The most common solution for panic attacks according to some people are anti-anxiety drugs. However they’ve been reported many times to have bad side-effects which is why we have to turn to natural alternatives in times like these.
Panic attacks are usually characterized with a shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, uncontrollable dizziness, nausea, trembling, sweating and tightness in the throat. Although they’re a scary experience, they can’t really kill you and usually last from 10 to 30 minutes.
Literally anyone can be a victim of an isolated panic attack during times of great stress, however if you’re frequently experiencing panic attacks then you might be suffering from a condition called “panic disorder”. It can sound scary but it isn’t anything that can’t be managed with a long-term drug therapy.
Local doctors and psychiatrists’ first move is to prescribe anti-anxiety drugs such as Klonopin and Xanax as well as antidepressants such as Paxil and Prozac in situations like these. However, it is important to note that antidepressants can have some harmful side-effects and can sometimes result in opposite results such as extreme anxiety. These drugs should always be used in a short term treatment followed by therapy in order to determine the root and the cause of the anxiety and stress and efficiently eliminate it.
The situations that trigger the panic and fear as well as the patterns of thought can be recognized with the help of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT specializes in taking note of what is going on around you, recognizing the stressful behaviours, situations and thoughts, and changing them before experiencing a panic attack. For example, if you’re a survivor of a plane crash or a car accident, every time you hear the screeching of the tires of a car or you feel a plane bump while flying, your mind starts rushing around, becoming overwhelmed with bad memories and thoughts and fear spirals out of control. CBT teaches you to recognize these destructive thought patterns and completely switch them with healthier thoughts such as “I’ve lived through this before and I can do it again” or “I’ll be fine once this is over”. Shortly put, it will teach you how to protect yourself and calm yourself down in stressful situations. The best ways to control the thought patterns and calm yourself down is to control your breathing. As soon as you notice you’re panicking, focus on each breath and breathe slowly. Breathing fast will increase your heart rate and make the adrenalin kick in, but if you’re breathing slowly, it will calm your body down by activating the parasympathetic nervous system which sends calming signals to our brain.
The Mind-Body Connection
A relaxed body has a profound effect on the nervous system. This can be accomplished with a few different relaxation methods and techniques which involve progressive muscular relaxation (such as tensing and releasing specific muscle groups in our body). These exercises include meditation, biofeedback and others with a common goal of balancing the fight-or-flight response of our nervous system with a parasympathetic activity which slows down your heart rate but at the same time lowers your blood pressure, warms your hands and creates an overall feeling of calmness and relaxation.
The intensity and frequency of panic attacks can also be reduced with regular exercise as it increases the capacity of the brain to deal with stress but at the same time stimulates the production of the serotonin – the calming neurotransmitter. It is recommended that you do aerobic exercises for 30 minutes a day (running or speed-walking) as well as an hour of martial arts, yoga or tai chi.
While we’re on this topic, it is worth noting that certain foods are known for provoking panic while others palliate and prevent it. Such panic-causing foods are black tea or coffee and all caffeinated. Diets high in sugars as well as simple carbohydrates are also known for stimulating the output of adrenalin and insulin and cause the blood sugar to drop which heightens the fight-or-flight response and boosts the output of cortisol and adrenalin.
On the other hand, foods high in complex carbs such as lentils, brown rice and fresh vegetables as well as proteins help maintain overall stable blood sugar levels. The high levels of taurine in dairy products also increase the amount of GABA in the body which stabilizes the nervous system. It is highly recommended for people who suffer panic attacks to replace their daily dose of coffee with green tea as it contains L-theanine which relaxes both the body and the mind.
In addition to this, GABA can be taken as a supplement form as well. Taking GABA will improve your symptoms but it won’t permanently solve them. You will still need to address these physiological and psychological issues that cause panic and unease. Start off by taking 250 mg of GABA two times a day followed by a multivitamin 50 mg and vitamin B. The use of GABA will help the body cope with anxiety and stress.