Overcome Anxiety and Migraines: Stress is the leading cause of headache symptoms. It’s no wonder, then, that such a high correlation exists between panic disorder and migraine headaches. Close to 60% of women and 40% of men who suffer anxiety attacks also experience chronic headaches. Learning how to stop panic attacks in their tracks is a crucial step towards overcoming anxiety, chronic migraines and other stress symptoms.
What causes panic attacks?
Panic attacks occur when your brain gets a message signaling danger, triggering the fight or flight response, which pumps adrenaline and produces increased energy, heightened senses and mental acuteness. Now, sometimes that stress response can be a life-saving mechanism. If you ever find yourself in a real emergency, such as being trapped in a burning building, that boost of energy will come in handy. But when these stress symptoms occur in the absence of any perceived danger, they can quickly escalate into a full-fledged anxiety attack, which in turn renews your feelings of panic, triggering more stress hormones, and thus continuing the vicious circle of anxiety.
How do you stop having anxiety attacks?
The only way to put an end to migraines and anxiety is to learn how to recognize and stop anxiety attacks before they spin out of control.
Listed below are 4 important skills you must learn in order to overcome panic disorder and prevent stress-induced migraine headaches:
1) Relax: Take some long, slow deep breaths. Focus on your surroundings. Know that you are safe, that there is no real threat. Imagine your comfort zone- the one place in the world where you are (almost) always content, relaxed and centered. Most of us have at least one such spot. Maybe it’s lying on your bed, flicking through a magazine? Or surrounded by family and friends around the dinner table? Even if you have to make one up, imagine your’e in your element. Picture yourself from the outside looking in, almost as a casual observer- it puts things into perspective.
2) Don’t allow negativity: Imagine a barrier that only allows happy, comfortable thoughts, and deflects negative thoughts. Negative messages are, I’m going crazy, everybody is watching me freak out, or when will this ever end? This is an important skill to master. If you’re alone, yell, Stop!! Not alone? Think it; send yourself a message that these feelings are all a big hoax, that there is no danger, and your body is just reacting to a sudden burst of adrenaline, which will all be over in approximately 3 minutes.
3) Use positive affirmations: Replace any fear-inducing messages or phobias with healthy, positive statements. If your fear is that you’re having a heart attack, say to yourself that no, you are not having a heart attack, and that you are only experiencing heart palpitations because of your adrenaline response. If you’ve been avoiding social engagements because you fear getting a migraine attack, give yourself permission to go to that office party, book club meeting or birthday celebration…and politely excuse yourself if you absolutely need to. Make sure that people around you know that you suffer from chronic migraines, and you’re less likely to feel guilt or embarrassment at having to turn in early.
4) Acknowledge your feelings: One of the biggest mistakes made by people who suffer from anxiety disorder is the tendency to “ban” certain feelings or ideas. They think that certain images are taboo, or crazy, and that thinking them means they will happen in real life. Example: people who say they are afraid of heights are really afraid of thinking “jump!” when they pass by an open window in a tall building. Author Dr. Claire Weekes, who has treated patients with anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and phobias, once described a patient, a nurse who cared for newborn infants; she was suffering from severe fatigue, and worried about a thought she felt whenever she passed by an open window while holding a baby, an image of her throwing the baby out the window. The fact that she had this thought gave her anxiety attacks, even though she would never give in to the thought, just as the height-phobic individual would never actually jump. When we accept our thoughts and refuse to attach labels to them, we allow ourselves to be unaffected by them.
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