How Exercise Has Helped With Anxiety and the Panic Attacks That Come With It

How Exercise Has Helped With Anxiety and the Panic Attacks That Come With It

How Exercise Has Helped With Anxiety and the Panic Attacks That Come With It

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 6 million Americans suffer from panic disorder, with women being twice as likely as men to be affected by panic attacks and anxiety. You can blame it on the hormones, blame it on the moon, but the truth of the matter is we take on too much. Or at least I know I did.

I had my first panic disorder after I graduated high school. I took some time off before starting college, and didn’t have a car or friends for that matter. So I spent a lot of time alone, in my own head. I started having chest pains, followed by uncontrollable episodes of just crying to myself. I remember going to urgent care and getting prescribed a medication for a chest cold. That sure helped a lot.

It wasn’t until I found a doctor that actually took the time to sit down and listen to my symptoms that I was properly diagnosed with panic disorder. Although I finally had my answers, I didn’t have a way of making it better. The common cure for a little anxiety is some medication and a simple “just breathe” every now and then.
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Needless to say, as I got older and the responsibilities got heavier, the panic got worse. I got to the point where I practically had a nervous breakdown. Schoolwork, job responsibilities, relationships, internships, and late nights were the perfect cocktail for a breakdown. I actually spent a few days in a behavioral clinic with others who were detoxing from drug use or dealing with other mental disorders. I got to the point where I started refusing medication. I wanted to take control of my life.
I chipped away piece by piece at the external factors that were causing me so much stress and researched coping mechanisms to help me deal. I started a morning meditation routine and learned different methods like tapping to catch myself in the moment. Yet, one of the biggest and most helpful coping strategies for me was the day I found Les Mills Body Pump at my local gym.

I’ve always heard that exercise can improve your mood, sharpen your mind, and well, make you look pretty awesome too. This exercise class is an invigorating hour-long mix or full-body workouts using a barbell and free weights to some pretty sick beats. I was extremely intimidated, and downright scared to get started. As someone who has dealt with panic and anxiety for more than 10 years, I came up with a million things that could go wrong.

I decided to go anyway. It wasn’t an easy decision.
When you suffer from anxiety or depression, the last thing you want to do is put yourself in a position where people can judge you. The local gym can be one of the most intimidating mountains to conquer, as the atmosphere is the perfect cocktail of everything those of us with anxiety avoid: public spaces, sweating and rapid heartbeats, and most of all embarrassment.

One of the major motivators for me to get in the gym was a promise I made to myself when I was at the behavioral clinic. I made a promise to myself that I would make taking care of myself my number one priority. I didn’t want to let anxiety control my life. I started my exposure to the gym by simply driving there. I could sit in the parking lot for 10 minutes, but the act of getting myself to the parking lot improved my confidence. Then I gradually moved up to walking inside, even for a few minutes. I know it sounds weird, but just taking in the sounds, the people, and the atmosphere will not only help you adapt, but will help train your brain to realize this is a safe place you want to be.
Working out with a friend or family member is also one of the best ways to help you become more comfortable with working out in public. I know for me having someone around I can trust helps lower my anxiety. It’s also good to scope out the group classes, having that sense of community can not only help alleviate worries, but you might also make some fitness pals along the way. If you feel anxious about joining a group class, start out by standing by the door. When dealing with anxiety and panic for me, I always felt more comfortable knowing I had an easy escape route. You will be so focused on the class and having so much fun, you won’t even consider leaving. As your confidence grows, you’ll be up front next to the teacher in no time.

I sat and watched the class a few times before getting the courage to participate. I loved seeing how hard everyone was working; I wanted to be a part of that. I decided one day to try the class, and stood by the door. My first class I only lasted 30 minutes before I got exhausted. I didn’t leave because of my anxiety; my muscles were a sore I never felt before. When you are going from your heart racing from fear, to your blood pumping from exercise, it’s best to start out at a slow pace that’s comfortable for you. If that means you can only do half the class, that’s OK. Also, I know it’s easy to want to go heavy on the weights like everyone else, but remember your doing this for you, and you will get there one day. Take pride in knowing the battle you have already fought to get there in the first place.

I’ve been doing Body Pump now for three years, and couldn’t imagine my life without it. Life will never be without its fair share of stressors and downright nonsense, but for that one hour when I’m lifting those weights and making my body stronger, all of that goes away. I’ve learned through exercise how to focus on the present moment, something I really struggled with during a panic attack. I still listen to my body, and if I feel worn down or that the anxiety is coming back on, I will rest. That’s the most important thing I’ve learned by starting a gym routine, and that I hope to teach others going through panic and anxiety, is to push your limits outside of your comfort zone, but allow your body to recuperate when needed. That way you can be better prepared and energized to handle everything that life has to throw at you, and you’ll be strong enough to throw it right back.

What is Blood?

Blood is a constantly circulating fluid providing the body with nutrition, oxygen, and waste removal. Blood is mostly liquid, with numerous cells and proteins suspended in it, making blood "thicker" than pure water. The average person has about 5 liters (more than a gallon) of blood.

About Blood Donation

A blood donation occurs when a person voluntarily has blood drawn and used for transfusions and/or made into biopharmaceutical medications by a process called fractionation (separation of whole-blood components). Donation may be of whole blood (WB), or of specific components directly (the latter called apheresis). Blood banks often participate in the collection process as well as the procedures that follow it.

More Facts

A liquid called plasma makes up about half of the content of blood. Plasma contains proteins that help blood to clot, transport substances through the blood, and perform other functions. Blood plasma also contains glucose and other dissolved nutrients.

