Panic attacks in the workplace and 6 ways to cope with it

I’ll never forget the time when I had panic attacks in work.

It wasn’t sudden, but a build up of over a few years. One minute I would be fine talking to customers on the phone, the next minute I would be getting very hot under the collar, very clammy, and really panicky at saying the wrong word that could trigger a customer to start getting irate.

I hated it.

It’s funny that you can look back at these things years ago and sort off smile…but back then, it wasn’t funny. It was deadly serious. But I didn’t know what it was.

I sort of knew about panic attacks and extreme stress, but I had no idea of what a burnout was. I was in my mid twenties for crying out loud. Life wasn’t meant to be like this. But it was, especially for me. This was my life, and I was supposed to just accept it, not complain about it, deal with it and move on!

So that was it…for a period of about 2 1/2 years, I was constantly clammy, constantly rubbing my hands, constantly sipping water to trying to comfort myself; wandering whether the next customer was going to be nice or mean and wandering why I was panicky, feeling light headed and felt like I was going to pass out. I had know idea that I was able to use little techniques to eliminate a panic, and I certainly had no idea that I could use mindfulness to overcome those feelings of dread. For me, panic attacks at work was a way of life.

I even tried some Bach’s flower remedies to try to relax myself, but even that didn’t always work (although sometimes it did). I will say, looking back at it now, that I made the situation 10 times harder than it needed to be.

I should’ve gotten my sleep, yet at the time, 5 1/2 hours was luxury

I should’ve used mindfulness meditation, but at the time, I was more into Qi meditation than mindfulness…not a bad meditation to be fair, but it’s not going to do much to reduce the effects of an over-stimulated Amygdala.

Panic attacks and anxiety in the workplace is responsible for over $37 billion of the mental health bill, which pretty much means (that at the risk of sounding harsh), if you are not able to cope with and eventually eliminate your condition, not only is it sucking the life and soul out of you, it is also part of the problem that is costing billions.

Yet most of us understand the symptoms of excessive anxiety in the workplace: they range from being unable to focus, to sleep deprivation (including insomnia), from panic attacks to worrying excessively to the point of paranoia, plus much more.

So how do we improve our coping skills so we don’t feel our soul being sucked away from our life, and are therefore able to at least enjoy the aspects of the job that we find simple to do?

1 – Practice mindfulness throughout the day

Doing this alone will help reduce your anxiety in a very short space of time and will reduce the onset of a panic attack. Just taking a few minutes when the going gets tough is all that is required to restore a mental clarity and resume focus, so your main work doesn’t suffer.

You can achieve being present in various ways, but one of the easiest I have found is to widen your peripheral vision. This alone will help you reduce the mental chit-chatter and will restore a peaceful mind.

2 – Take exercise during break times

Maybe a short walk or even walking your car, whatever it takes to get you outside. This will help, ‘walk off’ the anxiety and will allow you to slowly relax, and take your mind of the anxiety or panic attack. Practicing mindfulness while doing this is a great way of getting better at being mindful.

3 -Meditate during your lunchtime

If you can do it, meditating in the privacy of your own car during the lunch break is a good way of reducing the anxiety and help reduce the onset of a future panic attack. I used to do a form of Chakra meditation, where I would visualize a spinning colored flower, the color dependent upon the Chakra that I would like to open and balance, but any kind of meditation should work for you, as long as you can get into a relaxed sitting position in your car.

4 – Practice deep breathing

Doing this will help calm yourself down and will also help reduce a current panic attack. It will also give you a clarity of mind that will help reduce the onset of any future intense anxiety.

Just by taking a minute to breath gently but deeply should allow the current anxiety to slowly subside. If you wish, take a deep belly breath via you nose, hold for 4 seconds, and then slowly release through your mouth. Doing this for a minute will help calm your nerves down.

