This past week has been pretty good, with the exception of reemergence of intense anxiety. Just like most everyone else, from time to time work gets stressful, health issues, etc. I won't whine, because I know we all have our "cross to bear," as my mother says. We are all carrying something. We're all doing our best in the face of difficulties, issues, and struggles of all kinds.
What I will share is how the anxiety showed up, so that perhaps you will feel less alone in your own experience. I'll also share what worked to help me get back to baseline as quickly as possible.
Basically, I kept waking up, pretty much on the hour, and always from the same recurring nightmare. It was clearly anticipatory anxiety, based on the dream content. Each time I awoke, my heart was racing and pounding out of my chest. I also had to keep going to the bathroom. No further details to avoid TMI.
In the past, the racing heart would panic me further. Now, I don't let it. I practice my DBT Skills and use self-talk to remind myself that my body is responding, and the quickest way to calm my nervous system, which was now clearly activated, would be to do things that would calm it.
These things included:
- Radically Accepting that my body was responding to my insecurities and fears through anxiety and panic symptoms. Radically accepting this meant not fighting it. Not complaining about how I "shouldn't" feel this way, and also not resisting the physical sensations such as the racing heart. It mean lying in bed and noticing my heart, reminding myself that I was in no danger (from the fear nor the pace of my heart), and that my heart rate would return to a normal rate sooner if I managed to stay calm.
- Used deep, slow-paced, measured breathing to calm my mind as well as my body, particularly my heart.
- Observed my heart rate with the interest of a scientist. I held my wrist of my left hand with a couple of fingers from my right hand to notice how my heart/pulse rate slowed a bit when I took those deep breaths.
- Took medication a prescribed (DBT PLEASE skill) in the form of a 0.5mg tablet of Ativan. It is prescribed to me in cases of severe anxiety or panic that does not respond, despite my best efforts, to skills. It is something I use infrequently, but it was needed this evening (middle of the night).
- Mindfully stayed in the present moment. When thoughts came like, "What if I feel exhausted in the morning?" or "What if I get really physically sick over this?" etc. came up, I asked myself, "What is wrong with THIS moment?" (something I learned from the wise Eckhart Tolle. I answered, "I am anxious and up when I am normally sleeping, and I am taking care of myself and will be sleeping again soon." I reminded myself that I didn't have to worry into the future. Not into the morning. Not how I might feel hours later or even minutes later. I didn't have to suffer into the future. And, I'm glad I didn't. It would have been a waste of time, it turns out. I felt better hours later when I woke up and started my day.
I hope this post was helpful to you in some way. If you'd like to learn DBT skills with me, I have a new, weekly online class starting on April 20th. You can learn more about me and the classes at EmotionallySensitive.com.
These classes are not affiliated with Optimum Performance Institute or the Roanne Program, and if you are looking for more intensive services, such as IOP Day Treatment or Residential Treatment to overcome Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD, please do visit the Roanne Program's website to learn more. They have an awesome program and were rated best in treatment for BPD by Psychology Today magazine. One of the things that differentiates them from other BPD treatment centers is that they serve both young women AND men with BPD. I think that's awesome. Men need help, too!
Thanks for reading.
Please do let me know if you can relate to anything that I shared about anxiety, and feel free to share how you cope most effectively when anxiety and panic rear their ugly heads in your life. You might help someone else with your share!