attack. Real or not, the person experiencing the panic feels trapped with no way out. And the most dificult part of it can be the not knowing when it's going to occur. The sufferer starts to go out of the way to avoid any situation that might bring it on, which can be limiting. One cause of these attacks can be emotional repression. "I've found the common denominator with people who have panic attacks is they have had very little outlet for emotional expression," says L.A.-based family therapist Lisa Lichtenstein. "A large part of our brain deals with emotion, but many people have never been taught how to process it." Lichtenstein compares the panic attack sensation to a pot of boiling water. "If you have a pot of boiling water and you keep the lid on, the pressure eventually is going to overlow," she said. "If there's not an outlet for emotional energy, eventually you'll boil over." If you've ever had a panic attack, you know there are no easy solutions because you're not particularly dealing in the rational, yet there is enough truth in the fear that it becomes dificult to differentiate. Yes, bridges can be dangerous, but people drive them safely every day. Occasionally people get trapped in elevators but millions ride them safely, and even when they get stuck, there is usually a safe outcome. Traditionally doctors have treated panic disorders with medication, but there are more organic options. Here are six top solutions used by panic attack sufferers to ease their anxiety. 16 WL.indd 16 Change your diet: Say goodbye to caffeine and hello to vitamins. No caffeine plus extra vitamins B12 and D has greatly helped Norvell. "Cutting caffeine made a huge difference. I don't have near the panic attacks, I sleep soundly at night and I think clearly during the day," she reports. Scott recommends a whole food diet with emphasis on quality—organic, grass-fed and wild—and a breakfast that includes protein. Put pen to paper: A journal is a sufferer's best friend. "Every day, write a little bit in terms of what you're feeling—one word after the words 'I feel,' Lichtenstein suggests. "Then, when you've identiied the emotion, let yourself express what you're feeling. There's nothing worse than feeling haunted by a painful emotion you're not aware of. Just being able to process it creates a lot of relief." Get some air: "Being outside and having fresh air in my face calms me," says Brian Kearney, a 21-year-old from New Jersey. Sometimes he sits in front of a fan, explaining that, "The low of air helps regulate my breathing and calm my nerves." Join a party of one: "Work hard at becoming one with your body and really knowing yourself inside and out," says Kearney. "I always think to myself, You are your own best friend, and I would not let my best friend have a panic attack without trying to help him through it." Zen out: "Really try to live in the moment," Kearney says, and not hold onto the panicky thoughts and feelings. "Focusing on [the breath] helps alleviate a lot of the pre-attack feelings." For me personally, the severity is inally starting to fade, but plenty of people suffer for years in silence. As Trudy Scott says, "I want everyone to be able to say, 'I used to have panic attacks.'" A little help from your friends Panic disorders are just that—disorders. In some cases, simple solutions may not be enough. Many people ind relief through individual psychotherapy, and there are also a number of homebased programs, including: • Midwest Panic Center, Attacking Anxiety and Depression Program www.stresscenter.com • Barry McDonagh, Panic Away www.panicaway.com • Dr. Dave Carbonell, Anxiety: Treatment Techniques that Really Work www.anxietycoach.com • Charles Linden, The Linden Method www.panic-anxiety.com wholelifetimesmagazine.com 3/26/13 4:22 PM

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