5 – Get your sleep/power-nap

Getting your sleep is vital for reducing future panic attacks, but admittedly it can be a viscous circle. You can be that stressed at work, that getting your required 7-8 hours can be a huge task. If you find that you cannot switch off when going to bed, and end up getting a poor nights sleep, trying looking into supplements to help you relax, or try Bach Flower remedies.

For the immediate short term, trying getting a power-nap during your break times. Just 10-15 minutes of a nap is enough to keep your energy levels up, and will allow you to have some mental focus back.

6 – Open up your Heart Chakra

I put this one last, because of its spiritualistic nature, but what you can do if you feel panic coming on is to see people as extensions of yourself. I know this may sound weird, but it does strangely open up your Heart Chakra, so you can feel a deep compassion swell and fill your heart.

This has a nice soothing effect, and will even help reduce a future panic episode. Using the combination of opening up your Heart Chakra while being present can be a very powerful duo in combating anxiety attacks and restoring peace of mind.

Try the above and let me know how it goes on. Suffering from panic attacks in the workplace, when you’re trying to enjoy life and do work, is not only a terrible thing for a sufferer to go through, it’s also a waste of a precious life. By doing the above exercises, you can be sure that a recovery isn’t too far away.

 

Panic attacks, mindfulness, and 3 ways to achieve it!

If you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, chances are that you would have heard about incorporate mindfulness mediation into your coping strategies tool set. But why is that, since mindfulness is about the direction of your attention, and feelings of anxiety and intense panic is emotional?

To answer this question, lets look at the general design of a panic attack.

Panic attacks are caused by your amygdala, the part of your brain which regulates emotions, going haywire causing you to release a huge rush of adrenaline causing the infamous, ‘fight-or-flight’ response. Simply put, having a panic attack is basically being scared that you want to run away.

When you are having a panic attack, your heart rate increases, you can get clammy/sweaty, you feel weak at the knees, feel light headed, and so on (arguably, similar to that when you’re a running away!).

Your amygdala responds to threats, real or imaginary, and is the key in reducing and eliminating the panic attacks. In order for us to reduce and eliminate an anxiety attack, we need to do something that effectively stops (or at least, nullify) the amygdala, enough for our adrenaline to stop rushing around in our bloodstream.

The easiest, free, quickest way of nullifying your amygdala is to use a tactic which has been scientifically proven to reduce the amygdala, and that is using mindfulness meditation.

Being mindful is all about being fully present, hear and now

It is about stopping the seemingly endless amount of inner self talk and chit chatter, and being attentive to the present moment. Many philosophers and spiritualists have often regarded the present moment as the doorway to your intuition, and also living a greater, healthier and happier lifestyle and it’s easy to see why.

If you consider the fact that being attentive to the present moment helps reduce the effects of your amygdala, you become less fearful, which not only insinuates a greater range of possibilities in living the best life you can, but due to the mind-body connection, should help you become more empowered and more healthier by default.

And not only that but mindfulness also helps the memory and cognition of your brain as well, so not only do you reduce your anxiety but also increases your connection to your soul, as well as getting more smarter and more focused…

Three for the price of one!

So, how do you get mindful to begin with, and what are the inevitable pitfuls that will come your way when using this technique?

There are 3 ways that I tend to use. One involves your peripheral vision, one involves breathing, and one involves being attentive to your body.

1 – Peripheral vision is using the outside wider form your vision, which allows you to make use of the rods in your eyes, the ones responsible for movement, large objects and organization of the spatial scene.

By gazing and trying to fit the whole of your vision into one big huge picture of focus, you will be able to quieten to the mind chatter down and become more present. Just 5 minutes of doing this while walking is enough for you to feel the benefits within a week.

2 – Breathing involves watching your breath, and focusing your attention to your breathing entering and exiting your lungs. By watching your breath, you are re-directing focus and attention away from your panic attack. By focusing on your breath, this will help quieten your inner chatter and will help you become more present.

3 – Being attentive to your body, and by this I mean being able to focus and even feel your body. If you are attentive and great at sensing things, and if you can get good at it, you can even begin to sense your inner energy body and feel (slightly) the life energy or Qi in your body. This takes a bit of practice, so don’t be put off if you don’t feel the Qi straight away.

