How to Naturally Stop or Reduce Anxiety & Panic Attacks

mindset Nov 05, 2021

I had my first full blown panic attack when I was 19 years old. I was at church one Sunday morning with my family and the whole place was standing singing together and all of a sudden straight terror and adrenaline shot through my body, my heart started racing, I got incredibly nauseous, I couldn’t catch my breath and my palms got sweaty. I had no idea what was happening and I continued to stand there in the middle of church not sure what to do scared to death. The more intensity of it got worse and at this point I started feeling like something was seriously wrong and I needed to go to the hospital and all I remember thinking is “I gotta get out of here”....that flight response. I rushed out of church and into the lobby pacing not knowing what was happening with my body, I couldn’t breathe, my head was spinning, I felt like I was doing to throw up, and was confident I was dying. My family came rushing out because they could tell something was wrong and we left and got in the car and all I remember hearing my dad say is “I think she’s having a panic attack. It’ll pass.” 

 

I'm having a what?! Up until experiencing that, I had never heard of a panic or anxiety attack. I didn’t know what anxiety was and was incredibly embarrassed and ashamed that this happened to me as if it was some how my fault. I proceeded to have multiple panic attacks after this one for the next year or so and the more I had them the more I became afraid of them. I was scared to get on any kind of medication to stop them, but I also was desperate so instead I immediately immersed myself in books, courses, specialists, and worked with numerous herbalist and naturopaths to find out what the heck was going on and how do I fix it?!

 

My intention in writing this is to share with you what I have learned 12+ years since then and with working with a lot of clients to help you hopefully have tools in your tool box to help you reduce anxiety and panic attacks and ultimately...hopefully...stop them all together. Most people in the U.S. struggle with some form of general anxiety, stress or panic disorder, yet so few people actually talk about out of shame, embarrassment and fear which is why I'm talking about because it's nothing to be ashamed of, it's very common, and if more people stopped wearing masks and hiding their Authentic self trying to be "perfect" not only would we all have less anxiety and stress, but we would also have more connection...because here's the truth: None of us know what we are doing. We all showed up in this life with no text book, no rule book, and no road map other than the internal GPS in our intuition and that's it. None of us are perfect. We all have flaws, insecurities and fears...the anxiety, stress, and panic comes from not knowing that and trying to constantly be perfect, don't mess up, do the right thing, get rid of all your insecurities and fears and I'm here to tell you to stop doing that...instead embrace them...all of them and love yourself including all of them. 

When you make choices based from a place of "I love myself even if I'm not perfect, even if I do mess up, even if I do totally embarrass myself"...you alleviate a lot of what causes the anxiety and stress to begin with. I am not a religious person by any means, but grew up in a religious home so the idea of "perfectionism" was constantly encouraged. These days I believe more in the practice of self love and personal awareness and learning how to tap into that inner power and strength to live life as the best and strongest version of myself so I will share with you ways you can do that in your life as well.

 

I'm getting ahead of myself though! To give you the 5 Ways to Naturally Stop or Reduce Anxiety in your life, I need to first educate you on your mind and body. 

 

I need you to first understand what causes anxiety and panic attacks. I believe that knowledge is power and when you understand what is happening in your body and with your mind then not only is it less scary, but also you have the awareness to empower yourself to make changes. 

1. The biggest causes of anxiety is unmanaged or unaddressed stress. Actually this is the biggest cause for most of our issues in our western culture is stress. 

  

Here’s the thing, stress is not bad. Stress in moderation is actually good. It’s what gets us motivated, gets things done, helps us get productive, and can be used as a tool when it is balanced and managed. Think of the stress a player feels before a big game that motivates them to focus and produce adrenaline to help them perform at their best. This is good stress. Our body is able to and designed to handle stress like this in short bursts to help us get through short periods. Think of it like sprinting and endurance running. Stress is meant to act more as a sprinter with a quick burst of energy and adrenaline, not an endurance runner. When it goes unmanaged and it is forced to become an endurance runner, your body will literally burn out and create a “Default” stress response. Meaning that because it has been told to produce adrenaline and stress for so long, it thinks this is the natural state it should be in. We live in a society that is constantly “connected” to phones, tv’s, drama, media, news, that fills our minds with fear and stress that we end up disconnected from our own natural happy peaceful internal states.

2. You have something called adrenal glands that sit on top of your kidneys.  An adrenal gland basically is there to produce hormones, help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, response to stress and other very important functions in the body. It takes all of the food, nutrients, vitamins, you feed your body, and pulls out the fats and things it needs to produce things like estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, etc. and it distributes it accordingly throughout the body to help regulate your body and essentially help it do it’s best. It’s also responsible for producing cortisol (the stress hormone) in moderate amounts to help you in your day to day life.

