Severe anxiety attacks can present in a variety of different ways.
When you talk with a Christian counselor, they may use the phrase panic attack to refer to the event of the anxiety attack, while acknowledging that the effects can last for several hours. The term panic anxiety disorder describes a long-term condition in which people experience frequent panic attacks, often on a daily basis.
Signs of a Severe Anxiety Attack
While there are many different ways in which an anxiety attack can present, the most common signs include:
- Chest pain
- Feeling hot or cold (flushes/chills)
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Feeling as though you’re detached, or that your surroundings aren’t real
- Tingling and numbness
- Stomach ache, cramps or digestive distress
- Feeling nauseous and/or vomiting
- Feeling like you can’t breathe
- Shaking or trembling
- Rapid heart rate and pounding heart
- Feeling afraid you’re going to die
- Overwhelming feelings of doom and danger
- Feeling weak
- Feeling confused
- Feeling out of control
- Racing, terrifying thoughts
- Experiencing the sense as if you’re falling off a cliff
- Inability to focus on anything
Treatment Options for Dealing with Severe Anxiety Attacks
There are a variety of options when it comes to treating severe anxiety attacks.
A Christian counselor can help you work through these principles:
- Trust in Christ to give you strength. Embrace the promises that God has made in His Word.
- Understand that Jesus empowers you. Remind yourself of the way that God has already worked in your live and depend on the power of the Holy Spirit within you.
- Allow the Holy Spirit to quash your fear. People who experience recovery from severe anxiety know that victory can come through inviting God to enter and tear down strongholds of fear.
- Stop focusing on the “what ifs” in your life. The best strategy to defeat severe anxiety, stress, and worry is to have a “so what?” mindset instead. Focus on this truth: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b; NIV).
- Take a stand against internal passivity and apathy. When you believe that anxiety is taking away your control, you are giving it power. Instead, surrender your control to the Lord.
- Educate yourself and learn everything you can about your anxiety disorder. Having knowledge and understanding can help you to rationalize what is happening during an anxiety attack, which can counteract some of the fears associated with such attacks. Be an expert in your condition and tell the people who care about you how they can help. Partnering with someone supportive who understands your anxiety can be beneficial.
- Don’t succumb to a feeling of helplessness. Anxiety can be beaten!
- Be compassionate with yourself. It’s very easy to fall into patterns of self-loathing and self-accusation, but these patterns only benefit the enemy who wants to keep you trapped. Never believe the lie that you have less worth in God’s eyes because of your anxiety attacks. You wouldn’t think that of someone with cancer, so don’t think it of yourself.
- Don’t allow anxiety to become your identity. You have anxiety attacks, but they don’t define you.
- Instead of having a pity party because of the way your anxiety affects your life, take control by asking yourself what you can do to manage it.
- Get support. There are support groups for Christians with anxiety disorders and being a part of such a group can help you avoid isolation and despair.
- Never give up on God, yourself or your support network of family, friends and church community.
Things to Remember During a Severe Anxiety Attack
- It’s important that you don’t try to run from your symptoms. This will only make things worse because activating the fight/flight/freeze mechanism simply floods your body with adrenaline that exacerbates the symptoms of anxiety. Ride out the attack instead, because anxiety attacks are always short-lived, even if the after-effects aren’t.
- Remember that the symptoms will pass in a few minutes, and you’ll be back in control. Fear that the attack is going to last forever only makes the symptoms worse. Anxiety attacks are actually your body’s way of alerting you to more long-standing problems in your life that you could work through with a Christian counselor.
- Use breathing and relaxation techniques as much as you possibly can.
Breathing Techniques for Severe Anxiety Attack Management
There are two principle types of prayer/meditation that Christians have been practicing for almost two thousand years. The first of these is a type of concentrative meditation, involving focusing on an object or thought, producing deeper thinking.
The best way to practice concentrative prayer is to restrict the senses. Try concentrating on God’s Word in Scripture. Concentrative prayer meditation is an excellent way of planting the truth of God’s Word in your heart and increasing your focus on what God wants to achieve through you.
The second variety of prayer meditation involves listening to God’s word through the external environment. This might include nature, analyzing current events, analysis of historical events, biblical archaeological analysis, and looking at scripture through the eyes of culture and history. Mindfulness is often used to describe this type of meditation.
Christian mindfulness helps to understand the way the God is at work in our surroundings. It’s a type of prayer that requires listening rather than making petitions to God in prayer.
Many Christians misunderstand mindfulness and fear that it is un-Christian, largely due to the way it is conveyed and discussed in secular situations. However, Christian mindfulness is actually a way of communing with God that is beneficial for people who suffer from anxiety attacks.
Breathing exercises, likewise, are sometimes frowned upon by Christians, but again, there is nothing un-Christian about them. They bring about calmness and allow you to shift your attention from your anxieties onto God and His goodness and promises.
