These are mine...BTW I also have a heart condition that makes me very sensitive to caffeine or other stimulants so it's kinda a double whammy when it comes to anxiety for me.
-not getting enough sleep
-too intense of a workout
-beginning and end of school semester, finals, giving a speech. Pretty much anything to do with school
-driving in heavy traffic. I'm in Austin so this is pretty common
-being in an overly crowded area; mall, stadiums etc
-not eating enough
I think that's bout it...I've gotten a lot better as far as anxiety goes. But then again I've totally tweaked my life in an effort to get better. Oh how I MISS caffeine. :)
The business of being a stimulant is kind of fuzzy. Let me explain:
We tend to think of stimulants as things we ingest (drink, eat, smoke or insert) but in fact the list also includes things we do. Run up and down the stairs. Was that stimulating? How about a zesty session? What's going on, here, is that ingesting something, in general, tends to do to us what we could otherwise do physically. So far so good?
And in general, stimulation is sensed, observed and measured by change in heart rate and rhythm, respiration, hightened awareness, increased metabolism and other metrics with long names I can't pronounce. Long and short: you FEEL it and other people can measure it.
And on the other hand, a period of stimulation is often followed by a feeling tranquility or well being: the runner's high, the cozy relaxed feeling after intimacy, or the alive sensation after a good workout and a shower (please). And so, it is a sort of 2 part "kit," the lifting up -and the floating down.
Stimulation from activity has a direct purpose: to support the activity that stimulates, to get you moving and keep you going. The energy generated is used up right then and there. But stimulation from other sources, with no companion physical or mental activity, gets all the "systems" running at max -with nothing to do. Not unlike pushing the accelerator to the floor in a car that's idling in park. Do that enough, and say "goodbye" to your engine. Drinking coffee tends to "start the heart," which is why we drink it in the morning, to "get going." If we really LIKE that rush, then we drink it throughout the day, and become nicely addicted. Same with nicotine.
A person with anxiety, as we know, tends to very aware of and sensitive to changes in their own physiology. And therefore, anything that stimulates heart action, breathing, etc. gets attention. While we don't know many of the immediate causes of the panic feelings, we CAN know that stimulants we ingest or to which we expose ourselves can bring them on. And therefore, we try to limit those. That is why sugarpea's list is so great -it includes things like driving the beltway, too MUCH of a workout -etc.
The lesson is this: a stimulant is anything -anything at ALL, that stimulates. And, while there are chemicals that are known to do this, they by no means are an exclusive group. Merely THINKING can do it. The trick is, how is the stimulation being used. If you can focus the energy on something phsyical or mental -something that USES the metabolic output -you're fine. If you can't, you may well be nervous, irritable -or panicky.
The body and the brain thrive on a certain degree of activity, on being "in motion," so to speak. And thus, stimulation in the service of some physical or mental achievement is a good thing. And that is why workouts and exercise can frequently be actually calming to a panic person. That racing heart is actually DOING something -not just idling at high speed. So, you get the physical benefit of a workout, you get the psychological benefit of controlling your heart rate, and then you get that nice calming feeling afterwards.
I've had little to say about exercise and workouts, because they rarely act to simply make the causes of panic disappear; that mission still needs to be accomplished. That said, the benefits of a workout or other physical activity do operate to make you better and faster at the mission. How? For one thing, you get to see an improvement in your physical self; you feel better and look better. For another, the phsyical effort let's YOU be in charge of heart action and that sense of stimulation. If the workout is at a gym, it is also a social situation where you will see a lot of other people who really need it more than you do (trust me). It does not have to be the gym. It could be volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, where there is plenty of lift and carry. The point is, that for the period of time you do it, YOU get to be in charge of YOU again. Panic doesn't call the shots. Finally, the chemical effect of a workout is produced entirely by your own hormones and bodily chemistry -you don't go the drug store for it.
Exercise and activity is an excellent first move for new panic people. Stimulants need to be understood not just as chemicals we ingest, but as energy producers from everywhere. Learn to create stimulation on your own -and you begin to get the edge you need.
GOODNESS your posts are just so amazing to read!
I couldnt' agree more with everything you said. We're so lucky to have you here! (((Hugs)))
I'm the lucky one.