How to Live with and Overcome Panic Disorder and Anxiety

Don’t forget to breathe. Just relax. Focus. It will be okay. That is what learning how to beat panic attacks will teach you. However, it is easier said than done. I learned this fact first hand when panic attacks and anxiety silently took over my life and left me feeling lost and helpless. I eventually learned that a panic attack is an invisible acquired disability that does not care who you are, how important you or others might think you are, what you stand for, who loves you, or where you are. It will silently attack like an assassin, without notice, and leave you disarrayed and bewildered. Soon, the symptoms of anxiety might follow suit. An individual can be sitting in their car, shopping in the grocery store, at work, enjoying time with family and friends, or sitting alone. Panic attacks do not care about any of those things. Suddenly, the individual might experience being cold and hot simultaneously. As the brain puts the body and nervous system into alert mode, every breath becomes a challenge, the hands get sweaty, a lump in the throat seems to appear and to make breathing much more challenging, the legs feel like they will lose the strength in them and give out under the pressure, and all the individual might be able to think of is, taking cover to somehow find the virtual emergency exit as a rescue from the inner torture. “You are hit with a feeling of dread, and impending doom like you are going to die, go crazy, faint or lose control,” explains Dr. Tamar Chansky, a licensed psychologist, and Founder and Director of the Children’s and Adult Center for OCD and Anxiety in Plymouth Meeting, PA.

Just over twenty-five years ago, right after receiving my bachelor’s degrees, my initial experience with panic attacks was one of the most ferocious experiences I had ever had to endure in my life, up to that point. The day it happened was a typical day, and life was pleasantly happening for me like many other days I had experienced during my life. However, on this particular day, I was cutting grass in the yard, and suddenly I began to feel intense dizziness and cold sweats. Soon, my heart began to race profusely. I had never experienced anything like it. I drank some Gatorade and sat down for a while because I thought I might have gotten overheated or dehydrated. That was not the answer because it did not provide any relief. I was sweating, but I still had cold chills. The next day, I decided to go to the doctor for a check-up concerning the matter. I told the doctor I thought I was having a heart attack or something, and I mentioned the other symptoms I had as well. He examined me but diagnosed me as being entirely healthy. I thought to myself, “That cannot be true.” From that point forward, I began a long and scary three-year battle with panic attacks, anxiety, and depression.

Psychologically, my life seemed to be spiraling out of control, to a point to where I was not too happy with my life. During that time, I did not work, nor did I leave the comforts of my home much. I spent most of my time – day and night – feeling sorry for myself and wondering how I ended up in this state of being. While I was on that downward spiral, I also wondered how I had allowed many of the exciting things I treasured in life; things that I felt were within reach, to pass me by. My life was a wreck, or so it seemed. Virtually, I felt like a failure. My parents supported me. My father gave me encouraging words to try to keep my spirits up, but each day, my thoughts would eventually override his positive words, and I would end up back in a slump. Thankfully though, with a change of mindset, continuous research to educate myself on the topic of panic attacks and anxiety, and a bit of prayer and self-determination, I was able to recover fully. Yet, so many people are not able to make a full recovery without years of medication and therapeutic treatment.

To give you an idea of what a person who experiences life under the constant attack of panic and anxiety feels, I decided that it was probably best for me to share some simple research on the topic. According to C.B. Taylor, in his article on “Panic Disorder,” the key feature of panic disorder is repeated, unanticipated panic attacks, which eventually cause individuals to evade conditions or circumstances where they think an attack might occur, and in turn, the avoidance could very well limit the individual’s daily routine and overall lifestyle. Panic attacks are characterized by a distinct moment of constant distress or anxiety, that involves some or all of the symptoms listed in the table below, which can have an immediate and impactful effect within 10 minutes of onset:

