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Understanding Stress, Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Understanding Stress, Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Laurie Harvey Cognitive hypnotherapist Godalming

Understanding Stress, Anxiety and Panic Attacks.

Stress is our natural response to being in a situation that we don’t want to be in or not being in a position that we do want. In this blog post, I’ll explain what stress and anxiety is, what causes us to experience it and share some advice for what can be done to manage it.

Why we feel stressed.

When our mind is working at it’s best it drives us to take action by releasing hormones that make us feel uncomfortable and which motivate us to remove ourselves from difficult situations and/or take action towards a desirable outcome.

When our unconscious mind perceives that we’re out of a difficult situation or we’ve achieved what we want, then our brain releases endorphins and hormones that feel good and reward us for having taken positive action.

When we face a challenge, our mind will open up a feedback loop by releasing noradrenaline and cortisol that makes us feel uncomfortable and will close the loop by releasing hormones that make us feel good and ultimately bring us back into balance.

When we’re emotionally healthy, this system keeps us out of danger and motivates us to create and innovate.

If we’re not so emotionally strong and/or lack confidence or self-esteem, we’re likely to feel more discomfort as our body releases increasing amounts of noradrenaline and cortisol in an attempt to stop us from doing something we unconsciously perceive we’re not able to cope with.

If we’re in a situation we feel unable to get out of or feel we cannot achieve something that we need, our mind is unable to close the feedback loop and the stress hormones continue to be released into our blood supply and build up over time creating a sense of anxiety.

Anxiety and panic attacks.

When we experience anxiety we focus more on the things that can go wrong or that we can’t do which increases our hormonal flight/flight response even more.

The build-up of these hormones can feel so physically uncomfortable that in addition to the original worrying thoughts and feelings, we’re likely to think that there’s something physically wrong with us which in turn makes us feel even more uncomfortable because our mind is opening up even more feedback loops.

Once the fight and flight response hits a certain threshold we might start to experience panic attacks. The symptoms of panic attacks can feel like we’re about to die and will naturally terrify us.

Panic attacks are very scary but not fatal.

The thoughts and feelings from anxiety and panic attacks can motivate us to withdraw from our normal lifestyle, and disconnect from people around us in an attempt to feel safer. This change will undermine our confidence and our perceived ability to ever get out of the situation that we’re facing and might then lead to depression.

Take action to prevent stress becoming overwhelming.

Stress is a very normal response to everyday life, but if it starts to feel overpowering take action sooner rather than later because you can probably prevent the stress cycle from increasing into anxiety and panic attacks.

It’s also a good idea for all of us to look after ourselves by taking the following action every day to avoid stress from becoming overwhelming.

  • Exercise reduces the negative effects of stress and improves your mood.

  • Exercise also increases blood flow to the brain and makes us more effective in all areas of our life.

  • Healthy eating is very important for optimum brain function.

  • Sleep is vital for prime brain activity.

  • Stay connected to people around you.

  • Make time to relax and do things that you enjoy.

Take action to overcome anxiety and panic attacks.

Talk, talk, talk - really don’t keep it to yourself if you’re struggling.

Talk to your GP, talk to family and friends and/or seek help from a trained professional.

If you’d like to have a free introductory conversation with me to see how I may be able to help you, please contact me at


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