Again, by focusing on your body and being attentive to your muscles, your organs and your legs, you will reduce your mind chatter. This will reduce your Amygdalas response, and you will become more mindful. This is a great exercise to do if you know you will be walking for about a few minutes, and have no-one to talk to in the meantime.

But what are the pitfuls of using these techniques?

It’s one thing to be present, but it’s another thing to stay there. One thing that I continuously find is that once you become mindful, it is much more difficult to stay being mindful when people are present. You start judging, daydreaming, thoughts about the rest of your day come into your head…all of this stops you from being present.

The easiest way to overcome this, is to try to see people as extensions of your self. I know this may sound silly, but this not only helps keep as much, ‘presence’ as possible, but it also does another thing: helps open up your heart chakra so you feel compassion and, ‘oneness’.

Try it and let me know how you get on. Ask any panic attack recover about mindfulness, and they will tell you that they use it as one of their tools for recovery. They can’t be wrong;-)

 

Not Getting Enough Sleep Due To Your Stress? Here Is a Simple Guide To Sleep Like A Baby!

Its a familiar story… you’re tired, and you come home. You try to finish all of your tasks for the evening, but you’re not sure if your boss is happy with that presentation you’ve just made, or the number of emails that you have managed to reply to…and you’re scared that you are going to lose your job! Your heart beats faster…your anxious and your tired.

It’s been like this for several weeks, but guess what, it’s now taking it’s toll. Your partner is moody at you, as you seem completely disinterested, and you’re scared that you are loosing your sanity and you’ll go broke.

You watch TV, feeling more and more tired, but for some reason, unable to get to bed. You finally trudge up the stairs, and limp to the bathroom, your mind still racing full of thoughts, like ants running around inside your brain. You look at your self in the mirror, and you know you look like a mess, but you dare not admit it to your partner.

You get undressed, and you get into bed. It’s already extremely late, and you’ve got to get up early tomorrow!

Your mind is still racing, and your sick of it!

This tired feeling numbs your senses, and you feel like you’re a zombie. As you turn the light of, you know that you’ll get 5 hours tops (and that’s if your lucky!). You lie in bed, initially staring at the ceiling, then at the moonlit curtains that’s casting a shadow over the dresser. You’re scared! You need this job, or else

You close you eyes and try to sleep, but no such luck. Your heart is beating faster than normal, and you feel achy around your heart. Your head feels like it is extremely hungover, like you’ve just been out in town. It feels like a big heavy doorknob that’s sitting on your shoulders Your mind gets dreamy, and very blurry…

You wake up, exhausted, eyesight not fully sharp. You stumble out of bed, and almost fall to the floor, head feels dead. Within the next hour, you will force some cereal down your throat, and drive to work, hoping to keep the bad feelings of dread to an all time low, and figuring another way to survive another day…

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It’s the same old story for the millions of people who get stressed each day and loose sleep over it

It’s estimated that over 40% of people are stressed at work, while over 25% claiming to be super stressed. And that’s not all, it’s also estimated that people having time of work due to stress is costing the US economy over $299 billion yearly!

Yet, the cruel irony, is that for many of us who get stressed, we tend to skip on the very thing that can reduce it.

It’s a vicious cycle. Your stressed, so you try to get some sleep. But of course, that’s easier said then done, and you can’t focus. If you are paranoid, or have OCD, you will (of course) do your routine more than once, in an effort that some dreadful thing won’t happen. This naturally keeps the mind busy, making it even more difficult to relax.

You go to bed (eventually) only to discover that your imagination has suddenly gone into 5th gear. You close your eyes, but you’re nervous about tomorrow (assuming it’s not already tomorrow that is) and you look at the alarm clock. When you do wake up, you’re extremely tired, desperately wanting another couple of hours at the very least (but knowing you’re not going to get it).