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At one point or another, I basically experienced each symptom listed above during my three-year ordeal with panic disorder. Once I determined within myself that I had to find a way, somehow, to overcome the symptoms, I started thorough research on the topic to learn more about panic attacks. I figured out that many individuals who have depression also suffer from panic attacks. Also, panic disorder is linked to various invisible disabilities, like anxiety ailments. Taylor also indicated that nearly half of the individuals who have dealt with panic attacks during their lifetime will develop depression and other panic disorders, of some sort, which might cause them to misuse drugs or abuse alcohol to cope with their problems. This overcompensation can eventually lead to more damaging effects as life goes on.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), approximately 6 million adults in the United States suffer from panic disorder and recurring panic attacks, and women are affected more often than men. That is a remarkably high number. Yet, most adults suffer in silence, before getting treatment, and sometimes even after receiving treatment. When it came to the point to where I was fearful of everything, it caused me to withdraw from everyone else around me, more and more as time went along. After a while, I was afraid of being afraid. I felt shame. I felt weak and embarrassed. I felt more out of control than I did in control of my life. “Men are supposed to be vigorous and invincible,” or so goes the saying, but I clearly was not. From that point, fear took over, and eventually, living life each day became a terrifying experience. Soon, I began to panic more and I wonder when the next attack would hit me, what would it feel like, and I was curiously wondering if I was going to die. I could recall the exact place I was whenever I experienced every attack. I stored facts about each episode in my mind, and I tried to avoid all of those locations and situations. Eventually, that led me to sit in my room or lay in bed all day. I had an answer of “No” ready to use if any of my family members or friends asked me to participate in any kind of recreational or extracurricular activity. However, avoidance was the one thing I did not need because it only caused me to be more anxious and become better at making excuses instead of facing challenges.

jordan-bauer-265172Professional help is necessary for panic disorders. According to William R. Marchand, M.D., a psychiatrist and Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Utah School of Medicine, in his book “Mindfulness for Bipolar Disorder: How Mindfulness and Neuroscience Can Help You Manage Your Bipolar Symptoms,” evidence shows that “Most people will probably do best with either medication and psychotherapy or psychotherapy alone.” Also, psychologist, author, and speaker, Dr. Tamar Chansky suggests that to overcome panic disorder symptoms, individuals have to learn to “crack the code” of being afraid something dreadful and tragic is going to happen to them when they have a panic attack, despite the discomfort of the symptoms. However, to overcome the horrifying feelings associated with panic disorder, Dr. Marchand recommends antidepressants (Prozac, Celexa, Paxil, Effexor, and Cymbalta) as the best medical treatment; and the use of Benzodiazepines (works immediately) to help with severe symptoms. Normally, antidepressant medications could take several weeks before they begin to work as needed. However, C.B. Taylor feels that the most effective psychotherapy treatment for panic disorder, based on his years of research on the topic, is cognitive behavior therapy. With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, individuals are invigorated to use the symptoms that make them fearful and anxious as a significant therapeutic activity to help them get well, while in the comforts of a safe environment with a professional therapist.

As I learned while doing my own personal research years ago, for some individuals, all it takes is a simple method of retraining themselves to use slow but focused breathing. When done on a regular basis, an individual can learn how to relax by using deep breathing in a comfortable environment. For people with more severe symptoms, though, cognitive behavior therapy is recommended. Usually, these weekly sessions might extend from as little as seven hours to as much as fourteen hours, in increments of one to two hours each. Cognitive Behavior Therapy can be instrumental in helping an individual “Turn off the false alarms” that go off in their minds whenever there is a perceived threat of impending danger, instead of folding under the pressure of fear and uncertainty.

The symptoms of panic disorder are horrific to experience. However, what is worst is, living in fear, and perceiving things as a potential threat when it is not. I overcame the symptoms. I was able to get to a point in my life to where I felt in control again. I started working a full-time job, after being afraid to be around crowds or closed spaces. I got my driver’s license and bought a car, after being afraid to be on busy highways. I went back to doing outside activities, after being worried about going out in the sun because I thought it was a direct threat to my well-being. I realized fear of all those things kept me in a state of bondage. I also realized, an individual cannot live a life of freedom and happiness, and at the same time, live in constant fear that the worst is about to happen at every given moment. The healing process takes inner strength. It takes having the willingness to allow yourself to know it is okay to be uncomfortable in certain situations but also to have good mechanisms of being able to cope with whatever happens.

Reference: Psych Central – “Living With Panic Attacks” (July 16, 2017)

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Be Positive and Have Faith for Better Days in Your Life

“Be brave enough to live the life of your dreams according to your vision and purpose instead of the expectations and opinions of others.” ~ Roy T. Bennett

Nothing is impossible. The struggles and trials you are trying to overcome in life might be hard, but they certainly are not impossible to get through.

