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How to Deal with Anxiety and Panic

Dr. Cate Howell

We all experience feelings of anxiety regularly – it is a normal emotion, very much related to fear.

It is often about something that might happen in the future, and may be described as a feeling of impending danger. Anxiety is actually there to protect us, so that we can respond to danger when needed. But sometimes it becomes a problem when it is persistent and severe, or interfering with our daily lives. We might experience generalised anxiety and find ourselves worrying about many things consistently, or we might experience more acute episodes of panic, with heart palpitations, breathlessness, sweating, nausea or light headedness. In fact, 14.4% of Australian adults will experience significant anxiety over one year, and 1.4-2.9% will experience recurrent panic episodes.

Let’s focus on panic, as it can involve unexpected and intense fear. When talking with a client about panic, we find out more about the panic attacks and the person’s background, and we do some tests to rule out medical causes of the symptoms. We also check whether the panic attacks are leading to disability, and in particular avoidance of doing usual activities. For example, if a person has a panic attack in the car, then they might avoid driving the car, or if they have one at the shops, they may not want to go to those shops again for fear of having another one.

It is important to find out the underlying fears in panic, as some people worry that the physical symptoms are signs of illness, or that they might pass out, or even die. Some people worry about how other people are going to react when they have a panic attack, and that they might not be supportive. The first thing that can help is information, as it can relieve fear. The individual can understand what is happening in their bodies and minds, and myths such as, “I’m going to lose it,” can be debunked. There are a range of psychological treatments that can be helpful, including working with thoughts that are not helpful, and relaxation and breathing techniques. In particular, abdominal or slow breathing is helpful.

With slow breathing, put one hand on the abdomen and the other on the chest. Be aware of the air moving in through the nose or mouth and down into the chest, then be aware of it as you breathe out. Breathe into the chest and down to the abdomen, so that both hands move as you breathe (the chest and tummy move out as you breathe in). Breathe at a gentle rate with one breath taking about 5-6 seconds, so “in, two, three, out, two, three”. Take medium breaths, rather than big or small breaths, and as you become more confident, you might like to say as you breathe out, “out, relax, let go” or “out, peace, calm”.

Remember that the panic does not define who you are, and that there are times when you have taken a stand against the panic.

Some people find carrying a written card in their purse/wallet useful, with words such as; “I know this is panic and I know what to do, breathe slowly and relax, it will pass and I will be fine.” If you need some assistance, see your GP and they may suggest that you see a psychologist or counsellor. Looking after your general lifestyle (nutrition, exercise, sleep), doing yoga or tai chi, and having regular massages or reiki can help. Plus, be less critical of yourself and focus on kind thoughts about yourself which may also assist.

There are some helpful resources, including:

  • “Release Your Worries, A guide to letting go of stress and anxiety,” by C Howell and M Murphy (book and CD)
  •  See my website www.drcatehowell.com.au for further information on anxiety and upcoming webinar series on “Release Your Worries.”
  • Centre for Clinical Interventions (www.cci.health.wa.gov.au): provides a wide variety of mental health information and resources.
  • Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression (CRUfAD) http://www.crufad.org/index.php/about has a wide range of information and resources.

 

Click here to read what Cate has to say about Post Natal Depression.

 

dealing with anxiety and panicDr Cate Howell OAM CSM is a medical practitioner, therapist, educator and author. She has clinics at Gilberton (moving to Myrtle Bank in December) and Goolwa, focussing on counselling, mental health and wellbeing. Cate has written two books to date; “Keeping the blues away” about depression, and “Release Your Worries” on stress and anxiety. Further information about Cate and the practices, a blog and helpful information are available on her website www.drcatehowell.com.au

10 Parenting Rules – and I broke them all

cosleeping with my firstborn

Confession.

I was one self-righteous, know-it-all bitch Before Children [BC]. It’s true. I knew it ALL. Anything wrong with a kid? It’s their mum’s fault. Sometimes their dad’s. But mainly mum… because she CHOSE the dad after all. In my, far from humble, opinion parents were entirely responsible for everything their kids did, thought, said and broke.

And I knew WHY. Those parents didn’t FOLLOW THE RULES. There are rules in parenting that will guarantee a perfect child. Simple rules that I would often remind parents, even when they hadn’t asked, to help them. To guide them. To fix their brat.

Rules I swore to myself I would uphold. As the perfect parent embarking on raising the perfect child. *Insert wild, unhinged laughter here.

#1 – I will not use a dummy

It took me less than a week to let go of that one. Oh sweet, sweet dummy. How I loved the feel of you in my hand as I groped in the bassinet next to the bed under the blanket of darkness in the dead of the night to plug the screaming hole of my first born son. I brought a packet of them to hospital when my second son was born. I BEGGED him to take it. I tried every shape and size, even coating them in breast milk to TRICK HIM INTO SUCKING IT. Be careful what you wish you for. Turns out with number two I WAS the dummy. Take that you pious bitch.

