‘My life was dominated by panic attacks’ | life and style

meHe screams and lies on the floor. Far-away nursery rhymes from two rooms are played at full volume. I didn’t scare my baby daughter out because her wife tried to drown me. I have a panic attack. I am terrified and burning with shame beneath that fear.

A few years ago, this was my reality. Panic attacks have dominated my life for over 10 years. I had a few every week. I was constantly, terribly anxious.

I kept telling myself it wasn’t that bad, and each attack was a nerd. I was tired or under pressure. Everything changed when I became a father. I’ve read grim statistics that show that mental illness in parents is linked to poor academic performance and poor resilience in their children. One study found a correlation with an increased risk of asthma. I couldn’t continue it.

I started a year of trying everything I could to overcome my anxiety and finding all the treatments and all the new areas of research. What followed was a long and uncomfortable process of no learning. I thought I would be smarter and have more control. Instead, with each study I read and each researcher I spoke with, my confidence in my expertise diminished. This was not the trip I had planned. I wanted twelve rules, seven habits, one weird trick.

But the scariest thing is that it worked.

Based on robust and replicated research, I’ll share some of what I’ve tried. But I am only one guinea pig. My experience and results may not be universally applicable.

Be a good scientist if you want to solve your anxiety. Try it. Observe the results. Anxious people crave certainty. Science is all about doubt. What we’ve learned from the experiment is that embracing uncertainty creates space for possibilities. This is where change happens.

Find the workout that’s right for you

Anxiety sufferers often say exercise is a miracle drug, but studies on the anxiolytic effects of exercise have yielded mixed results. When I started working out, I hated exercise. I soon found out that I enjoyed the two types the most: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and LISS (Low Intensity Steady State). The former do things like sprints and star jumps for 30-45 seconds with short breaks. The latter is like jogging, walking, swimming.

HIIT was a great way to practice combating the symptoms I experienced during panic attacks: shortness of breath, tight chest, and pounding heart. It’s like exposure therapy. LISS has improved my overall health and last year I ran my first marathon. I can still worry while running, but it often improves my mood, especially my sense of what psychologist Albert Bandura called ‘self-efficacy’. It is the belief that you can cope with challenges.

Pay attention to your diet

Numerous articles are published in which the author is in awe of the gut as our “second brain” and the power of the gut microbiome to improve mental health. Many of these are microbiologists Simon Carding They say the marketing of probiotic beverage manufacturers and journalists who misread the results of their studies in mice is exaggerated.

Clearly, our gut and brain communicate constantly through the vagus and enteric nervous systems, but the idea that kimchi, sauerkraut, or other fermented foods can beat anxiety isn’t supported by strong evidence.

Anxiety is related to blood sugar crashes. Stress causes glucose to be released into the bloodstream to give us energy to run or fight, allowing us to reabsorb glucose when insulin is not being used up. So, anxiety causes temporary high blood sugar, followed by feelings of dizziness and fatigue, and the inability to think straight.

Sweet foods and refined carbs trigger the same cycle, so it’s a good idea to cut out energy drinks and junk food. I lost 3rd place for several months. There is new evidence for a link between anxiety and chronic inflammation, and reducing excess body fat is one way to reduce inflammation. Some studies have suggested that eating a Mediterranean diet, high in fresh fruits and vegetables rich in plant polysaccharides, nuts, and olive oil, and low in meat, is slightly associated with reduced anxiety.

Although these changes are minor changes rather than cures, they can also have beneficial health effects in a variety of profiles. Switching from cheese kebabs to a rainbow of fresh vegetables has definitely been good for my self-esteem, energy level, and overall mood. Even without the constant sugar crashes these days, I’m much less anxious.

Don’t rely on drugs alone.

Taking medications for anxiety is still a high topic. I think part of that is because of the radically different experiences that many people have. For some, it’s like turning on a light switch. The first time I took the SSRI sertraline, I woke up the next morning and I just wasn’t nervous. The effect didn’t last but during that brief honeymoon I was just healed.

