Dear Dr. B,
When I get stressed, I’ve noticed my heart races and I have a hard time catching my breath. What should I do?
Sincerely, Stressed and Breathless
First, I would most certainly recommend that you make an appointment with your primary care physician to ensure that there isn’t something medically wrong that needs to be treated.
Assuming that you are medically cleared, it sounds to me like you may be experiencing the symptoms of a panic attack. A panic attack is, in essence, a collection of physiological symptoms which is your body’s reaction to anxiety. But panic attacks can mimic other medical conditions which is why I first suggested you see your medical doctor to rule out other medical conditions.
In the case of panic, it’s important to recognize that it will pass.
Take a deep breath
It’s also helpful to know that it is impossible for your brain and your body to be relaxed and anxious at the same time. So, if you will take a few really deep breaths, and concentrate on relaxing rather than focusing on the panic, it will help.
You mentioned that this tends to happen when you are stressed. I’d encourage you to find some better ways of coping with your stress so that your brain and body don’t resort to anxiety and panic.
Practice prayer and gratitude in every situation
The Bible says to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
When anxiety is filling our minds and bodies with stress, the Bible instructs us to….
Pray about everything.
Trust Him to work in His perfect timing.
Thank Him in advance for answering your prayers.
Then, God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds.
That’s about the best stress-reduction strategy I can offer.
Here are a couple of other tips for coping with panic attacks
Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and regular physical exercise help mitigate stress.
Focusing on the positive also helps. Thanking God in the midst of our struggles helps us do that.
Taking regular breaks is important.
If you need help coming up with additional coping strategies for managing the stress in your life, you may want to consider consulting with a therapist for a few sessions.
Keep in mind, most of what we worry about never comes to pass.
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
Helpful Resources for Anxiety:
Other Helpful Articles for Panic and Anxiety:
Ask DrB: What is the Difference Between an Anxiety Attack and a Panic Attack
Talk Back to Anxiety
7 Steps for Coping with Anxiety
It is Finished: What Jesus Would Say About Anxiety
Anxious for No Thing
Coping with Panic Attacks
Don’t Give Worry a Voice
Take a Deep Breath
Resource to Break Anxiety’s Grip
No question, we have a lot to worry about. Children, jobs, homes, health, finances, and more. The solution isn’t to rid ourselves of the sources of anxiety – as if we could. Instead, we need to recognize that anxiety originates from a spiritual influence and that we can fight back using the God-given weapons of power, love, and a sound mind.
We can discover true peace in an age of anxiety.
In Breaking Anxiety’s Grip, Dr. Michelle Bengtson shares her own story of emerging from the battle with anxiety as well as the stories of others. She reminds you of your identity as a follower of Christ and of the peace he promises you in spite of everything.
She provides tools to cope with the crushing emotional burden of anxiety now and, more importantly, shows you how to reclaim God’s peace as a way of life so that you can break anxiety’s grip.
Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBooks.com, Books-A-Million, and other fine book retailers.
Click here to learn more: Breaking Anxiety’s Grip.
Thank you for this! So simple. Deep breaths. Relax. Pray. Seek help when necessary. Easy to remember. I appreciate this.
Janet, the key is that your brain can’t be relaxed and anxious at the same time. Relaaaaaaax.
I thought I had experienced a couple panic attacks a few weeks ago. After reading this, I do believe that is what they were. I had an extremely over whelmed schedule and I have taken steps to clear it. Thank you Michelle
Yes, Carolyn, they often occur when we get stressed and don’t feel in control. Your brain can’t be relaxed and anxious at the same time. Do what you can to relax – breathe deep, meditate on Scripture, pray…
Thanks Michelle… good advice.
I loved a saying on FB which said that people who suffer panic attacks are not a sign of weakness but actually because we have been very strong for too long; ..which fits me to a T.
Yes Mary, the same can be said about depression! Hope Prevails!
I would also say to watch what you are telling yourself when you are having a panic attack. Our behaviors follow our thoughts and so we can change our behaviors by changing what we tell ourselves. Just something I find helpful. I have anxiety attacks too.
So very true Anne! Our thoughts can either help or hinder! Good point.
I think there needs to be a distinction between anxiety and a panic attack. Anxiety can be eased by taking time to breathe, to pray, to write out what you are dealing with and come up with a plan. All very logical and sensible. A true panic attack is just that, an attack. There is no logic. Breathing deeply does not help. Telling yourself to relax and look on the bright side does not help. While the above post has awesome, helpful tips for coping with anxiety, for someone dealing with full blown panic attacks, telling them to essentially pull themselves up by their bootstraps and find ways to get themselves over it can seem very discouraging. If you are suffering from actual panic attacks, often accompanied by uncontrollable shaking, the feeling you are trapped and going to die, please seek help from a counselor, pastor, therapist or doctor. Panic attacks leave you feeling like you are truly losing your mind and are going crazy. Don’t try to go it alone. There are people who can help.
Awesome helps!!! Thank you!! I have not had this happen in years but when I do get anxious, it will still trigger my heart rate to accelerate and I will begin shaking. I am shaky anyway but stress and anxiety or fear will make me extremely shaky. I know so many people have this happen but will just pass it off and not do anything about it. Sad, especially when you have so many resources that will help! Thank you Dr. Michelle for your faithful ministry to the world!! I am excited about your new book!!
Isn’t it great to know that in times of stress or anxiety, we have access to the God of all peace?
Thank you for this. laurensparks.net
I pray it encourages many.
Thanks for sharing these wise common-sense strategies.