How Your Thoughts Can Contribute to Depression and Panic Attacks

 

panic attacDepression can become all consuming. It begins your day and jumps on your back and directs your thinking and feelings. I fought depression and panic attacks for more than 10 years. It got so bad that for over a year I only left my bedroom to go to the doctor. My panic attacks multiplied until I was having five to six attacks each day.

It took many years, but I eventually came to appreciate that my thought patterns were contributing to my depression. Let me explain.

Panic attacks are sometimes referred to as “fight or flight attacks”. It is the body’s defense against danger. When you are faced with an intruder or some other external danger you will experience a revving up of your body’s defenses as a form or protection.

Reasons for panic attacks are many. For me, it was the lack of control in my life and my decision making. For others it may be fear of other things in their life. My therapist gave me some suggestions to help. She suggested that I attach grades of one to ten to my panic attacks. When I have an attack I tell myself: “This feels like a three” — and then I start utilizing calming techniques.

To do this you must first learn your body and what tenses up. Notice how your shoulders, neck, arms and stomach all tighten up. Then begin exercises that clench and release each muscle group. These exercises will help you recognize how you tense and how to relax. If you hyperventilate during a panic attack the best thing to do is exercise. Climb some stairs, go for a fast walk, or, if else is nothing available, just breathe into a paper bag and relax.

My therapist emphasizes that stress and depression are often caused by worrying.

Worrying can be habit forming so if you are a worrier it is important to change your routine and to guard your thinking. This will be very difficult to do and will take time. You must retrain the way you think and what you think about. At first this will be a full time job. Every time you BEGIN to worry, you need to stop immediately and discard the thought.

Constant worrying can be compared to a hamster who runs in a wheel — he keeps running and running until he is exhausted but never gets anywhere. Constant worry will exhaust you but not solve anything.

Make sure to get enough sleep each night. If you need medication, see a doctor. Eat right. Include lots of lean protein and fresh fruits & vegetables. Lack of sleep feeds depression so go to bed early. To some extent you can even “bank” sleep — when you have a bad night try and make up for it the following night.

In my experience it really boiled down to asking yourself: “Do I really want to get better?” If you do, you must fight depression and negative thinking patterns.

Live life one day at a time. Accept that whatever happens in life happens — you have no control over it. If you have no control over it, it will do no good to worry about it.