Dehydration is a big problem for our society right now. Recent polls have discovered that more than 50% of people don’t get enough water during the day. And it’s easy to see why this is a problem. It’s hard to remember to get your eight cups a day, and easy to replace plain water with other beverages that aren’t as hydrating. Drinking water can feel like a chore. But once you get in the habit of it, it will get easier, and the health benefits are so numerous that there’s no reason not to try. Drinking plenty of water is good for your digestion, good for your skin, good for your immune system and so many other things, but did you know that drinking plenty of water can also help to stave off panic attacks?
The Rise of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is a rising problem in out modern world. People are more isolated and stressed than ever and more and more people are finding themselves dealing with sudden, frightening panic attacks. There are lots of resources available out there for treating them, ranging from therapy to medication to meditation. But even something as simple as drinking water can be a big help if panic attacks are making it hard for you to live your life.
How Dehydration Mimics and triggers Panic Attacks
Early signs of dehydration mimic the signs of a panic attack. When you are dehydrated, your blood pressure goes down. When your blood pressure goes down, your heart rate increases to make up for it. This can make you feel lightheaded or dizzy. As someone who has panic attacks knows, these attacks are often triggered by these same experiences. A fast heart rate, feeling lightheaded, headaches, muscle weakness, to someone without anxiety these may simply be reminders that it’s time to have some water or something to eat. But to someone who already has anxiety, these are triggers that set off a chain reaction of worry (Am I having a heart attack? Am I going to faint?) that snowball into a full blown panic attack.
Early Signs of Dehydration
Knowing this, it will be helpful to know the earliest signs of dehydration. This way you will be able to notice when you need to have a glass of water and nip it in the bud before a panic attack can hit. Certain symptoms are common for most people. These include sticky or dry mouth, tiredness, headache, and, obviously, thirst. If you are feeling thirsty, it means you are already dehydrated. Some symptoms may be unique to you. It may be helpful to keep a hydration journal and note down any symptoms you may experience of early dehydration. This will give you an accurate, personalized look at the situation.
How to Remember to Drink Water
There are lots of ways to help you remember to drink water. If you carry a planner or agenda, you can make note of how many cups you drink. You can make a note on our phone. There are numerous apps you can use to keep track as well, and many of them even have alarms you can set to remind you to stop what you are doing and have a glass of water.
One proven way to form a new habit is to tack the new habit onto one that is already in place. How this works is, if you do something several times a day, you can tell yourself to have a glass of water before you do it. So for example, say you check our e-mail approximately 8 times a day. To form a strong habit of drinking water, promise yourself that every time you check your e-mail you will have a glass of water. It will take a bit of practice at first, and reminding yourself, but over time it will become automatic and so second nature that you don’t even have to think about it anymore. Try to think of something that you do often enough during the day so that you will, with time, be getting all your recommended water without any hassle.
It also helps to keep a water bottle with you. It can be fun to take a trip to the store just to pick out a water bottle that you love. Making your bottle appeal to you sense of style and aesthetics will encourage you to actually take it with you as you go about your day. Removing the barrier of having to actually stop what you are doing, get up, walk to the kitchen, get a glass, fill the glass, and have your water, will make it a lot easier to reach your quota. Just having your water bottle within reach will encourage you to take little sips here and there in those idle moments throughout your day and before you know it you’ve drunk the whole bottle.
A Simple Solution
Having an anxiety disorder (or even just having occasional anxiety) is a difficult reality for thousands of people. It can make even simple tasks so difficult, and it takes such a tremendous toll on our bodies and our well-being. It can seem like a tremendous hurdle to overcome these anxious feelings, and having panic attacks on top of general anxiety just makes it so much worse. But I hope that it comes as a relief to hear that something as simple as staying hydrated can make such a big difference. Not every treatment for anxiety needs to be arduous or intimidating!
I also hope that it helps to know that even in the midst of a panic attack, or when you feel one coming on, you can remember reading this and try just having a glass of water. Taking a break from what you are doing to take a few deep breaths and hydrate may be enough even on it’s own to prevent or curtail a panic attack. And what could be better than that?