Category: Anxiety

Managing a Panic Attack

Should I Avoid Thinking About my Panic Attack?

 

Is it possible to manage a panic attack? Yes, but maybe not the way you think. If you’ve never suffered the terrible experience of a panic attack you may think trying to not think about it is the answer. This can typically lead to a worsening of symptoms, making one’s anxiety even stronger. So what do you do?

First of all, how do you even know if you’re having a panic attack? I’d bet most people who’ve experienced them would say “how could you not!?”

The hallmark of a panic attack or panic disorder is the experience of sudden and sometimes repeated bouts of extreme fear that last several minutes or more. It can feel like an eternity, although most don’t last more than ten minutes. They can, however, keep happening; making it feel like the panic has completely taken control. The attacks are characterized by heightened feelings of terror, disaster or losing control, even when there is no immediate threat.

Scientifically speaking, a panic disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by repeated and sudden attacks of intense fear and anxiety. Many people suffering a panic attack describe their experiences in similar ways. Typical symptoms include:

  • Pounding Heart
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or Shaking
  • Feeling Faint
  • Fear of dying
  • Fear of going crazy
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear that one is having a heart attack

While researchers have not determined a specific cause of panic disorder, many doctors believe it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In addition to biological factors, researchers are also investigating how stress may play a role. It is not uncommon for a major life event, even a pleasant one, to trigger a panic attack. Events like birth of a child, planning a wedding, job stress, buying a new house, changing jobs, an accident, divorce or death of a loved one may cause one to have an attack-even if they have never experienced one before. While some people can identify their triggers for a panic attack, they often, unfortunately, come on suddenly. One of the biggest sources of panic is fear of having another one!

 

So what can you do if you feel you are experiencing a panic attack?

 

As with most mental health issues, panic disorder is typically treated by psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both. If one is unable to get outside resources quickly, there are coping skills you can practice and utilize on your own should you find yourself unable to calm yourself down. These are in no particular order and some may work better than others. Find what works best for you.

  • Acknowledge that you are having a panic attack. Just acknowledge it. Sometimes it is helpful to talk to yourself in a calming manner. “I’m fine. I’m experiencing a panic attack. I am not in danger”.
  • To take step 1 a little further, acknowledge that you are safe. Remind yourself of this.
  • Practice inhaling from your diaphragm and exhaling through your nose. This will help slow your breath and your heart rate.
  • Hold ice. This can divert your attention away from the panic attack.
  • Smell soothing scents. Lavender and Bergamot are known to be calming.
  • Go for a run. Jump in place. Anything that gets your heart rate up. This can create a healthy association to your elevated heart.
  • Remind yourself that this will pass. Feelings are not facts. Anxiety will diminish in time.
  • Look up “Yoga, legs up the wall pose”. This pose supports blood flow in the chest and stomach, helping to reduce your heart rate.
  • Walk outside
  • Engage in conversation. Distract yourself. Participating in a conversation makes it more difficult to focus on the panic.
  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Download a mindfulness meditation, or better yet find one free on YouTube.
  • Engage your five senses. Find 5 things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.
  • Again, breathe.

If you find yourself continuing to struggle with panic attacks, know that you are not alone. Millions of people suffer from them every day. More importantly, millions of people get through them every day. Practicing coping skills, receiving psychotherapy and or taking medication can drastically reduce or completely end your struggle with panic attacks. Find out what works best for you. If you’ve found methods that have helped get you through panic attacks, methods that I have not mentioned here, I’d love to hear about them! Please feel free to share your comments in the space below.


Lindsay Melka LPC Empathic Counseling and Therapy Denver

Lindsay Melka, LPC

Empathic Counseling and Therapy


If you connected with this post and would like to speak with me please call 720-295-5490 or contact me here.

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking Free from a Depressed and or Anxious cycle

How do you get things done when you’re feeling depressed, anxious or unmotivated? It’s hard enough for folks who don’t struggle with the depression or anxiety! If you’ve been in counseling before or not, I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve heard someone, maybe even your mom or spouse tell you “Just get up and do something. You’ll feel better”. Yes, this is typically said with good intent, but it doesn’t always help and sometimes, it can even make us feel worse. Most people know that getting up and exercising or doing some chores just DOING ANYTHING will probably make them feel better, but it’s… just..too…hard.

 

There are Solutions

There are tools that can get us back on our feet and out of our rut but it takes will and it takes effort. Let’s talk about what the hardest part of using these tools are first-you know, get it out of the way. So here it goes: you have to be willing to feel some discomfort in order to feel some relief. That’s it.