About half of blood volume is composed of blood cells:

• Red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues
• White blood cells, which fight infections
• Platelets, smaller cells that help blood to clot

Blood is conducted through blood vessels (arteries and veins). Blood is prevented from clotting in the blood vessels by their smoothness, and the finely tuned balance of clotting factors.

Blood Conditions

Hemorrhage (bleeding): Blood leaking out of blood vessels may be obvious, as from a wound penetrating the skin. Internal bleeding (such as into the intestines, or after a car accident) may not be immediately apparent.

Hematoma: A collection of blood inside the body tissues. Internal bleeding often causes a hematoma.

Leukemia: A form of blood cancer, in which white blood cells multiply abnormally and circulate through the blood. The abnormal white blood cells make getting sick from infections easier than normal.

Multiple myeloma: A form of blood cancer of plasma cells similar to leukemia. Anemia, kidney failure and high blood calcium levels are common in multiple myeloma.

Lymphoma: A form of blood cancer, in which white blood cells multiply abnormally inside lymph nodes and other tissues. The enlarging tissues, and disruption of blood's functions, can eventually cause organ failure.

Anemia: An abnormally low number of red blood cells in the blood. Fatigue and breathlessness can result, although anemia often causes no noticeable symptoms.

Hemolytic anemia: Anemia caused by rapid bursting of large numbers of red blood cells (hemolysis). An immune system malfunction is one cause.

Hemochromatosis: A disorder causing excessive levels of iron in the blood. The iron deposits in the liver, pancreas and other organs, causing liver problems and diabetes.

Sickle cell disease: A genetic condition in which red blood cells periodically lose their proper shape (appearing like sickles, rather than discs). The deformed blood cells deposit in tissues, causing pain and organ damage.

Bacteremia: Bacterial infection of the blood. Blood infections are serious, and often require hospitalization and continuous antibiotic infusion into the veins.

Malaria: Infection of red blood cells by Plasmodium, a parasite transmitted by mosquitos. Malaria causes episodic fevers, chills, and potentially organ damage.

Thrombocytopenia: Abnormally low numbers of platelets in the blood. Severe thrombocytopenia may lead to bleeding.

Leukopenia: Abnormally low numbers of white blood cells in the blood. Leukopenia can result in difficulty fighting infections.

Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC): An uncontrolled process of simultaneous bleeding and clotting in very small blood vessels. DIC usually results from severe infections or cancer.

Hemophilia: An inherited (genetic) deficiency of certain blood clotting proteins. Frequent or uncontrolled bleeding can result from hemophilia.

Hypercoaguable state: Numerous conditions can result in the blood being prone to clotting. A heart attack, stroke, or blood clots in the legs or lungs can result.

Polycythemia: Abnormally high numbers of red blood cells in the blood. Polycythemia can result from low blood oxygen levels, or may occur as a cancer-like condition.

Deep venous thrombosis (DVT): A blood clot in a deep vein, usually in the leg. DVTs are dangerous because they may become dislodged and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE).

Myocardial infarction (MI): Commonly called a heart attack, a myocardial infarction occurs when a sudden blood clot develops in one of the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart.

Source: WebMD

Today in the developed world, most blood donors are unpaid volunteers who donate blood for a community supply. In some countries, established supplies are limited and donors usually give blood when family or friends need a transfusion (directed donation). Many donors donate as an act of charity, but in countries that allow paid donation some donors are paid, and in some cases there are incentives other than money such as paid time off from work. Donors can also have blood drawn for their own future use (autologous donation). Donating is relatively safe, but some donors have bruising where the needle is inserted or may feel faint.

Potential donors are evaluated for anything that might make their blood unsafe to use. The screening includes testing for diseases that can be transmitted by a blood transfusion, including HIV and viral hepatitis. The donor must also answer questions about medical history and take a short physical examination to make sure the donation is not hazardous to his or her health. How often a donor can donate varies from days to months based on what component they donate and the laws of the country where the donation takes place. For example, in the United States, donors must wait eight weeks (56 days) between whole blood donations but only seven days between plateletpheresis donations and twice per seven-day period in plasmapheresis.

The amount of blood drawn and the methods vary. The collection can be done manually or with automated equipment that takes only specific components of the blood. Most of the components of blood used for transfusions have a short shelf life, and maintaining a constant supply is a persistent problem. This has led to some increased interest in autotransfusion, whereby a patient's blood is salvaged during surgery for continuous reinfusion—or alternatively, is "self-donated" prior to when it will be needed. (Generally, the notion of "donation" does not refer to giving to one's self, though in this context it has become somewhat acceptably idiomatic.)

Who can give blood

Most people can give blood. You can give blood if you:

  • are fit and healthy
  • weigh between 7 stone 12 lbs and 25 stone, or 50kg and 160kg
  • are aged between 17 and 66 (or 70 if you have given blood before)
  • are over 70 and have given blood in the last two years

How often can I give blood?

Men can give blood every 12 weeks and women can give blood every 16 weeks. Find out more about what happens on the day of your donation.

Check you are able to give blood

You can check some of the most common eligibility questions we receive from blood donors.

You can register here as a blood donor.

The common reasons donors should check if they can give blood are:

  • if you are receiving medical or hospital treatment
  • if you are taking medication
  • during and after pregnancy
  • if you feel ill
  • if you have cancer
  • after receiving blood, blood products or organs.

Women under 20 - check if you can give blood.