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
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