Each new day presents its own set of challenges. No two days will be the same. You have to wake up each day, decisive and determined to be cheerful and happy, with the mindset and faith that you can overcome whatever challenges life might present to you. It does not matter what situation you might find yourself in – day by day – your attitude of faith, and how you approach life are the determining factors of how your life will turn out in the end.

Take the caterpillar as an example. The caterpillar can fly, but not as a caterpillar – only as a butterfly. As a caterpillar, it has the potential to be something special, but it must go through a process (metamorphosis) first, before it is transformed into a butterfly with the ability to fly. Like the butterfly, you too will have to go through a period of transformation, so GOD can move you from crawling in the sand, to soaring like a butterfly. However, one thing is for sure, you cannot change or go through transformation and become a better you, without going through the process. Life is a journey. You might want to reach the destination immediately and enjoy the end result, but if that were to happen, you would have little appreciation of it, because it will not bring the joy you seek. Remember, “no pain no gain.” Change is necessary. Only when you are tested and tried in fire… can you shine like pure gold.

Butterfly

Your life is precious! Be proud of it. It may not be perfect, but you are still alive with a chance to make it as close to perfect as you hope for it to be. Detach yourself from yesterday’s disappointments. Be positive and have faith. Live on… while you are still alive.

Never Get Comfortable With Being Afraid

“Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.” ~ Denis Waitley

The fear of taking risks that exists inside you will never go away. Therefore, you must learn how to make choices that will help you overcome fear. As you grow, you must also come to the point to where you never get comfortable with being afraid to do something daily, that will be beneficial for your growth.

Many times, fear in the form of negative self-talk can be your worst enemy. Self-talk, in the form of negative thoughts, can cause you to say some mean things to yourself, things you would never say to a friend or loved one, or even to a total stranger on the street.

• “I’m not good enough.”
• “I always mess things up.”
• “It won’t work, because everything I try to do, always ends up in failure.”

Negative self-dialogue like the ones mentioned above will make you lie to yourself, and eventually cause you to develop the thought pattern of always seeing yourself with a critical eye, rather than living by faith the way GOD intended for you to live.

Each day, you must remind yourself that, you cannot wear mismatched shoes. A shoe of faith and a shoe of fear. Neither will pair with the other. One shoe – faith – will help you grow spiritually and naturally in ways that might seem impossible to others. At the same time, the other shoe – fear – will hold you back from ever finding your happy place in life, because you will always live in a state of wonder, afraid to make moves or act, because you will be too scared to step outside your comfort zone.

No more “mismatched” shoes. You cannot walk in fear and faith at the same time and get positive results. Pull off the shoe of fear, and place the other shoe of faith on your foot, and then both feet will be equipped to catapult you into action to be able to live the beautiful life GOD intended for you to live. That place does not exist, however, inside your comfort zone.

Your comfort zone is a myth. Do not be afraid of moving forward. The best results that will bring you happiness exists in situations that will take you beyond your comfort zone. The situations will not force you to do anything. The choice to step out on faith in GOD will be the determining factor in whether you succeed or fail.

Therefore, never allow your faith to take root in one place. Move forward. Faith needs to walk more than it stands. GOD works outside of your comfort zone. Be willing to let go of what makes you afraid so that you can have a better life. You will still be you. Change is good. Change can make you happy.

Each day, it is important to remember that, life has put you in the driver’s seat and you can travel in any direction you choose. But, being better, having better, and living better will require strategic moves – in the right direction. Choose the path of faith. Take off the mismatched shoes of faith and fear. Walk by faith, in matching shoes of course.

Loosen up and enjoy life

“Live, Laugh, and Love” more. Today is the only day today will happen. Therefore, do not get worked up because everything involving your dreams and your life have not worked themselves out to perfection thus far in life. Be happy you still have life and the ability to keep trying.

There are times when you have to look up and say, “LORD, Be Pleased With Me… even when I am not pleased with me.” The next time you get a moment to talk to GOD, try having this conversation of appreciation and thankfulness. See if it will inspire you to keep going…..

LORD, I don’t know how long I will have these eyes,
but while I have them, help me to see YOU clearly.

I don’t know how long I will have my right mind,
but while I have it, help me to always think on YOU.

I don’t know how long I will have hearing in my ears,
but while I have it, help me to hear YOUR voice clearly.

I don’t know how long I will have speech in my mouth,
but while I have it, help me to praise YOU from my lips.

