The past year has been such a breeding ground for anxiety with me, and I thought I would share a few things that have been helping me get through it. The best way to combat anxiety is to stop it as soon as you start to feel it come on; do not let it reach the point of panic, if possible. Have an arsenal of techniques you can pull from to fight back with. Here are some of mine.
1. This passage by Daniell Koepke is taped above my bed:
“”Whenever I start to feel anxious, I sit on my bed and just read this over and over. I like it because it sounds like something I would write during a good day when I'm feeling calm and confident to remind my future anxious self that we've been here before, and we have always gotten through it.
2. Get up and go outside. I know this is boring and repetitive, but it helps immensely. Exercising and sunlight are both two things that are known to help improve mood and lower stress. And just keeping busy keeps your mind off things. A couple months ago I started to take my dog on walks first thing when I woke up to fight off any urge to lay in bed for two hours. It usually helped. Once you're up and moving, it starts the momentum to be more productive throughout the day.
My job used to allow me to go outside and walk around a lot. Anytime I started to feel anxious at work I would go outside, get some fresh air and try to walk off any nervous tension that was building up. Unfortunately, I recently got moved to a more sedentary position and it's definitely a challenge to not feel completely overwhelmed and claustrophobic. I'm still trying to figure out ways to deal with the anxiety without just running out the door. It definitely goes to show how much moving around actually helps.
3. The first thing you hear about calming anxiety is to breathe. Which is simpler said than done when you have the sense of impending doom crushing your chest. Your breathing is the first thing that starts to go haywire. You tend to either speed up your breathing and hyperventilate, or you start to unknowingly hold your breath. This will usually cause you to get lightheaded and dizzy and make you spin even more into a panic. I read recently that when you start to panic, to breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and then exhale for 8 seconds. This causes an autonomic nervous system shift from a sympathetic state (fight or flight) to a parasympathetic state that calms you down. Sometimes I forget how many seconds goes with which action, and I'm not sure if the amount of seconds is crucial, but when I start to feel lightheaded I start doing each for 5 seconds and it tends to work. I really think the difference between doing this type of breathing and just slowly breathing in and out is the holding your breath in between the inhale and exhale. It seems so simple but it really does seem to nip anxiety attacks in the bud. Just try it.
Like always, there is more I want to add but this is getting to be long-winded so I will save it for another post. I just want to leave you with one more thing:
If you've never had a panic attack before, here is a pretty good reenactment of what one feels like. She even explains what you can do if you're with someone having one (not much really) and what not to do (repeatedly ask questions, tell them to calm down, etc.). My personal advice: just be there for them, if they want that. If they want to be alone, let them. Don't ask a bunch of questions or make them try to explain anything. Just sit with them quietly and let them tell you what they need. Distraction sometimes helps, but when you're in the middle of a panic attack, you are so inside your own head, all you want to do is concentrate on riding it out, not listen to someone talk, or at least that's how it is in my experience. If you feel completely helpless, you can reassure them once or twice in a calm (not dominant or patronizing) voice that this will pass and they will get through it. But very little needs to be said. A quiet presence does more than you think.
Hopefully this helps somewhat. If you have any tips of your own, I would love to hear them. I am always open to try anything that may ease the plight of anxiety.