I figured I'd start a recent post about
this... I searched through the archives and didn't find a thread on the topic, so why not?
I just recently was told that I was starting to have GAD/Panic/Health Anxiety symptoms again by my general practitioner. It scared the living bejeesus out of me; I thought I was having a heart attack every night and ended up in the ER twice "just to be sure because my dad has heart disease". After being told that my body functions all checked out, my GP suggested that I treat this like anxiety/panic. Again, scared. The last time I had anxiety attacks was about
4 years ago; they came with severe depression, and I didn't manage to get out of it until I had been booted from college, tried four different drug combinations in two years, and just about
given up. And this time around the anxiety was so much worse, so it was obviously going to be worse to deal with!
Insomnia, heart palpitations, chest pain, brain zaps, head and leg tingling, nausea, digestive problems, weight loss... the whole nine yards.
However, this time around I've decided to go at things differently. I was put on Effexor XR by my GP and will be working with that, but I've also decided to incorporate some more natural/"alternative" methods into my day to day life. And they have been working wonderfully in conjunction with my medication and CBT therapy! I still get the panic attacks and the health anxiety, but these have definitely been helping me cope a lot better than my former method of shutting myself off from the world and giving up. Here's a list of things I do as a jumping off point; hopefully people can add on or take away some ideas from this thread.
Every week, I have set up for a massage. I'm lucky enough to have a hospital near me that has an Integrative Health Center and a GP who understands, so my massages have been partially covered by insurance. My massage practitioner practices something called Structural Integration. It's a really great technique that isn't as painful as a trigger point or deep tissue massage; it mostly deals with fascia, which is basically an interconnective sheath for organs and muscles. One example of how this method helped me was that I was having rather severe chest pain on either side of my breastbone. My practitioner explained to me that where the ribs meet the sternum is actually more like a joint than solid bone connection. So when it doesn't get moved, or is hunched over a lot (like sitting at a computer or a lot of reading tends to make you do), those "joints" don't get a lot of exercise. Once he released those joints and gave me exercises to continue that
opening (ocean breathing in particular, which I'll talk about
in the next paragraph), the chest pain has basically disappeared. He's also given me a bunch of exercises to do, and I'm constantly moving, so I feel like I'm participating in the therapy too. His motto is "I
open from the outside, you
open from the inside and continue the stretch". He's done the same in my legs (I use a squash ball and roll my foot ever so slowly over it from toe to heel) and in my back (relieved a lot of sharp migraine pain too).
Ocean breathing and Cat Cow are probably my most favorite exercises that he's given me so far. Ocean breathing is pretty fun, and can be done everywhere. I usually set my alarm for 2 minutes for each phase. It uses diaphragm based breathing, so I'm finding it doesn't induce hyperventilation, which is awesome. I start out first by putting my arms straight out in front of me with my palms touching and, as I breathe with the breath hitting the back of my throat (makes a sound like a wave), my arms go out to a little past my side (not too much so that you're pinching your back, but enough to put some strain). Then, when breathing out (again from the back of the throat making the same wave sort of noise), I return my arms to straight out in front of me with my arms touching. This allows a horizontal stretch in the chest. I also do a version that allows for vertical stretching by starting with my arms straight out to the side and then as I breathe in, I bring them straight up and out until my palms touch over my head; on the breathe out, I bring my arms back to the straight out position. It gets its name (ocean breathing) from the sound you make when you breathe. It's been of great help when I feel an attack coming on by helping to relieve that pressure (though I'm pretty sure everyone in my warehouse now thinks I'm very much a hippie
Cat Cow is a yoga position that helps me stretch out my back muscles. I get on my hands and knees and curve my back up (Cat) and then curve my back down (Cow) while breathing in and out respectively. I try not to do this one in the warehouse though.
I've also started using color noise and will be starting light therapy while sleeping to hopefully get better sleep. The color noise has been a blessing so far; I had tinnitus, heart beats, buzzing in my ears that were keeping me from getting to sleep and staying asleep. I checked with my ENT yesterday and nothing was wrong; no hearing loss, no ear infection, nothing. He had suggested masking the tinnitus with a white noise generator, and I woke up last night feeling more rested than I had in three weeks. There's actually a free white/pink/brown noise generator online at Simplynoise.com that I use so that I don't have to buy a machine just for that. It allows you to select the color and also whether it oscillates and at what frequency. I sleep to brown noise oscillating at a low speed. It's really lovely. I'm getting a wake up light for Christmas, so I'll let you know how that works out as well.
to visit a naturopathic doctor soon to see how I can start adjusting my diet to be healthier. I'm a bit overweight, even with the weight loss, and have a sedentary job, so hopefully I'll get some more exercise soon. I also started eating a reduced gluten diet and that's been really helping me out with my digestive problems. Maybe he'll give me some ideas on some supplements as well to boost my diet; reduced gluten/mostly vegan is turning out to be really hard when it comes to getting all the vitamins I got on my previous diet (aside from a multi vitamin every morning... gummy vitamins because normal multivitamins have gluten sometimes).
Have any of you found that using alternative health methods (either without or at the same time as medication) has helped your anxiety/panics? Yoga, therapies, supplements, diets? Feel free to post, share your story, and let us know how things have worked out for you!
Sorry for the novel, I just wanted to share my success and encourage you all to share yours as well!