I don’t know how long I will have movement in my hands,
but while I have it, help me to keep them raised to YOU.

I don’t know how long I will have bending in me knees,
but while I do, help me to kneel before YOU in prayer.

I don’t know how long I will have steps in my feet,
but while I do, help me to continuously walk with YOU.

I don’t know how long I will have beating in my heart,
but while I do, help me to show love to YOU, and to all mankind.

Even when I do not appreciate everything. Let this be the day I fully appreciate you, GOD.

Focus on What Matters. “Awesomeness” Requires Purpose

Never spend the day being angry. Always spend the day being Awesome. Be free. It’s your choice. Don’t allow what’s happening around you, to get the best of you and weigh you down. Stay focused. Awesomeness requires purpose. However, in order to have purpose you must keep your eyes on GOD and keep the determination to keep pushing beyond all obstacles and doubts.

Just because something shows up at your door, it doesn’t mean you should drop everything and give it your undivided attention. You can’t deal with everything all at the same time. Some things will have to wait. Therefore, try as much as possible to not allow anything to disturb your awesomeness.

If it’s not your weight… don’t try to carry it. You have your own burdens to deal with. Sure… Be Nice. Be a friend. Be kind. But don’t ever spend… or waste your precious time trying to deal with things that will not bring any value to your life.

Don’t allow people to dump on you. Don’t let people load you down, and overwhelm you with something that’s not your business to deal with. No when to say yes, and be okay with saying no. Awesomeness requires time. However, if you are giving all your time away policing everything for everyone else, or nursing your problems, you won’t have time to be awesome. Sometimes it’s a hard choice, but it’s a hard choice worth facing head on. Whatever you do, make sure that, in the end, it allows you to be awesome. FINISH!

Be Patient. You Can’t Control When Storms Come

Trust GOD’s ability. Patience is power! It defines you… and it proves how much faith you have in GOD. So whatever you want… don’t chase it or run after it. There’s no need to do so. If GOD intends for you to have something… it’s already destined that HE will give it to you. No worries. In all things… BE PATIENT!

Personal problems can sometimes make you feel like the world is about to end, although it really is not. Whenever you are going through trials, however, it’s easy for your mind to wander off into a state of fear… and get caught up in thinking, “My life is useless and nothing good will ever happen for me.” Yet, that is simply not true. You are not useless. Good things will happen for you. In order good things to happen, though, you can’t lose hope, you have to change your mindset, and you have to do other necessary things to actually turn your life around, to help make happiness possible.

Everyone goes through storms at some point in life. And in no way, can we control when the storms will come. However, it’s good to be prepared for when they do come… and it is good to be patient during the storm. A spiritual storm, just like natural storms, allows GOD to do His work in us. GOD uses trials to build our: Patience, Faith, Character, Endurance, and Strength.

It’s useless, then, to get grumpy and irritated with GOD when you’re going through storms. Although GOD doesn’t need your permission to take you through storms, trials and tribulations… it’s still good to give GOD your full cooperation, because GOD will not build your character without your cooperation, and He will not work within you without your permission.

Someone once said, “When GOD permits His children to go through the furnace, He keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat.” I guess they were trying to say… GOD knows the pulse of every person He created. He knows what each of us can take… even when we think we can’t take it. GOD never puts more on us than we can bear to carry within us.

Find Your Favorite Crayon… and Color

Find your favorite crayon… and color. Be free to do it. Be carefree about it. Enjoy it. You might get excited about what it can show and teach you. Try it. You’re free to live!

The crayons you have to color with are okay. Don’t wait for a new box of “Crayons” before you start coloring. Color with the broken ones. Broken crayons come in different colors. They might be old and broken, but they are still useful enough to give you variety in your life… until GOD blesses you with new ones. Color……………

So what if everyone else has a new box of “Crayons”. Don’t stop living your best life because you don’t have what you want…. Treat the old… like it’s new. Love what you have until you get what you want. It can work wonders for you. Pray over it. Let GOD be in it… and HE will give you what you need to bring about increase.

Your Crayons are your gifts and talents. GOD stored them inside you for good use at some point. So, “Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling… but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just start.”

If your “Crayons” are broken, it will give you more pieces to use. So continue to color. Color in your life. Fill the gaps with what you have… to keep your life from being empty. Watch it make a difference. It will. For sure……………….. It’s up to you. FINISH.