“I was diagnosed with Panic Attack Disorder a few years ago after my anxiety grew out of control and started impacting my everyday life. The good news is that it’s manageable and that there is help,” says Medshield Movement ambassador, Amy Hopkins
“After a series of stressful episodes in my life and a heightened increase in my anxiety levels, I started having panic attacks. Episodes where I would feel like I’m having a heart attack or that I’m choking or can’t breathe, including a sense of paralysis. There were moments when I had to sit down on the street and wouldn’t be able to enter a building. It became so debilitating. I always thought that I could manage my stress with fitness – and it did help – but at some point, it was not enough,” admits Amy Hopkins.
“I knew that I was no longer coping and went to see my doctor, who wanted to prescribe medication to help get my levels back to “normal” so that I could function again. I was scared and resisted. I did, however, begin seeing a therapist. The funny thing about therapy is that you think to yourself: what on earth will I even say? Ince you start talking, it all pools out of you like a bursting dam wall. I had a panic attack in that first session in front of my therapist. It was a tough day.”
“We eventually agreed to try a course of medication, continue therapy and I added yoga to my exercise routine. It was hard in the beginning, being so vulnerable, but I was left with no other option,” she says.
Johannesburg-based counselling psychologist Jacqui Morgan says: “Although stress and anxiety may share many of the same physical and emotional symptoms, such as mood fluctuations, tension, uneasiness, digestive upsets, fatigue, disturbed sleep, headaches, they have different origins,” explains Jacqui Morgan. “Anxiety is often characterised by a feeling of apprehension, fear or dread that persists after a stressful situation has passed,” she explains.
“Fast forward seven years and I hardly have panic attacks anymore. I can recognise when my body and brain start to go into an anxious state and I can talk myself out of it most of the time by doing to following:
- Slowing down my breathing
- Focusing my thoughts
- Self-motivation that things will be okay
- Distractions like a puzzle or sudoku”
“It’s taken years, but I know that I have to do mental-health maintenance regularly to stay in good mental-health shape! This includes: prioritising sleep, regular exercise as well as yoga practise, journaling, avoiding excessive drinking, eating well, not having caffeine or stimulants after a certain time of day practising hobbies that elicit a sense of calm, like painting, reading, gardening and walking.”
Read more: Expert Advice On Mental Health Self-Care At Home.