On the other hand, I have experienced many side effects of the drug, including anorgasmia, cramps, sweating and diarrhea, and sometimes nothing. Given the enormous variability in individual responses, it is often difficult for those on the other side of the discussion to believe that a counter argument can be made in good faith.

A meta-analysis of hundreds of trials showed that SSRIs and SNRIs consistently outperform placebo on average in reducing symptoms of disordered anxiety. However, 60-70% of people who take it without any other intervention see no relief from their symptoms. While these figures are consistent with many treatments in modern medicine, they suggest that a different approach must be taken in parallel, whether drug exploration or not.

Cold water exposure may help.

Taking a cold shower or swimming outdoors in cold weather as an anxiety remedy is somewhere between legal and alternative medicine. The crucial difference is what you claim it for.

In my experience, a quick soak in cold water outdoors will make it glow. It makes me feel good, calms the chatter in my head, and is very fun. Look at me, big and stupid, frozen in the river. It always makes me laugh, even when laughter comes between screams.

There is some evidence that controlled exposure to cold water helps normalize the hormonal cascade that is released under stress when adapting to shock. All I can say is that I’m crazy about them. It’s terrible at first, but I’ve never felt bad or regretted what I did afterwards.

The jury is still hallucinogenic.

There has been much interest in the use of psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA to help alleviate end-of-life anxiety and treatment-resistant depression in terminally ill patients. Exams are demanding. It is unclear whether hallucinogens are a necessary component because of the lack of reliable placebo results, the sample suffers from selection bias, and the need for intensive care.

The experience of taking the high doses of psilocybin used in this trial was obviously diversion (meeting with melting walls, jellyfish, translucent angels), but it was clearly not curative. Even the best results of the trial suggest that the benefits that appear to result in symptom relief in about one-third of cases are temporary. As a spiritual experience, traveling in safe and controlled conditions can prove profound and valuable. As an anxiety treatment, I was happy to try it, but it didn’t make me feel better.

Writing can have unexpected benefits

Obviously, if writing was therapeutic, then writers would be the happiest and calmest people on the planet. It turns out that the type of writing is important. Gratitude diaries are often positive psychology Although movement is considered one of the most strongly demonstrated interventions, several meta-analyses have shown that the putative benefit is weak or non-existent. At best, it may have a slight placebo effect on mood.

On the other hand, research writing about traumatic experiences can improve subjective well-being, health, immune response, and healing rates of 3mm punch biopsy wounds. definitively a psychologist James W. Pennebaker He said that the details of the event should be linked to the emotions of the time and the present. Ironically, in the process of writing my experiences into a book, I may have erred in powerful and free means of engaging with our challenging memories and emotions.

Be honest about how you feel

Author and anxiety therapist Mike Shel told me: People need to feel that someone gets what they struggle for.”

At the heart of anxiety is the message. An ancient sign that the organism – you – is in danger. Often the signal is wrong. No monsters under the bed, twisted snakes are just ropes. But I long for it and I want to hear it. There is a profound healing in being understood. From everything you went through, the emotions you had, the reality of your fights, the feeling that someone saw it, someone saw you and understood you. Finally, the message has been delivered. You can finally rest.

combination for me Small interventions like eating well, regular, challenging exercise, cold water swimming, and taking notes of your to-dos for the week made a big difference in not having to carry them around your head (and thus reducing your cognitive load). At the time of writing, I have had two and a half years without panic attacks. The most important thing was to write and talk honestly about the anxiety and deep shame I experienced. Words like vulnerability, connectedness are hammered into a pop psycho anvil so flatteringly that it’s hard to recognize the original wacky beauty, but recovery is almost inevitable when we can be ourselves in front of others and they accept us.

Cowardice: Why We Have Anxiety And What We Can Do About It Tim Clare’s book is published by Canongate (£16.99). Buy at £14.78. Guardian

‘My life was dominated by panic attacks’ | life and style

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