 

When you are under serious stress, what happens is food/nutrients goes into your body through your gut and reaches your adrenal gland...instead of distributing and producing the regular hormones throughout the body that you need it will take all of those nutrients and produce it into cortisol to give you enough adrenaline and energy to get through stressful times. When this is short term, your body will return back to normal in a balanced state. When it’s long term, your body can’t produce enough hormones and you end up with an adrenal gland that’s over worked along with high amounts of cortisol in your body that leaves you in a constant state of anxiety & panic along with cortisol is also the hormone responsible for holding on to extra belly fat out of protection. Your body will store extra fat because fat is what the adrenal gland needs in order to produce hormones. Therefore, when the adrenal is shot, your body holds extra fat around the belly for protection.

 

Our bodies are incredibly smart and doing exactly what we need. Things just get messed up when we stop giving our bodies that right physical, mental and emotional environment to function at it’s best. 

3. Our thoughts and habitual mental patterns create chemical & physiological responses in our body. Fear based and worry based thoughts trigger a “fight or flight” physical response in the body telling your body to “give them more adrenaline and cortisol because clearly our thoughts are telling us it’s time to fight or flight and freak out!”. The anxiety and panic attack is always the result of patterns and behaviors over time….NOT the cause. What I am explaining to you is the cause of what’s going on internally. Anxiety and panic attacks are the last response after long periods of time of these types of habits.

 

Going back to the story at the start of this when I experienced my first panic attack, my life scenario was I was working full-time at a bank, I was going to school full-time to finish my Bachelor’s, I just moved away all alone in a town where I knew no one, I had just gotten engaged and was planning a wedding, I had just bought my first home, and I had no idea who I was, where I was headed, if I was making the right choice in my life, and totally lost. You may read that and think “Holy crap that’s a lot! No wonder she was stressed!” except I could probably say the same to you because stress doesn’t just hit us all at once like me sharing that with you did. If it did we would immediately recognize it, say “no way that’s too much” and make adjustments. It slowly creeps in and happens over time. We take on one more project, one more thing, add on one more thing to our schedule, little by little thinking “I’ve got this. I can handle this.” and then months go by, maybe years and all of a sudden you are exhausted, burned out, avoiding social situations, can’t even function for work or your daily life because you have burnt the candle at both ends.

 

Relating this to thoughts and how it creates chemical responses-prior to everything I know now about our minds, bodies, emotional and physical responses in life, I was constantly having thoughts and mental patterns running through my mind all day every day based around worry and fear. Thoughts like:

 

Am I making the right choice? What if I making the wrong choice and I mess up?

Should I be spending this much money to buy a house? What if it’s wrong and I go broke?

What should I do for my career? Am I picking the right major?

Who am I? Am I good enough, pretty enough, lovable, smart enough? 

Will I make it? 

Will I ever get there?

Do I have enough friends? Do the friends I have even really like me or know me? 

Will I make new friends?

Should I get married? What if it’s wrong?

Should I move and live alone? What if I run out of money? ….

 

The list goes on and on and I’m sure you have your own list of things like this. At 19/20 this is totally normal. To live this way my whole life is setting me up for a lot of heartache and frustration. I constantly lived in a state of fear, worry, and not feeling enough. 

 

When I started learning about how these types of thoughts create cortisol and adrenaline responses in our body, I started learning about cognitive behavior theory and the power of our minds and thought “If thinking these kinds of thoughts created a response I don’t want to experience then I wonder if thinking new thoughts and changing my mind could create experiences I do want…”

 

Which leads me to this next part of the actual HOW to reduce anxiety & panic attacks in your life to hopefully stop them or at least minimize them all together:

  