 

Let me explain

Example: You want to stay in bed because the thought of getting out of bed is so incredibly anxiety provoking that you avoid the anxiety by staying in bed. Your basically relying on your mood to make decisions for you. You’re what is called being “mood dependent”. You rely on your mood for guidance and chances are if you’re depressed your mood is telling you to do the opposite of what you should do.

Your behavior does not need to be guided by your mood. That’s pretty great news if you think about it!  Just because your mind is telling you you’re sad, does not mean that you have to stay sad and engage in activities (or non-activities really) that are contributing to your sadness.

So What Do You Do?

You practice mood independence. This is where the discomfort piece I mentioned earlier comes in. When you don’t want to get out of bed, you can. There is a choice here. You can and should do the opposite of what your crappy mood is telling you to do. That’s the trick. The more you’re  willing to be uncomfortable and do the healthy things you’ve been avoiding, the sooner you’ll pull yourself out of your rut. If you wake up tomorrow and you don’t want to get out of bed but you do, and you do something meaningful, responsible, healthy etc. you WILL feel better. Chances are you’ll have more hope that you’ll be able to do this again the next day and the next day so on and so forth. Some days it won’t be so easy and you’ll want to pull the covers over your head and avoid the day. And that’s okay. This stuff takes work. The idea is a simple one but it is certainly not easy.

 

You Do Not Have to Act According to How You Feel

You can not want to walk the dog and do it anyway. You can laugh with a friend when you’re sad. Your behavior can be totally different than your mood. Eventually your mood follows and gets used to living life with peace and enjoyment again.

 

One More Tool (my favorite) 

Just imagine how you’ll feel after you do the very thing you’re avoiding. Is it worth feeling really uncomfortable if it means you’ll get to feel better? It’s worth a try.


Lindsay Melka LPC Empathic Counseling and Therapy Denver

Lindsay Melka, LPC

Empathic Counseling and Therapy


If you connected with this post and would like to speak with me please call 720-295-5490 or contact me here.

 

 

Signs That You May Have an Anxiety Disorder

Your Struggle With Anxiety Has Cost You

Maybe it has cost you time, energy, deep and painful regret, financial burden, lost moments, lost celebrations, restricted freedom, missed opportunities and damaged or strained relationships with those whom you love and trust.  Below is a list of common things people do and feel when they struggle with anxiety and fear. Look it over. Do any of these apply to you? If so, you may have an anxiety disorder and could find relief in participating in counseling.

  • Avoiding situations or activities that bring on anxious thoughts, feelings and memories (e.g. going to a party, speaking at a meeting, going outside, being in a crowd, experiencing a new situation, driving, working)
  • Signs of a Anxiety Disorder, Lindsay Melka, Empathic Counseling and Therapy Denver COFeeling constantly overwhelmed
  • Fear of losing control
  • Distracting yourself from anxiety, fear and worrisome thoughts
  • Being in a state of uneasiness, apprehension; as about future uncertainties
  • A heightened fear of what people think of you
  • Self-doubt and low self-esteem
  • Fear resulting from anticipation about realistic or fantasized threatening event or situation
  • Fear of dying
  • Feeling like you’re going crazy
  • Inability to rest; sleep problems
  • Heart palpitations
  • Stomach aches and or nausea
  • Neck tension or headaches

Although the above list includes common symptoms, this is by no means an exhaustive list. A more thorough and formal explanation of what an anxiety disorder looks like can be found in the DSM-V (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). For example, some of the diagnostic criteria includes:

The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least 6 months and is clearly excessive.

Excessive worry means worrying even when there is nothing wrong, or in a manner that is disproportionate to actual risk. This typically involves spending a high percentage of waking hours worrying about something. The worry may be accompanied by reassurance-seeking from others.

In adults, the worry can be about job responsibilities or performance, one’s own health or the health of family members, financial matters, and other everyday, typical life circumstances. Of note, in children, the worry is more likely to be about their abilities or the quality of their performance (for example, in school).

The worry is experienced as very challenging to control.

Worry in both adults and children may shift from one topic to another.

The anxiety and worry is associated with at least 3 of the following physical or cognitive symptoms (In children, only 1 symptom is necessary for a diagnosis of GAD.):

  1. Edginess or restlessness.
  2. Tiring easily; more fatigued than usual.
  3. Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank.
  4. Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others).
  5. Increased muscle aches or soreness.
  6. Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep).

Many individuals with GAD also experience symptoms such as sweating, nausea or diarrhea.

