Beating Anxiety and Panic Attacks – Five Tips for Success
Anxiety and panic attacks are far more common than people think, and millions of people from all walks of life suffer from them, sometimes without even getting diagnosed or putting a name to them. Not that this lack of diagnosis really matters, as regular treatments are not very effective, and classifying things in this way, a regular obsession of western medicine, can actually lead to a very narrow view of a ‘cure’. Let’s have a look at how an Ayurvedic and holistic approach might unlock some powerful solutions, one of which might just be a miracle knockout punch for anxiety and panic!
I can confirm, from personal experience, just how frightening and debilitating anxiety and panic attacks can be. In my youth I suffered from a year or two of all sorts of anxiety and panic, mostly due to experimenting with substances I should not have experimented with, I’m sure. However, if the tendency towards such episodes is inherent in our physiologies, all manner of things can uncover them and set off the frightening cycle of panic and anxiety, which, unless we discover how to manage them, can become a lifelong struggle.
Among the common triggers are stress, bereavement, drugs (prescription and ‘recreational’), depression, bad physical health, irregular lifestyle, bad diet, bad personal relationships, and many more…
Ayurvedic principles are particularly useful here, as Ayurveda gives a totally different view of such conditions, seeing them as imbalances of one of the three doshas instead of diseases. Such mental aberrations as panic and anxiety come under what Ayurveda would classify as a ‘vata imbalance’; vata being one of the three doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) that cover our body types, imbalances, foods, seasons etc – basically the whole of creation, and gives a great basis for understanding how to bring things back into balance.
Here are five ways that we can bring vata dosha back into balance…
1. Perhaps the most important is to meditate. Not only does this obviously calm the mind and therefore lessen panic and anxiety, but infuses the body with various endorphins that immediately combat any imbalances of vata.
2. Get regular exercise. Nothing too taxing, as this can upset vata even more, but definitely get that body active to start to free up all the energies and get the toxins out. The Ayurvedic three-phase workout, which keeps the heart rate low and exercise effortless, and which can be applied to any sport/exercise, is very valuable in reducing vata. Yoga is also fantastic, but best of all is a good programme of Somatic Movement Education. These gentle, effortless yet powerful exercises are designed to get the whole system functioning properly again, and they can be done by people of all ages and abilities.
3. Routine and diet. One of the main ways to upset vata dosha is by irregular lifestyle and meals. I know it’s hard to motivate yourself while stressed and panicking, but this could be a major key to recovery, so please try – and persist, as success takes time. Follow a vata reducing diet and don’t skip meals. Get to bed by 10pm and set a daily routine as far as your lifestyle allows. Lack of routine and irregular mealtimes is guaranteed to upset vata.
4. Sleep well. I know this is easier said than done, especially during times of high stress, but here’s a great tip for reducing vata… Before bed, have an abhyanga, or Ayurvedic oil massage. Take some warm sesame oil and massage your whole body, including the soles of the feet and scalp. Then take a warm bath and go to bed. You will be amazed at how this simple technique can massively increase your chances for a deep, restful night’s sleep. Also consider wearing orange glasses after the sun goes down. Sounds nuts? Not really… Our ancestors never had artificial light, and cutting the blue light from light bulbs, television screens and computers out to allow the receptors in the eyes to trigger melatonin production can work wonders for a restful night’s sleep. See my comprehensive post on sleeping better HERE.
5. Here is the controversial one, but one that might well take all of the fear out of panic attacks in one hit, as it did with me… All of the other four suggestions, essential as they are, represent long-term solutions for balancing the body to create an environment where panic attacks do not occur. However, what can you do when you are in the middle of one? Simple… SURRENDER! Panic attacks and anxiety spring from the ridiculous thought pattern, ‘fear of fear’, or more accurately, fear of the dissolving of the self, the loss of our ego. One moment we are standing there minding our own business, then the next a gaping abyss of insanity/terror/horror/death opens up in front of us and we panic, trying to fight against falling into it and losing ourselves forever. One secret here though – that abyss DOES NOT EXIST! Next time, don’t fight the abyss – just throw yourself into it. The first time it takes massive courage, but when you do throw yourself into the abyss instead of resisting it, guess what? Yes, it disappears! Being able to defuse attacks on the spot like this can be a massive step in losing the fear of them forever.