#2 – My child will never sleep in the same bed as me

It’s the second night of my life as a new mum and the midwife offers to take my screaming newborn to the nursery with all the other babies so I can get some sleep. ‘Ok’ I said as I watched her wheel him out of my room, ripping my heart out as she did. He was gone 15 minutes before I went to get him. This is how Mark found me when he got to the hospital in the morning. I promised myself it was just to get us through that one night.

Ahem. You know that feeling when you haven’t slept for 3 months and you’ve got up so many times in the night that you can’t remember putting the baby back to bed… where is the baby?? Did I feed him last time or just change his nappy? Did I feed on both boobs, or the same one twice? Why is he crying? Shhhhhh… rock, rock…. shhhhhhh… rock, rock…. shhhhhh rock, rock. Oh forget it, just lay next to me. THAT was how I broke rule #2 at home. And how, 8 years later, I simply just move over when I hear the sound of my 5 year old’s bare feet padding down the hall to my room in the middle of the night. He’s warm and cuddly. It gets a bit crowded when the 8 year old joins us every now and then, but I don’t turn him away either. Still feeling smug Tan?

#3 – I will not ‘pick my battles’. Every battle is worth it… and they need to learn that I’m the boss

Aahahahahahahaha. Ow, my sides are splitting. Dear BC TAN. You were an idiot. There are sooo many battles that have never been fought, won or lost here. Yes, you can wear your swim rashy on top of your jumper because it matches your rubber boots to the shop. Why not? Yes, you can take every teddy bear you own to bed because they will be sad without you tonight. Of course. No, you don’t have to eat the toast that I accidentally cut into triangles instead of squares. I understand it doesn’t taste the same. Just don’t cross me at bed time. That’s not negotiable. Most of the time.

#4 – I will not use food as currency to bribe my child

Well… what kind of values does that teach? I never understood the power of a promised [insert biscuit/yoghurt squeezy/ice-block/cupcake/smiley-face biscuit here] to ‘encourage’ a wilful kid to do just about anything really. Parenting Tip: carrying around any number of those bribes in your oversized handbag can make or break a public outing.

#5 – I will only feed my child organic, additive-free food

What?? Best intentions and all that…. My kids actually eat well. I’ve been pretty good at keeping their diet healthy. Additive-free is a stretch though and only organic? I’d have to take out a second mortgage to pull that one off. I have fed them McDonalds too. Oh the shame….

#6 – I will limit my child’s television viewing to no more than 30 mins per day

Oh don’t look at me like that. How was I to know that I would do anything to have an uninterrupted telephone conversation or cook dinner without tiny ‘helping’ hands or do a poo on my own or just sit and be quiet?? And with the new ABC stations there’s ALL DAY kids shows WITHOUT COMMERCIALS. The cheapest babysitting you’ll ever find. And you get to have a perve-fest on Sportacus. Eye candy eating sports candy… hmmmmm.

#7 – I will not ‘give in’ to my child’s constant nagging for something at the supermarket cash register

Unless I’m on my own with the kids and everyone looking has a grimace/scowl/frown/look of pain or pity on their faces. Oh wait. That’s every time.

#8 – My house will always be spotless… because that’s all I have to do. Look after my child and clean my house. Easy.

Yes, I’m shaking my head in disbelief too. One time while the tv was babysitting so I could enjoy one of my uninterrupted phone conversations, my, single, super-neat friend said to me “I spent all morning cleaning and my floors are so spotless you could eat off them” I looked around in despair and replied “You could eat off mine too… ‘cause that’s where all the fucking food is”

#9 – I will never yell at my child. Yelling is just a loss of control reserved for incapable mums

Yes. I was deluded. I yell at the tv when someone’s annoying. I yell at bad drivers on the road and cyclists who forget that they’re sharing the road with bad drivers. I yell at my mum, my sister, my brother, my husband. I yell at the PLAYROOM when it’s in a mess. I yell at weeds when I pull them out and the root breaks off and stays in the fucking ground. I yell at my cupboard if I’m out of coffee. How the hell I thought I would EVER not yell at my kids, who drive me insane, still astounds me. I yell. They look alive. I buy myself 2 minutes peace. They go back to whatever it is. It’s a loud, predictable dance.

#10 – My child will not dictate my schedule. They will fit into my life, not the other way around

Oh.. shut up.

This post originally appeared at Seventies Baby – a gloves-off perspective of womanhood, parenting and modern family life in a world obsessed with being perfect and politically correct. It has been republished with full permission.

You can (and should!) follow the blog on Facebook here.

 

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