Coping with EXTREME Anxiety and Panic
Anxiety and Panic attacks can be SO SCARY!!! If you agree, read on...
Hey everyone. I am experiencing some intense/extreme anxiety since yesterday, and because I've
become well versed in how to effectively cope even in the midst of feeling completely
"crazy" and terrified during anxious episodes, I thought I'd share with you, as I
know many here in the community suffer from this as well, and maybe you're even
struggling today. I hope this post gives you hope and encouragement. Remember, I'm
not a doctor or therapist, so I'm sharing from my personal, peer perspective.
I have a lot emotional vulnerabilities going on since the past couple of weeks, and I
haven't talked about them much. Because of these, my anxiety level has been up and
down, with the highest being yesterday and this morning.
Just a glimpse: my grandma passed away last week and her service was Monday. It's
never an easy time for this, of course. I was so emotional for days, then I began to
feel accepting, since she was in her 90s and hadn't been doing well with her health
lately. Another thing is I haven't been speaking to a very close loved one after
her choice to return to an abusive relationship (there are a lot of reasons why), and
I injured my ankle, so I've been on bed rest the past couple of weeks. I had an
important work-related meeting yesterday. It was the first significant out of the
house trip in weeks, and while the meeting went wonderfully, I think my nervous
system was jolted by overstimulation on my first day out (I'm very sensitive to such
things), and here I am in full on anxiety city.
Here are a few things I know to be true of anxiety and panic for me:
1.) As terrible as they feel, they cannot last. I think of the episodes as storms. I
can weather out the storm. If I can stay as calm as possible, not further work myself
up, and take care of my physical and mental health in the meantime, the storm will
not last as long, and it typically won't get worse.
2.) There is always cause for anxiety. We may have an idea or be very aware of what
has overwhelmed us to the point of panic and anxiety, but sometimes the cause is not
as obvious. The good news is, we can begin engaging in self-care regardless of
whether we are able to pinpoint why we feel so terribly. I have a well-meaning
friend who will ask me sometimes, if I have anxiety or panic and there's no obvious
cause, "But WHY, though?" I just say, it doesn't matter -- something is going on
physiologically, too, and I need to address it.
3.) Anxiety and panic often makes us feel a sense of urgency to do something drastic
or to freak out. Part of our brain is concerned we are in danger and is trying to
protect us. I find that literally talking to myself from my Wise Mind with
reassuring statements, i.e. "I am safe. All is well. This shall pass. Thank you body
and mind for trying to protect me. I am not in danger" all the while slowing down my
breathing can help significantly. I tell myself, "This isn't an emergency, even
though it feels like one. I can get through this. I have gotten through this before."
And when thoughts start jumping into the future, i.e. "What if I still don't have an
appetite at lunch time?" "What if I can't pull it together in time for work?" I
remind myself that I only have to be concerned with this moment. I have no control
over 3 hours from now or really even 3 minutes from now. I remind myself that it is
is THIS moment that I can focus my breath, thoughts, and deal with my experience.
4.) The other thing I've noticed about anxiety and panic is that it often tempts me
to break my routine --- in a lot of ways. My appetite is one of the first things to
go when I'm very anxious, which due to past trauma is very triggering and anxiety
provoking in its own right. So, when I get thoughts about how long will my appetite
be affected, I do what I did in number 3, reminding myself to be here now, then I
make sure I stay hydrated and nibble on things until my regular appetite comes back.
The other thing I used to always do was panic and run to the crisis clinic (and
sometimes by the time I got there, the episode would be over, proving that anxiety
and panic episodes are really transient), so, now what I do is STAY in my routine as
MUCH as possible. I get up on time rather then wrestle with the covers tossing and
turning and panicking with racing thought. I feed the cats. I have a little
something for breakfast and take my meds. I floss. Brush my teeth. Check social
media -- all of the things I normally do when I'm feeling fine. I honestly believe this has a significant impact on the episode passing, as it is sending messages to my brain that everything is same old same old. Now, I know it's not easy to brush your teeth and do tasks around the house when you're hyperventilating -- I just experienced that this morning (LOL!), but it can be done. And yes, I go to work (which fortunately I work from home, but I do live classes online, so I'm "on.")
5.) When it comes to anxiety meds, I try to not take anything; however, my psychiatrist has repeatedly expressed the importance of reestablishing equilibrium through taking my prescribed anti-anxiety med only as needed, such as in cases where I've tried other non-medication routes (such as all of the ideas above), as well as progressive muscle relaxation and guided meditation (which I also did already this morning). I decided to take my med as prescribed. If I need the help when I know I'm doing everything in my power otherwise to help myself, I take the med. Sometimes when the chemical aspect of my imbalance gets too far (or so I'm told by my psychiatrist and psychologist), the med is the most effective thing to help.
I hope my sharing helped you in some way today.
If you're experiencing anxiety, may you feel peace and ease very soon. Know that you are NOT alone -- far from it. Know that anxiety's bark is much worse than it's bite. Know that this storm will pass, and you will feel better soon.
Huge hugs. Thanks for reading. More soon.