And then you have to go to a job, which is mentally and emotionally draining, and you get stressed. You come home, and the cycle repeats itself

Stress causes lack of sleep, which causes more stress, which causes more lack of sleep, which causes more stress…

…and so on.

Do this for a long period of time, and you begin to mentally injure yourself!

You see, we need between 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep each night, as lack of sleep can cause

  1. Reduction in cognitive functioning. It impairs:
  • Alertness
  • Attention
  • Reasoning
  • Concentration
  • Problem solving abilities
  • Makes it extremely difficult to learn something more effeciently
  • You won’t remeber easily what was learned in the previous day, as sleep helps the consolidation of the memories in your mind. Simply put, you won’t remember much!

2. Accidents

It has been noted, that sleep deprivation has caused some of the biggest accidents in recent history. The 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island and the 1986 nuclear meltown at Chernobyl. Drowsiness does slow reaction time, similar to drink driving. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) estimates that fatigue causes around 100’000 vehicle crashes and around 1’550 crash related deaths per year in the US.

3. Reduced sleep increases your risk of:

 

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • An irregular heartbeat
  • Diabetes
  • A stroke

 

4. Sleep deprivation can impair your own judgement

Getting regular loss of sleep decreases your ability to make accurate judgements of a situation or event, thereby causing you to make inaccurate assements and not act wisely, including whether or not you are getting enough sleep.

5. Lack of sleep can increase a risk of death.

Found in the, ‘Whitehall II Study’, Researchers from Britain looked at around 10’000 British Civil Servants over 2 decades, for sleep loss, and found out that the servants who had reduced their sleep from 7 hours to around 5 hours (or fewer) almost doubled their risk of death from different sources.

6. Loosing your sleep can make you gain weight

According to a study conducted in 2004, the people who slept for less than 6 hours a day were 30% more likely to suffer from obesity than those who slept between 7-9 hours. Not only that, but there is a link between sleep and the peptides that regulate the appetite. Shortened sleep is strongly associated with a decrease in Leptin and an increase in Ghrelin, Leptin being a protein hormone that has a key role in regulating appetite and Ghrelin being a hunger-stimulating peptide.

7. Reduced sleep actually ages your skin!

Too much reduced sleep leads to fine lines, lacklustre skin, and dark circles under the eyes. When you don’t get your sleep, your body produces more of the stress hormone, Cortisol. This breaks down the protein that keeps your skin nicely smooth and elastic, Collagen. Reduced sleep also reduces the release of the Human Growth Hormone, which help promote growth when we are young. As we get older, it helps increase thickened skin, muscle mass and strengthens bone.

8. Reduced sleep makes you depressed

Sleep disorders and reduced or ineffective sleep patterns all contribute to the symptoms of depression. In a poll conducted in 2005, people who were medically diagnosed with anxiety or depression were far more likely to be sleeping less than 6 hours a night.

9. Reduced sleep can kill your sex drive

Yes, it’s now official, lack of sleep reduces your sexual libido. Having less energy, increased tension (probably due to stress and anxiety) and feeling extremely tired or fatigued are most to blame.

10. Reduced sleep reduces your immune system

This is the same system that helps fight off colds and illnesses, and having a poor sleep schedule really helps in increasing your chance in catching a cold.

I could relate to some of this. Having suffered from OCD, paranoia and stress, I regularly got around 5 hours if I was lucky. You literally walk around in work, wanting to put your head on the desk.

I couldn’t concentrate, had mood swings, and got depressed and stressed way too easily.

You see, we lead such busy lives, we have commitments, families to take care off, and getting a good night sleep seems like the furthest thing on your mind.

Or it could be the opposite. Getting a good night sleep is something that you are desperate to achieve. But for some reason, you simply can’t get it.

You have tried everything, from hypnotherapy to sleeping pills. And if you’re not careful, you’re going to turn into an insomniac.

Yet due to the nature of technology, we believe we can do so much more, in the same amount of time.

