An Introduction to Stress, Anxiety, & Attacks
Stress and Anxiety is one of those by-products of Dyspraxia. Stress and anxiety are not limited to just those with Dyspraxia; in fact, it’s something very common that most people will have contact with in one way or another. Much like other of my extra pages, this one is dedicated to something that isn’t limited to just people with Dyspraxia so the information is universal. With Dyspraxia, these things occur more easily and frequently though. When it comes to having Dyspraxia anxiety is one of the biggest problems we have to face. Everyone deals with stress/anxiety differently and everyone’s anxiety will take different forms depending on the environment and situation. On this page I have put together how anxiety occurs, symptoms to look out for, and how to deal with it.
There are different terms that will crop up on this page so before I get started I will explain the differences between Stress and Anxiety, and the differences between Panic Attacks and Anxiety Attacks
Stress vs. Anxiety
To sum up, the symptoms of Stress and Anxiety are the same, there is just one slight difference that sets them apart:
Stress: Is a reaction to a threat and is long-term (going on for weeks, months, or even years)
Anxiety: Is a reaction to the stress and is short-term (normally lasting up to a few days, long periods of anxiety could be considered a form of depression)
Anxiety Attacks vs. Panic Attacks
Much like stress and anxiety having the same symptoms, both forms of attacks have the same symptoms as each other. However, how they occur is what sets them apart:
Anxiety Attack: A reaction to stress and is more severe than just anxiety (think of it like Anxiety 2.0)
Panic Attack: Are not triggered by a stress factor, but the individual is struck with a feeling of terror or fear that is both unprovoked and unpredictable.
What Causes it?
There are many ways that stress occurs. Sometimes it can be a single thing that causes it, but it can be a mixture of different reasons. Sometimes they can be linked, so instead of having one thing to stress out about you have a dozen. For example, if you’re being made redundant from a job that alone can cause stress, but then you may stress out over supporting yourself or your family, paying bills etc. Stress can then lead to anxiety and then onto an anxiety attack. If you’re able to identify what’s causing the stress it’s easier to deal with it before it gets unmanageable.
Types of events that can cause Stress:
- Being unhappy in place of work, school, home etc.
- Having too much work to do,
- Working too long,
- Unable to manage work expectations,
- Lack of control over life/work
- Feeling insecure over life or work situation,
- Being in a dangerous environment,
- Having to do something you don’t like doing (giving speech for example),
- Abuse/Bullying/Harassment (Click here for my page all about it),
- Traumatic/Life changing event,
- Death of a close person or pet,
- Losing a job,
- New Job/Responsibilities,
- Moving House,
- Taking care of a family member (Child/ren, elderly and sick being the most prominent),
- Natural disaster(s),
- Violence (either directly or indirectly),
- Exposed to phobia(s)
- Job future uncertain,
- Terrorist attack,
- Money problems,
- Meeting a date/someone for the first time,
- Not meeting expectations or even setting unrealistic expectations for yourself,
- Symptoms of a medical or health problem,
- Side effects of medication.
The Symptoms & Signs
So now you know what causes stress, now I’m going to explain how to identify the stress. You can split symptoms into two categories; Physical (which is how it affects body) and Psychologically (which is how it affects the state of mind)
- Increased heart rate/pounding heartbeat/irregular heartbeat,
- Increase in sweat,
- Faster breathing/hyperventilating,
- Feeling sick/being sick,
- Tight chest/chest pains,
- Feeling faint/Dizziness,
- The feelings of butterflies in the stomach,
- Tense muscles,
- Needing toilet more frequently.
- Feelings of being on edge/not being able to relax/worried/uneasy,
- Unable to concentrate,
- Needing frequent reassurance,
- Feeling tearful,
- Being irritable more easily or get angry quickly (short fuse),
- Trouble sleeping – Waking up frequently or irregularly, not able to get back to sleep or sleep at all, etc.
- Suffering from sleep paralysis (See next chapter).
Now you can identify the causes and symptoms you can move onto solving it. If you can eliminate what’s causing the stress then that’s the first step. Now here’s a list of what you can do:
1. Keeping a diary/writing down your feelings
Personally, I love this one, because for starters it helps identify the problem, and also it gets it off your chest. It can help clear your mind and lead the way to a cure. Many times I have just typed away whatever I am feeling, and it does make me feel better. While a slice of my thoughts get shared on my blog, publishing your thoughts or letting others see what you’ve written isn’t important.
2. Talk it out with someone you trust
Talking with someone you trust (Family member, friend, health expert) to get it off your chest can make you feel better and the person can help you identify the problem, help solve the problem, or just help you through it (even if it’s just reassurance all the time).
3. Doing an activity/distraction yourself
Distraction is one of the best ways to handle stress, as it takes your mind off it and puts you in a better frame of mind. Such things are:
- Going for a walk/fresh air/exercising/swimming,
- Tai Chi,
- Listening to music,
- Watching TV/Film/Video,
- Writing a blog,
- Play a video game
While a distraction is good at putting you in a better frame of mind it isn’t a substitute for a solution. If there’s a problem that needs sorting it is best to sort it as soon as you can. Don’t feel bad that you need to take a step away either, we all need time to re-energise ourselves.
