5 Techniques to Help Make Them Less Horrible
It was fall time right after Neal and I got married. It was about 10AM and I was home alone getting ready in the bedroom in front of our mirror and listening to some music. Out of nowhere I heard a super loud crash, it sounded like our door being broke open. I immediately shut the bedroom door and locked it, pressing myself against it as a barricade. Is there someone in my home?
What do I do? My mind began racing and I tried calling Neal but he didn’t pick up. My heart was pounding so intensely, it was almost painful! I called my mom, while trying to figure out how I could escape. My mom picked up and I whispered to her as I opened up the bedroom window and kicked the screen off so I could get outside. I crawled out of the window and drove over to my parents house. I was absolutely terrified!
Ya know, your body is incredible
It shoots off powerful chemicals when you feel fear that make you hyper-sensitive and quick to respond. As soon as I felt I was in danger, my body prepared itself to fight or flee. My blood began to pump to my muscles. My focus became sharp and my reflexes, instantaneous. These are incredible and helpful things. That is, if you are actually in danger.
The problem with all this powerful stuff is that your body reacts the same whether that fear was real or imagined. People with anxiety have an overactive fight or flight response, that is triggered by any number of things. When someone with anxiety feels great fear or stress they often experience a panic attack.
“A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no…apparent cause” and unfortunately, it often paralyzes your ability to act rather than react quickly. Much like an asthma attack a panic attack is consuming, it feels impossible to escape from one and there is often little to do but ride it out.
I got to my parents house and explained what had happened. My mom sympathized with me and then my dad drove from work to meet me back at my house so I didn’t have to go back alone (Neal was in a meeting and hadn’t seen my call yet).
I unlocked the front door, nervous about what I’d find. I looked in the living room, nothing was out of order. I ventured to the kitchen (where the sound had come from), the side door was locked and looked normal. I scanned the area and spotted the culprit, not a person but a heavy piece of decor. It had fallen from the wall into our metal sink.
*Insert face palm emoji
I felt so sheepish and embarrassed. I sent my daddy home. I went outside to pick up the screen I had pushed out of place when I was crawling out of the window. “I’m so silly” I kept repeating to myself, and yet I still felt afraid. A few weeks later I began seeing a counselor, I knew that feeling that kind of fear all the time wasn’t normal (most people don’t jump out of windows when they hear a noise haha). I didn’t want to feel afraid like this the rest of my life! I especially didn’t (don’t) want to pass that fear on to my kids.
So how am I doing now? I am a lot better! My anxiety isn’t gone (sadly) but I rarely have panic attacks anymore, I have a better hold on my thought patterns, and I am far more confident!
There are lots of things that contributed to me doing better (moving to a new appt., better diet, exercise, more social interaction, etc.) but I wanted to share the things that have helped me most when I am starting to spiral (spin into a thought pattern that will lead to a panic attack).
Before I share though, I would like to point out that I did not have a chemical imbalance and my anxiety was not severe enough to be medicated. It was situational. If you have anxiety and it is more severe, these tips will hopefully help but they are in NO way intended to replace the advice of a medical expert!
Here are the tips I have. To help you remember them, I came up with the acronym PANIC!
Pick a sense
Pick one of your five senses and focus all your mental power on that one. I prefer to focus on my sense of touch but pick whichever is strongest for you. For example, if I were to pick sight, I would list everything I see (out loud or in my head depending on where I am) to the very smallest detail. Right now the light is coming through the window and is giving the carpet a blue-ish hue. Some of the paint is chipping on the bottom of the wall. The wall’s texture looks like a smooth cottage cheese, etc.
If I were to pick touch, I would close my eyes and rub my hands together and focus on what it feels like. Or, what it feels like when I move my head or rub my tongue on the roof of my mouth. This helps bring you into the present and help your mind and body focus on something other than fear.
Find a quote, saying, or statement that brings you courage and helps you feel safe and calm. Find one and when you are feeling anxious, repeat it (or better yet say it every morning, even when you don’t feel anxious)! Here are some examples, “I am safe, I am strong, I am loved.” “I have all the resources I need to solve any problem.” “I am enough, I am so enough, it is insane how enough I am.” Cheesy? Maybe a bit, but this is a scientifically proven thing peeps! Say an affirmation enough times, and you will begin to believe it and act on it!
This is actually a hypnobirthing technique (which I attribute a lot of my improvement with anxiety to. Stay tuned for a post about how hypnobirthing helped me in so many ways. For real it is so helpful).
Close your eyes and visualize all the fear and anxiety in your body. Now take a deep breath and count down from the number five to one (in your head) while breathing out as slowly as you can. “Five”, imagine the anxiety being pushed down and out of your head like a medical syringe. “Four”, it is continuing to be pushed down from your neck, shoulders, and chest. “Three”, it is falling down past your stomach. “Two”, it’s being pushed past your pelvic area and thighs. “One”, it is forced down your legs and out of your toes (Beauty and the Beast style). Boom, it’s all gone!
What am I afraid of? Why is that justified? Why is that unjustified? What are the odds that my fear will actually happen? These questions can help you gain a better grip on reality. It interrupts the “surely everything is going to go wrong” pattern in your mind and reminds you that things will more than likely be ok.
Side note: do not ask “What is the worst thing that could happen?” to someone who suffers from anxiety. Because they will tell you truly the worst thing that could happen! Haha. Instead ask, “what is the most probable worst thing that could happen?” My husband found this out the hard way haha…
Control your breath
As we discussed before, when your body senses danger you go into “flight” mode and your breath will quicken so you can get away. When you have a panic attack the same thing happens but a way to help combat the attack is to focus on your breathing and slow it down. Breathe in while counting to four in your head, hold for the count of two, then exhale while counting to eight. Continue to do this until you feel you have better control over your breath. Stop if you feel light headed please!!! We don’t want you passing out.
Okay, let’s recap…
Pick a sense
Control your breath
I have worked on these tactics and like I said, my anxiety isn’t gone but they have helped me get a much better grip on it. It takes a lot of mental work (like SO much freaking work) but it is worth it to not be disabled by anxiety. So, give these a try and let me know how they work for you 🙂
Do you have tactics to help you with your anxiety? Let me know in the comments please (cause, I need all the help I can get) 🙂
Ps. If you have a friend that could use this, share the link with them. Or if you want to remember this info, give it a pin 🙂