  • Journaling. The very first thing I have my clients do is put pen to paper and start journaling. The point behind this is for you to actually see on paper the thoughts and thinking patterns that run your life. It’s one thing to “think” you are a positive person, but when you actually put all your thoughts on paper you might find out how much of a worrier you really are or how little you actually think of yourself. Journaling also gives your body and mind and outlet so release some of the energy behind it so that all that energy does not stay stored up in your body. When I started doing this 10+ years ago, I just wrote like I was writing to a therapist or a best friend sharing everything that was going on. I did it every night before bed and I found I was sleeping better and less stressed while also becoming extremely aware of what was going on every day in my mind. (Part of my coaching and 8 week program includes a daily guided journal to help walk you through this as well). 
  • Reprogramming Your Mind and Thoughts. Easiest way to do this is immediately when you start recognizing yourself having those “what if” worry thoughts is to become aware of it, catch it then mentally stop yourself and reverse it. Instead of spending all your time with thoughts of what could go wrong, create a new habit of all the things of what could go right. What if you are making the right choice, you are exactly where you need to be and everything works out better than you ever imagined? What if the right opportunity was right around the corner? What if your wildest dreams are about to come true? These kinds of thoughts also create a physiological response that boost seratonin and reduces stress and anxiety. In moments of panic and anxiety when you are drowning a flood of scary/worry/fear based thoughts, the best thing you can do is simply start practicing self talk. Not denying the experience, but talking to yourself in a kind way the way your best friend or a therapist would talk to you. Things like: “Ok, I feel the anxiety and panic, but it’s ok I know it’ll pass. I know what this is. I now know what is happening in my body and creating this response. I know that I’m ok and it’s going to be ok my body just got a rush of adrenaline, but hey it’ll pass I’m safe and it’s going to be ok just let it be...don’t fight it just let it pass.” 
  • Nutrition. I already love health and fitness, but once I understood the way nutrition also creates responses in our body I was hooked. Food also creates physiological responses in our body that can spike our blood pressure, blood sugar, and ability to regular hormones. Caffeine, sugar, alcohol and processed foods are the first things that disrupt that body’s internal environment and create a stress and inflammation response. Food Sensitivities (aka food allergies) can also put your body in a state of high histamines which increases inflammation and puts your body in a constant state of stress as well. Nutrition is a very personalized thing so if you would like help with your nutrition then please visit the page to work with me as your coach on this here. Certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also create physiological responses that increase anxiety simply because the body does not have the nutrients it needs to function properly which again this is a very personalized approach and would take a more detailed assessment and overview to discover any underlying nutrition deficiencies.
  • Exercise.  As with nutrition, I love fitness and exercise. I fell in love with it even more when I learned how the right exercise helps reduce cortisol and stress and actually helps boost serotonin (the happy hormone). This is why people get that energy rush or that “high” with certain workouts because not only are they able to physically move emotions, stress and energy through their body giving it a physical outlet, but they are also creating a positive internal environment for their body to regular insulin (blood sugar levels), balance hormones, and boost fat loss. It’s a win-win! I always recommend both men and women do at least 3 days a week of strength training circuits for the best results working your way up to 4-5 days a week. 
  • Breath work and meditation. Most people think that meditation involves sitting in a room in silence with a candle and legs crossed “clearing the mind”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You know how when anxiety and panic sets in, your breathing immediately changes. Your breath gets shallow and shorter? This is the physiological response. So what do you think happens when we intentionally practice slowing down our breath with deep inhales and exhales? It creates the opposite physiological response telling the body we are safe, relax, everything is ok. Breath work and meditation involves anything that keeps your mind fully immersed in the present moment. I love having clients use their workouts as a form of meditation because you can immediately tell if your mind is present and connected to the here and now when you start doing a workout. Not just that, every fear, insecurity and deep emotion you have going on will all come bubbling to the surface in your workout. Trust me, I have plenty of clients who cry in the middle of their workouts not because the workouts are so grueling, but because the workouts, the physical exhaustion/pain, the giving up/quitting, have nothing to do with the workouts, but more of something going on in their life that reflects that. If you spend just 5-10 minutes a day sitting in stillness taking deep inhales and exhales through the belly you immediately help slow down your thoughts, tell your body to relax and reduce stress.

  

Anxiety is something that almost every single person deals with so let me just reassure you that you are not alone. Most people deal with it every day yet do a great job hiding it. Most people also are covered with shame, fear, and insecurity that keeps the anxiety there to begin with. Anxiety in itself is not bad when it is balanced and properly managed, but sometimes we go through stressful periods in life where we get knocked out of balance mentally, physically, and emotionally and anxiety/panic attacks are simply a way of our body saying “Hey...this is too much. You need to start making some changes to take better care of yourself. Start saying no...start prioritizing yourself…”

 

If you would like help with coming up with a plan that involves reprogramming your mindset, balancing your nutrition, and getting in a strength training workout program to help you create a body and life you love with me as your coach, then head here and let’s set up a time to talk about your goals and how I can help get you there.

This is just to give you an idea of a great place to start with self-care and changing your life. Every time I have someone new come to me looking to just find some peace, confidence, and feel good inside and out...the first things we always look at together are mindset, nutrition, and your fitness.

 

Ashley Drummonds

 

 (*I am not a doctor and understand that some people do suffer from serious chemical imbalances that require medication and professional help in which case you should seek out professional help. I am sharing the tools, experience, and knowledge that has helped me and has helped hundreds of coaching clients I have worked with).

Want to work with me as your coach with personalized workouts and nutrition program to help you become your strongest, healthiest and most empowered self? Then let's hop on a call and chat about your goals.

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