4. Sleep well/get into a routine
Having a good nights rest can really help prevent stress or coping with it. Settling down at a consistent time every night will help you get a decent nights rest. Also using an electronic gadget such as phone, tablet, computer, etc is not good for a good nights sleep. Some modern devices come with a ‘night-mode’ which dulls the intensity of the screen to help you settle down (some can do it automatically on a timer, so in case you’re like me and you keep forgetting!). It’s best to put the device down an hour or so at least before going to bed. Reading before bed/playing music can certainly help settle you down too.
5. Breathing exercises and meditation
By controlling breathing and relaxing deeply can help deal with current stress, create a chilled out distraction, and help to prevent anxiety or an anxiety attack from occurring.
The causes are different, but the symptoms are the same.
- The sense of impending doom, danger, or dread.
- Fear of loss of control or death
- Increased/pounding heartbeat
- Shortness of breath and/or tightness in throat
- Chest pain
- Abdominal cramps
- Nausea/feeling sick
- Dizziness, feeling faint, or light-headedness
- Shaking or trembling
- Numbness or tingling feeling
- Hot flushes and/or chills
- A feeling of detachment from the real world
What to do
- If possible remove yourself from the situation causing it (for example, leave the room)
- Deep controlled breathing
- Close your eyes and/or cover ears. These attacks can be brought on by too much stimulation to the brain, so reducing as many stimulations as possible will help.
- Grounding technique: Find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can taste, and 1 thing you can smell. This is a really useful one and many people do find it is very effective.
- Relaxation/Deep meditation – Along with the controlled breathing, consciously relaxing each muscle will help. There are videos on the internet that can help with deep relaxation.
- If a panic attack occurs or anxiety attacks keep happening frequently then it’s recommended to see a doctor.
This was something I used to suffer with on a regular basis as a child and on a rare occurrence as an adult. About once every 3 years on average.
So “what is it?” some of you may well be asking yourselves. Well, it’s a situation that happens either before you fall asleep or just as you wake up. What happens is your body becomes completely frozen and you’re unable to move, then, in many cases, you start hallucinating. This can take any form imaginable such as shadows, ghosts, animals, aliens, dinosaurs, etc. However, it looks and feels real. Along with this is an over the top feeling of peril, even if there are no visions. It is so convincing that most people who have been abducted by aliens from their bedroom, or seen ghosts of their relatives, for an example, were suffering from sleep paralysis.
One major problem is my parents passed it off as just a bad dream. Maybe others can relate, but let me put this as clearly and as bluntly as possible – Sleep Paralysis is one of the scariest and horrifying experiences to witness, it is much more than just a ‘dream’.
Sleep Paralysis comes mainly from stress or being sleep deprived (lack of sleep). So overcoming the stress is a good starting point. However, if you get trapped in one then there are some tactics that can help you break free:
From suffering from it for many years I know the warning signs, I get a throbbing feeling at the back of my head (that I can ‘hear’) this gets more intense and spreads down my body. If I sit up or move my body it stops the sleep paralysis from happening. This is obviously going to be different for everyone, I expect other people won’t have a window of opportunity or get warning signs. Another warning sign for me was they would always happen after a nightmare or bad dream so after waking up from one I knew it was going to happen.
While I have lost movement of my body I can still work my eyes and so closing them stops the visions. The throbbing and feeling of peril remain, but at least it’s more reassuring. The next step is to keep calm, control breathing and keep reminding yourself it’s not real and finally you’ll be able to snap out of it. Sleep Paralysis doesn’t last too long and can you can just ride it out or just try to enjoy the free horror movie.
The Sciency Bit: The reason why this happens in the first place is due to the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) state of sleep, which is the deepest part of a sleep pattern, and this is when you typically dream. During this time the brain turns off the movement to your entire body to stop you ‘acting’ out your dreams in your sleep. (For some people this doesn’t happen, which is why sleep-walking can occur in those people). Now, for the sleep paralysis part, this is when the brain makes a ‘mistake’ and turns off body movement while you’re still conscious and then goes into ‘dream mode’.
Depression: The Internal Eternal Struggle
Depression is a massive topic. Anxiety and Stress aren’t exactly small topics though! However, Depression is a whole different story with unique facts, symptoms. causes, and solutions. To better tackle this topic, and give this page more breathing space. >http://www.dyspraxicfantastic.com/depression-internal_fight/<
Before I wrap this page up I want to bring up the topic of suicide. Suicide is a long-term solution to a short-term problem and so it doesn’t solve anything and even if it did it’ll only create new problems. Sometimes in life, stress, anxiety, and depression can put you in a completely negative or sad mindset, so much so that you feel like ending it all, and I’ve been in that boat a fair few times. The thoughts can get overwhelming at times.
That is why if you’re in need of help then to reach out to someone who can help. Reach out to a trusted family member, friend, colleague, etc. Or contact a helpline, here is a link that contains a list of contact details for Suicide Support agencies:
I have gone into a little more depth on this topic on my Depression Page, click the following link to be taken to the specific chapter: Suicide: The Darkest Abyss
Further reading and support
I hope this page has helped you out or you can use the information to pass onto others (even if it’s just pointing them to this page). The best bit of this page is that, like my Bullies and Bullying info page, the information can be used by anyone as it isn’t solely Dyspraxia related. If you want further information or places of support please check out these links:
Dyspraxia Foundation Helpline
People at the Dyspraxia Foundation are there to assist and so if you have any problems then get in touch and they can either help you directly or point you in a direction to get the right support.
As stated a few times over this blog the Dyspraxic Teens and Dyspraxic Adults Forums are amazing, so please check those out. (Remember to read their rules beforehand)