This causes breakdowns of relationships, family issues, and puts a burden on your job. Ask any stressed out person, life simply isn’t fun, and your not fun to be around!

But why is sleep that important to reducing your stress levels, and getting you life back?

It’s because what sleep does, which is vitally important to your well being

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Sleep reduces stress by revitalizing your body when you are dreaming, as well as:

  • Increasing more plasticity (connections between the nerve cells)
  • Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleeping enhances your emotional memory
  • Increases learning skills, and decision making processes
  • Cognitive functioning is increased during a healthy sleep

 

And cognitive functioning is a big one, because it’s the one that allows you to function more sharply!

So you see, not only does getting your quality sleep matter, it’s more important than you think

Don’t forget, your sleep goes through stages. Non- REM sleep (REM- Rapid Eye Movement) and then REM sleep (each cycle lasting around 90 minutes).

Stage 1- The transition to sleep – Takes roughly 5 minutes, eyes move slowly under the eyelids and your muscle activity slows down- brainwave electrical activity around light alpha (alpha between 8-13hz)

Stage 2- Light Sleep – Takes roughly 10 to 25 minutes and is when your eyes stop moving, your body temperature decreases, and your heart rate slows – brainwave activity around theta to deep alpha (theta between 4-7hz)

Stage 3- Deep Sleep – If you are spiritual, this part would be when you lose your sense of self, or you have achieved connection to the universal source. If you were to be awakened, you would feel very groggy, and dis-oriented. The blood flow is directed from your brain to your muscles, allowing the restoration of your physical energy. Brainwave state, 0.5 to 3hz (delta)

Stage 4 – REM sleep – Normally between 70-90 minutes after falling asleep, you enter REM sleep. It’s called REM because your eyes dart back and forth, and you are dreaming. Due to having a sense of self, you actually go back up to theta. It is this state where your legs and arms are paralyzed and and your heart beats and blood pressure increases, while your breathing shallows. Images are very vivid (well, you are dreaming after all!)

It’s stage 3 that is the crucial one. When you are in deep sleep, HGH is released, and you feel more refreshed. The only way to get more stage 3 deep sleep, is to start going to bed early i.e. spend more time in bed!

You will feel more refreshed, think more clearly, but most of all, feel alive!

But spiritualists also see sleep in a different light.

We have non-physical contact points, between the non-physical and the physical (the non-physical being part of the multi-verse). When we are asleep, life energy or Qi, trickles through these contact points, or votices. These votices are your chakras, and it is the chakras when you are sleeping that ultimately govern how refreshed you feel when you wake up.

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Your chakras allow the Qi to nourish your vital organs, including your brain. This is why meditating is so important if you wish to have a quick dose of energy during the day. Just 10 minutes of meditation done during your lunch hour will helps re-energize you, as meditation can help open and all life energy to give you a burst of energy (I’ve done this successfully while sitting in my car, engine turned off).

However, your chakras are not the only reason why getting your sleep is vital in reducing your stress and anxiety levels for the short, to long run

A protein called the Circadian Rhythm is also important. This is essentially your internal body clock, and is responsible in stopping you having a good nights rest, especially if you are doing shift work in your job.

Simply put, the body requires routine.

If you go to bed at different times during the week, your circadian rhythm will be out of sync, and as a result, your deep sleep will suffer.

So not only are your chakras passing the vital life energy to your body, but your internal body clock is also happy, as well as your Human Growth Hormone helping you out while your in REM sleep, by:

  • Building stronger bones
  • Improving your sleep patterns
  • Increases the synthesis of new protein tissue, helping muscles repair or recovery
  • Helps improve the quality of your heart and Kidneys
  • And (of course) produces more energy.

 

So as you can see, the Human Growth Hormone plays an important role in the development of your emotional and physical well-being, as well as physical healing.

But this does beg a question, how does one get sleep when one is super stressed?

The trick here is to (somehow) relax the mind.

