A few years back I would experience a panic attack/anxiety attack pretty severely, a few times a year. It would come on like a wave of emotion that I couldn’t control. It was overwhelming and left me feeling completely drained + exhausted once it passed.
Since that time, I’ve worked really hard to master my mind so these things wouldn’t happen nearly as frequently or, hopefully, at all. It took A LOT of work. A lot of reading + self-development to try to grasp an understanding of my brain.
Last month I experienced a few not-so-pleasant panic attacks. Now, if you’ve never experienced one, I’ll give you a little explanation of how it used to happen for me. My heart starts beating…no, pounding, like I’ve just downed three espressos. I can physically feel and hear my heart beating out of my chest. I start to feel like I’m losing control for no apparent reason. Sometimes there would be a trigger, sometimes it was out of the clear blue.
Before I mastered my mind, this was just the tip of the iceberg.
I’d start to well up with tears and cry and scream, as if someone else had control over my body. I knew it was completely reactionary but I couldn't regain control. My subconscious was in the driver seat and decided this was happening and that was the end of that.
A trigger for me would be traffic or if I was late or rushing. But then, of course, there were the times it just happened out of no where.
After a few "attacks", I realized it was enough trauma for me. I started researching how to manage anxiety and began meditating with the free Deepak Chopra and Oprah’s 21-day Challenges. And, miraculously, it helped!
I started reading books about how the mind works + how to recognize certain patterns. I tried to reroute the wiring in my brain so these triggers couldn't work any more.
I can’t tell you how much this self-development work changed my life. I no longer got anxious in traffic, rushed anywhere (not that I’m on-time anywhere either, ha!) or overwhelmed myself with insignificant details. It was great! Anxiety was behind me! Or so I thought…
Now, I don’t consider myself an anxious person. In fact, anyone who knows me is probably alarmed at my utter lack of fucks given. Because I vehemently hate the feeling of anxiousness, I have gone to the total opposite end of the spectrum. So now, it takes a lottt to make me anxious.
But that doesn’t mean I still don’t have my moments. They’re just sneakier than they used to be. Bubbling to the surface when I least expect it and for seemingly no apparent reason.
I call these the “tests”. Each time I get one of these, though pretty rarely these days, I know it’s just a check in to see how well I can cope.
So today’s post brings me back to last month when I experienced one (actually a couple...) of those tests. And what I learned was if I was able to troubleshoot my anxiety, maybe someone out there is trying to do the same.
Anxiety is living in the future, depression is living in the past. So let’s choose somewhere right in between.
These are a few tips I’ve picked up that have completely transformed my relationship with anxiety. These work at the onset of an attack. Chronic anxiety is a slightly different ball game (+ a much longer post). Though if you have questions about that, feel free to reach out, I’m most certainly not a doctor but may have a few tips that can help.
How to diffuse a panic attack while you’re in it:
1. Acknowledge it. Call it by its name and tell yourself what you are experiencing. Notice your heart beating. Put your hand on your chest and feel it. The worst thing you can do is ignore whats happening. Your body is trying to get your attention for a reason. Validate it.
2. Breathe. This may seem obvious but this is when people start to panic + take a series of short repetitive breaths. Or shallow “deep” breaths. You want to breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, hold for 4, exhale through your mouth for 4. And repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Nice + slow.
3. Affirmations. I find talking myself through it helps to keep it at bay for a while. Sometimes it can go away completely other times not so much. I tell myself, out loud, things like “I am safe. I am supported. I have everything I need. I am calm, I’m OK”. Believe me, if you've ever had a panic attack, the last thing you’re worried about is looking like a weirdo talking to yourself.
4. Drink water. If you can, drink an entire liter of water. The water here isn’t the cure, it just gets you to stop your shallow breathing + helps you focus on something else.
5. Sweat. Move. Stretch. At the onset of a panic/anxiety attack there is energy pulsing through you, building up the longer it goes on. That energy will come out, one way or another. A quick way to make sure it comes out the right way is to get moving. If you can, go for a run, take a high intensity class, do twenty push ups. It seems counter productive to calming yourself down but you need somewhere to release all that energy in a healthy, productive way.
6. Call, text, talk to someone. Anyone. For me, I need to tell people what I’m feeling so I don’t feel like I’m all alone. Most of the time they will just be there to tell you breathe and calm down, but having company, whether it be over the phone or in person, helps feel less overwhelmed while its happening.
These are some of the tips I’ve found that help me the most. They can be used even when you're not in the middle of an attack but feel a general sense of anxiety. Always stop to take inventory of yourself + check in with your mind.
I’d love to hear if you have any of your own to add to the list!?
Anxiety is something most people experience at some point in their lives, whether they talk about it or not. It’s not something to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. All it is is a signal from your mind to your body to get your attention. Are you constantly stressed but keep bushing it under the rug? Are you totally overwhelmed by life but not addressing it?
Our bodies don’t make mistakes, we are well oiled machines…even on our worst days. So when these attacks arise, use it as a time to look inward to get to the root of the issue, don’t just treat the symptom. You’ll be amazed what is actually causing the issue is much simpler and many times easy to resolve.
Hope this post gave you some tools to use the next time you find yourself pre-panic/anxiety attack. It can be a scary feeling but the better prepared you are, the less overwhelming they become.
With love + so much light,