It’s been shown that breathing and meditation exercises have significant benefits for people with mental health problems, and for people with physical issues. These practices are ancient and pre-date all the other techniques that are commonly used for handling health issues.
Four Ancient Breathing Techniques to Practice
1.Sama Vritti (Equal Breathing)
The word sama means equal. The translation of vritti is the state of being. In our fast-paced world, we have become accustomed to shallow breathing, to the extent that we regard it as normal.
One major benefit of this breathing method is its ability to bring calm to the nervous system. It also helps with increased focus and reducing stress and anxiety.
This is a simple breathing technique that is effective with a count of 10 breaths. To start sama vritti you inhale While counting to 4, then exhale While counting to 4. The more you practice, the easier you will find it, and you can build up to counts of 6 or 8 per breath. Always breathe through your nose to get the best effects.
When to use
This breathing technique can be practiced anytime, anywhere. It’s great for slowing down racing thoughts, and if you’re having trouble sleeping. It helps to slow the mind, giving you the opportunity to focus on God instead of your thoughts.
2.Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
This breathing method has been developed as a means of uniting the two hemispheres of the brain and create balance in the mind. It is sometimes called a silent breathing technique.
This breathing technique is best done from a seated position. Hold one thumb over one nostril and inhale through the other nostril, deeply. It’s a method that’s suggested during pregnancy and is great for relaxation and circulation.
At the peak of the inhalation, momentarily pause so that you can place your ring finger over the other nostril. Then you lift your thumb and exhale through the uncovered nostril. Continue with this pattern, inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other.
It’s important to slow the pace of your breathing with this.
When to use
Nadi shodhana is a great technique when you need to re-energize or re-focus, for example during the mid-afternoon slump. It helps to relax the whole body when done correctly.
3.Sohum Meditation (Abdominal Breathing/ Ocean Wave)
Often referred to as being like an ocean wave, the imaginative aspect of this exercise can be especially effective for visual learners and creatives.
Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach. Take a deep breath in (breathing through your nose) and make sure your diaphragm (rather than your chest) inflates so as to fill your lungs with enough air to stretch them. You should pause for 2-3 seconds after each breath.
Try to do 8-10 slow, deep breaths each minute, and repeat for at least 5 minutes every day. This helps to lower blood pressure and help you handle stress more effectively. It helps build lung capacity and can also have a positive effect on digestion and heart rhythm.
When to use
This is a perfect breathing technique to use before you take tests, attend interviews, or deal with stressful events. It can be difficult at first to get the hand of controlling the breath, but practice will help.
4.Anuloma Viloma (Intermediate Level of Nadi Shodhana)
Similar in technique to the alternate nostril technique, this requires a more forceful type of breathing, rather than controlled breathing at a slow pace. Ancient sources claim that this breathing method heals all types of internal disease. Regardless of the truth of that claim, there are a lot of benefits to be had from anuloma viloma.
Make sure that you are sitting in a comfortable position and blow your nose to clear any excess mucus. As with the alternate nostril breathing, you need to use your thumb to close your right nostril. Lift your right elbow in line with the right shoulder, making it parallel to the floor.
Force inhale through your left (open) nostril – it will sound like a noisy breath, but that’s how it’s meant to be. Now use your ring finger to cover your left nostril and exhale out of your other nostril. Immediately begin the breath again. It’s meant to be fast paced. The purpose is to clean your lungs to increase heart rate.
Be careful when practicing this type of breathing, however. Because it’s more advanced it may make you feel light headed at first.
When to use
The best time to practice anuloma viloma is when your stomach is empty – such as first thing in the morning. It can also be helpful to counteract the mid-afternoon slump that many people experience. The technique is intended to give you an energy boost that will help you cope with whatever the day throws at you.
A lot of research has been done into the use of breathing techniques during anxiety attacks. The consensus is that controlled breathing can be effective in managing the severity of the attack. It’s a good idea to practice these techniques before anxiety attacks so that you have the resources in your toolbox to handle the symptoms of a panic attack. Additionally, practicing breathing techniques can increase the length of time between anxiety attacks.
For Christians, it’s important that there is an integration of Christian prayer and contemplation. It’s this combination that makes breathing exercises more effective. Breathing exercises can be combined with listening (prayer) to God and focusing on His truth.
Find a Christian counselor if you experience anxiety attacks and want extra support in managing your symptoms. While psychiatrists can prescribe medication, a Christian counselor can integrate faith into your journey towards healing and wholeness.
“Stress”, Courtesy of TheDigitalArtist, pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Stressed Out”, Courtesy of Anh Nguyen, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Breathing”, Courtesy of Le Minh Phuong, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Breathe In”, Courtesy of Valentina Aleksandrovna, Unsplash.com, CC0 License