5 Hacks to get Through Your Attack
What is anxiety? Hold on, let me overthink about it.
Having an anxiety disorder is more than simply worrying too much about something. It’s a mental and physical stress response that at times can be uncontrollable. Sometimes what starts as a generalized thought turns into overthinking. Which then ends up with you in a panic attack, sweating, clutching your chest, collapsed on the floor because you couldn’t breathe and were too dizzy to stand anymore. Your mind suddenly has 1,372 tabs open in its internet window. You feel like that moment where you trip on the stairs and don’t know if you’re going to catch yourself or not. That junk drawer full of memories, thoughts, and fears you’ve had since you were three was dumped out and turned on spin cycle. Everyone’s experiences and ranges of symptoms vary, but you can probably grasp the idea. Things can get cray-cray pretty quickly.
Not only do you have to try to calm your racing thoughts down, you have to somehow tell your body to calm itself down too. That sounds easy in theory, but actually think about it. Your hand uncontrollably shakes and you’re supposed to what, yell at it to stop? Your heart starts racing, you can’t catch your breath, you start to get dizzy and you’re supposed to wave a magic wand to all of a sudden “calm down”? It’s just not that easy!
Having been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder for over a decade, I’ve had plenty of experience in trying to tame that beast known as anxiety. Every encounter is still a struggle. But it gets a little easier once you learn a few tricks to help you get through your attack. I’m going to share with you a few tricks I’ve learned along my journey.
This sounds so simple, but I can’t tell you how many times I forget to do it! Your mind gets so overwhelmed with the chaos going on in your head that your body forgets to breathe. I’ve found my yoga and meditation practices to have really helped instill the importance and techniques of deep, cognizant breathing. Focus on the breath, not on your thoughts.
While trying to focus on your breath, I find counting to be soothing and gives you something else to focus on rather than your impending feeling of doom. I usually count to 4 or 5 and then start over. Focusing on my breathing at the same time. If counting doesn’t appeal to you, try slowly repeating anything you find an interest in. If cute puppies and kittens are your thing, go ahead and repeat “cute puppies and cute kittens” over and over to yourself. The idea is to focus not on your thoughts or panic symptoms but something that will distract you.
List off what is actually happening and what you can and can’t do about it. When you vocalize what is actually going on, you can get a better grasp of the reality of it. Sometimes thoughts tend to go a little haywire, out of control and unrealistic. By stating the facts one by one, you can bring yourself down from the worked-up tizzy you put yourself in and get an improved perception of your situation.
Don’t Fight it, Guide it.
The more you feed a panic attack, the bigger it will get. Try to relax, count and breathe those deep breaths and try to not feed into the fear. It’s easier said than done of course, but the more you panic, the worse the symptoms will get. You can guide yourself slowly by not focusing on what is going on at the moment. Visualize someplace that calms you and relaxes you. Put yourself there and focus on your imagined happiness. Sitting on a beach in the sunshine sure sounds better than being curled up in a ball sweating on the floor with strangers staring at you doesn’t it? Imagine that happy place.
This is quite possibly the best one. It works wonders! If your go-to funny people aren’t conveniently right next to you, it helps to keep a stash of things that make you laugh readily accessible. I do this with the App Pinterest on my phone. I pin things that I find funny all on one board so that I can get to it easily when I need to. It helps to relax the overworked nerves and distract me from my attack.
Whatever it is you take away from this post, I hope it includes a realization that it’s an extreme effort to calm yourself down during an anxiety attack. Please be kind to yourself and remember that it may be difficult but it is not your fault!