You’ve got to break the cycle somehow. The best way is to relax the mind to a degree that you can nod off.

In a moment, I’ll talk about quick ways you can relax the mind when you are stressed at work, but for now, let’s look at some quick ways to help calm the mind enough for you to get to bed and get (at the very least) your 7.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep (and that’s loads, by the way).

  1. Have a warm relaxing lavender bath
  1. De-clutter your bedroom
  1. Stop mind engaging activities 1 hour before going to bed
  1. Take up the art of mindfulness meditation
  1. Have a warm glass of milk before going to bed
  1. Avoid caffeine after 3pm
  1. Turn the clock the other way, so you don’t get distracted by the time
  1. Read Heart Warming stories
  1. Listen to a Delta Entrainement CD (I recommend the ARVARI, as they guide you to Delta extremely well)
  2.  And it goes without saying, but a nice air-cooled, comfy bed (and pillow) goes a long way!

 

But sometimes, you simply cannot get that restful sleep that you need, then what?

Believe it or not, there are tactics that you can use to get (some) refreshing energy to not only get you through your tough day in the office, but also get your mind remotely sharp.

  1. Learn to meditate in a private place, like your car

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Just doing this for 10-15 minutes, either at break time or lunch, will help you feel some energy from your non-physical self. Try this as a quick test

 

  • Do deep belly breathing for a minute

 

  • Now listen to the breathing intently. Feel it and pay it attention when it enters your body and when it leaves

 

  • Now close your eyes, and keep your attention on your breathing.

 

  • Focus your attention for as long as possible, and you should find that a healing peace will flood your stomach area. You will feel very present, and you will have opened, or balanced your solar plexus chakra (the one responsible for personal willpower, ironically;-)

 

This will be enough to calm your mind down, so you can relax. If you can also balance this with feeling love flow and permeate your body, you will be able to feel re-energize and allow the Qi to make you slightly more refreshed and alert, as well as being able to de-stress you.

To feel love, try this:

 

  • Again, take some deep belly breaths for about a minute. This will help calm and slow down the mind (controlling your breathing helps control the mind)

 

  • Now, imagine hugging somebody you deeply love and admire. This could be your boyfriend/girlfriend, sister/brother, husband/wife, you get the picture;-)

 

  • Really try to imagine hugging them in your favorite place (this is your imagination, so choose any place you like)

 

If done correctly, you should feel love emanate from your heart chakra, and permeate your body. This will be a very unconditional, healing form of love, and you will start to begin dissolving any current psychological or emotional issues you have (true love always heals;-).

Try using your imagination to, ‘guide’ this love around your body. It should be pretty easy to do.

Using this with being present in the 1st exercise will not only help your mind stop racing, but will relax you, help you de-stress, re-energise you and give you a clear head. You can try this in your car (with the engine turned off, obviously) for about 10 minutes, and feel the difference..

2. Have a 15 minute Delta power-nap

If you do have a racing mind, and being in the present moment is simply too difficult, try buying a 15 delta power-nap mp3, and listen to it when you are in the car (again, engine turned off;-)

You can get some great mp3’s that really help your brain reach near the delta state, and will allow you to de-tune fairly easily, and a power nap increases the cognitive function up to 40%. You can get a 10 min mp3 to a 35 min one here (I use a 15 min myself).

3. Learn how to feel the love while in the workplace

You can try this one you’ve mastered the above exercise, but this time, while inside doing your job. It’s surprisingly easy to do once you get the hang of it, and when you let it spread through your body when you are sitting down, will help de-stress you in the moment and re-energise you.

4. Keep drinking the water

Not really a tactic, but I thought I must include it on this list, as not drinking enough water throughout the day will dehydrate your body, making the stress worst! So keep drinking the water, and avoid the caffeine. This alone will work wonders, and you will keep your organs ticking over

Lack of sleep and stress, when combined, make a deadly duo. But you can get your sleep, and as a result, your life back. If you have any other suggestions, please let me know below. I would love to hear from you;-)