As therapists, we see firsthand how anxiety can come out in a variety of ways. Our Senior Therapist Kelly Scott addresses two of these manifestations–panic attacks and stress eating–and offers some suggestions on how to deal with these experiences in Yahoo Life.
Most recently, Kelly was featured in “Panic Attack vs. Anxiety Attack: Is There a Difference and What are the Symptoms?” which explores the difference between panic attacks and generalized anxiety. Rather than focusing on what makes each distinct, Kelly appears in the article to explain how to mitigate both anxiety and panic attacks from the perspective of a therapist who has treated both.
For panic attacks, Kelly observes that the fear of a panic attack can directly play into the attack itself or is, as she says, “a real self-reinforcing cycle.” “When people feel an attack come on, they get scared about having the attack,” she continues. Because of this, she recommends letting others know when you feel an attack coming so you aren’t isolated in this experience. “Trusting that even if they don’t have an answer, someone could help,” Kelly asserts.
For generalized anxiety, Kelly reveals that it’s important to do something physically soothing that will allow you to slow down and reduce the anxiety. “Lay in a dark room, take a hot bath or even, go for a run. Anything that gets you physically oriented to your body and into as calm a state as possible,” she emphasizes.
Likewise in “What is Stress Eating? Experts, Studies Explain,” Yahoo’s Isabel Calkins reached out to Kelly in order to learn why emotionally we reach for unhealthy snacks in times of high stress and anxiety. According to Kelly, stress eating has resonances with how we are taken care of in early childhood. She observes, “Feeding and nourishing ourselves is the most elemental way that we care for ourselves…And it goes back to the first way we experienced care from another being: our mothers. There is something very on-the-nose about overeating and eating unhealthily as it relates to our emotions. We are trying to take care of ourselves.”
While occasional stress eating is okay, especially if you can tolerate the consequences of potentially not feeling so great the next day, it tips into unhealthy when you find yourself in what Kelly calls “a shame spiral.” What can people do if they self-shame about stress eating? Not only be aware of your eating patterns, but find ways to distract from them. “The more you can do to not let yourself get into that emotional spiral that leads to self-shame, the better.” Kelly says. “Go for a walk, talk to someone on the phone. Do something to mix it up when you feel yourself crossing the line.”