Controlling Your Anxiety: Managing Panic Attacks in a Residential Treatment Setting
The feeling of suffocation that defines panic attacks can feed into the cycle that underlies Panic Disorder, exacerbating its symptoms. But in the proper residential treatment setting, you can learn breathing techniques, diet tips, and how to harness thought process awareness to better understand your feelings of panic. Ultimately, you can learn to look past fear and focus on the positive potential in your life waiting to be experienced.
Every venture into the outside world is preceded by a sense of apprehension that eventually peaks when you finally decide to leave your home. Whether you’re going out to buy groceries, making your way to a friends house, or heading to work, the feeling that you’re going to have a panic attack feels inescapable and completely destroys your sense of control.
Sound familiar? Although fear is a natural human experience—an emotion that evolved as mechanism to alert us to events that threaten our safety and life—in certain cases, such as in those with Panic Disorder, this emotion and the regions of the brain that govern it can fall victim to dysfunction, causing it to detract from, rather than protect, the lives of those experiencing it.
If you’re living with such symptoms, know that there is hope out there for you, and you can live a life free from the clutches of panic. Plenty of tools are available for controlling the problems at the root of your Panic Disorder, and these tools can help you be learned in residential treatment and help you take the first step toward recovery.
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One of the biggest benefits of residential treatment is the network of connections that you will have to medical professionals who are experienced in treatment modalities that focus on breathing regulation, such as yoga and meditation. Breathing techniques are some of the most important tools for controlling your anxiety, and two notable ones include:
- Slow breathing. Despite the common misconception that deep breaths are the best way to calm your nerves, in the case of a panic attack this is actually the opposite of what you should do. The suffocating feeling that you experience during a panic attack that seems to exacerbate its symptoms is not due to a lack of oxygen, it’s due to a lack of carbon dioxide that stems from exhaling too much air. Thus the best form of breathing to keep yourself calm during a panic attack is slow, shallow breathing.
- The 7:11 Breathing Pattern. If you’re having a difficult time taking control of your breathing, sit down, close your eyes, and take the time to become aware of your breathing. This is best accomplished by breathing in while counting to seven, and then breathing out while counting to eleven. Through practice, you will be able to use this technique to curb your anxiety levels and it will become second nature during panic attacks.
- Alternate nostril breathing. Another effective way of managing your breathing during panic attacks is through alternate nostril breathing. This is accomplished by using one of your fingers to cover one of your nostrils, and then inhaling and exhaling once through the uncovered nostril. After this, repeat the same procedure, but cover the other nostril instead.
Controlling Anxiety Through Diet
Diet plays a role in the progression and treatment of many mental health challenges, including depression, and Panic Disorder is no different. Many foods, chemicals, and nutrient deficiencies have been linked to panic attacks, and becoming aware of them (as well as discovering healthy alternatives) is the first step towards taking control of your panic attacks.
What to Remove from Your Diet
- Caffeine. Although caffeine does not induce anxiety in everyone, multiple studies have confirmed that it can increase anxiety in certain populations of people. If you suffer from a Panic Disorder, avoiding caffeine is in your best interest as it has been identified as a common factor in more frequent panic attacks.
- Wheat bran. With high levels of phytic acid, absorption of anti-anxiety chemicals such as zinc is hindered, meaning it is not ideal for people struggling with anxiety.
- Tofu contains high levels of copper, a mineral that has been linked to heightened levels of anxiety.
What to Include in Your Diet
- Vitamin C. B vitamins encompass everything from thiamine, pyridoxine, and niacinamide, all of which are vital for the proper functioning of the nervous system. They have also been implicated in anxiety reduction due to their ability to regulate the body’s lactate levels, which can increase the likelihood of a panic attack.
- Vitamin C can also decrease anxiety due to its role in the maintenance of regular brain chemistry, and can even create a tranquilizing effect that reduces anxiety.
- Omega-3 fatty acids regulate cortisol and adrenaline levels during the moments when your panic is at its worst, making it a great choice for an anxiety-reducing diet.
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Thought Process Awareness
Because the root of panic attacks is an irrational fear, coming to terms with this irrationality is extremely important for the progression of your recovery. One of the most widely supported theories for the cause of Panic Disorder is an increased activity of the amygdala, the structure in the brain that governs fear. For example, when experiencing a car crash or other stressful situation that puts you in danger, your amygdala levels skyrocket and give you a sense of focus to help you survive the dangers accompanying such situations.
Using tools such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), you can work with an experienced therapist who will help you learn how to pull yourself out of panic during your episodes and remember the irrationality of it. This therapy includes a combination of various therapeutic techniques, including mindfulness, where you learn to experience unpleasant emotions without reacting negatively to them, and cognitive restructuring, which focuses on replacing anxiety-producing thought patterns with adaptive ways of thinking. The idea is to build self-awareness and promote a simple truth—that the fear that seems so crippling doesn’t have to be, and that you can come to terms with it, accept it, and move forward through the situation without letting it hinder your ability to live the life you want to live.
Looking Past Fear
Attempting to cope with Panic Disorder on your own can be a scary, isolating experience. You might feel as though there is no hope for a life without fear, but with the right comprehensive residential treatment, you will receive the tools and support needed to give you the confidence, comfort, and motivation to face your Panic Disorder.
You will work with professionals that have helped countless others who faced and overcame the same challenges that you’re facing now, and learn how your illness is influencing your life—and how to reduce its impact. Ultimately, you will leave treatment with a renewed sense of life and a network of support available to continue helping you move forward even after treatment.
Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive residential treatment for people struggling with Panic Disorder. Contact us to learn more about how you can learn to cope with the root causes of your Panic Disorder and look past the fears that are clouding your life.
Lead Image Source: Unsplash user Joseph Young