The anxiety, worry, or associated symptoms make it hard to carry out day-to-day activities and responsibilities. They may cause problems in relationships, at work, or in other important areas.

These symptoms are unrelated to any other medical conditions and cannot be explained by the effect of substances including a prescription medication, alcohol or recreational drugs.

These symptoms are not better explained by a different mental disorder. (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)

Effective therapy and counseling can significantly reduce or eliminate symptoms associated with anxiety in a relatively short time, allowing you the ability to resume regular activities and regain a sense of control. Although some may not be able to identify the cause of their anxiety, after attending a few therapy sessions, many people are able to find the source of their struggle and work through this in more depth with their therapist. Psychotherapy aims to identify and address the source of the anxiety rather than treating the symptom alone.  The self reflective process of therapy helps people understand, unhinge and transform anxiety.

Counseling may also include some homework. There are a number of exercises that will provide you with new perspectives- leading to new experiences. Doing work outside of sessions will help you make contact with what works and what doesn’t. Some work may entail helping you feel worries, anxieties and fears-but will show you how you can experience all of them without acting on them. Understanding this logically is helpful, but only experiencing it yourself will make a difference in your life. Therapy can help you and work for you – but only if you work with it!

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.


Lindsay Melka LPC Empathic Counseling and Therapy Denver

Lindsay Melka, LPC

Empathic Counseling and Therapy


If you connected with this post and would like to speak with me please call 720-295-5490 or contact mehere.

Men Thrive in Therapy

Asking for Help

Men seek help less. It’s true. But- this is changing. The stigma is diminishing and men are coming to Men thrive in Therapy, Lindsay Melka Denver COcounseling more than ever before. Why is this? Do they see the benefit? Are they hearing about it from other men? Is their spouse asking them to come?

It’s not like its inherent or biologically determined that men seek help less. It’s learned. Men learn that they should be able to do it on their own. They learn to be tough, stoic and strong. So what does it mean if they ask for help? Are they not tough, stoic or strong? No. That’s not what that means. Asking for help is a sign of strength.

Seeking guidance from a therapist is a courageous step for a man to take. It’s admitting that they are struggling with something that feels beyond their control. Admitting this is the first step in what could potentially be, very powerful change.

How does therapy help?

When men share shameful, embarrassing, or unpleasant thoughts with a nonjudgmental, empathic therapist, they can feel relieved, normal and sane. They may realize, for the first time, that what they are thinking and feeling is actually very normal for many men. This alone can empower men to share emotions that may have bottled up for months, even years. When men start to release the weight of negative thoughts and feelings, they can begin to see what’s been happening inside for all this time. They are better able to see patterns, self-talk and resentments that are no longer serving them.

How do men thrive?

Through therapeutic work, men can learn to look inward, self-reflect and gain new awareness of their thoughts and feelings. When you can take a step back, observe yourself and get objective perspectives, you can facilitate change in your life.

When men learn that gaining emotional control directly contributes to regaining control in their personal and professional lives, change happens. Learning to regulate one’s emotions can contribute to success in all areas of a man’s life.

Case Example:

A man comes in to therapy with an anger problem. His problem with anger is causing marital distress, irritability, depression and conflict at work. He is drinking more and the drinking almost always contributes to anger outbursts. He lists the many reasons why he is so angry and shares that “if that person” or “that situation” were to change or be different, he would be “okay”. Throughout the course of therapy he begins to learn that he has little to no control over people, places and things. He learns that anger is a secondary emotion and that there is something happening deep below the surface. He discovers that he feels inadequate, scared and hopeless. His career is unfulfilling and he feels he is letting his family down. He’s struggled with depression for many years and has drank to avoid the feelings that come along with this. Soon, over the course of counseling, he discovers that he can actually manage his emotions. He can learn healthy coping skills and begin to notice triggers and thought patterns that contributed to his struggle with anger. He develops new insight around his behaviors and makes conscious decisions to change them.  He sees small improvement, reinforcing the new behaviors and begins to live a more fulfilling, valued life. This is just one example how transformative therapeutic work can be.

How do you know if it’s time for some counseling?

Listen to your gut. Does something feel off? Maybe you’re tired of dealing with unpleasant thoughts and feelings. Maybe someone suggested it. There is no harm in checking it out and seeing if counseling could be beneficial for you. Life does not have to be completely out of whack for one to get some guidance, feedback and support. Who knows, you might actually enjoy it!

Lindsay Melka LPC Empathic Counseling and Therapy Denver

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lindsay Melka, LPC

Empathic Counseling and Therapy


If you connected with this post and would like to speak with me please call 720-295-5490 or contact me here.