Suzanne Says

Questions & Answers

June 2005

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Question: My question relates to dealing with anxiety attacks originating from a recent stroke I had and dealing with the life changes. The effects of the stroke now pose many problems, including paralysis on the left side of my body, fear regarding my eventual recovery and return to some normal life. I have completely lost my sense of well-being. I have tried to find a local counselor, but most do not deal with stroke patients. I have terrible anxiety attacks each day and have not found a good way to deal with these feelings. What is my best course of action?

Scott, Northboro, MA

Answer: There is no way for my short answer to do justice to your issues; however, here are a few suggestions.

1. Find support from others who understand the specific issues dealing with being a stroke survivor. Join a support group with others who have gone before you. Start with these two organizations: The American Stroke Foundation at and the National Stroke Foundation at

2. Subscribe and look up articles in back issues of Stroke Connection Magazine at

3. Find a counselor that can help you work through your feelings of loss, anger, depression, and fear and that will help you come to terms with how to live your life from today forward. The two organizations mentioned above might be able to refer you to a therapist in your area or someone in a support group might be a good resource.

Anxiety attacks can be lessened by changing how you breathe and by taking a look at your beliefs. When we have fear thoughts, we usually do shallow breathing, which contributes to holding tension in our bodies. Try breathing slowly as if you are blowing up a balloon or into a paper bag, using your whole lungs. Many times during the day it is beneficial to deep breathe, even when you are not having an anxiety attack. This slows us down and relaxes us physically, lowering our stress rate.

Our belief systems affect how we feel. Fear thoughts like, "I am not going to make it," or "My life is not worth living now that I cannot do all things I love to do," or "Physical therapy is too hard so I will give up on recovery," get us in a stressful state of mind. We have to update our beliefs to help us creatively move on to the next stage of our life. It moves us in a positive direction to change these negative, unproductive thoughts to say things like, "I love and respect myself no matter what my physical challenges are. I am much, much more than my physical body. My spiritual essence has many new lessons for me to learn about life. I am curious how I will use these experiences to uplift my awareness. How can I make a difference in the world because of the challenges I am overcoming?"

Consider that the quality of life is based more on our attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions that what actually happens to us. Again, this does not minimize the need for support, educating ourselves about our issues, or working through our grief and unhappy state of mind.

If any of you readers have supportive suggestions please respond below.





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