Anxiety attacks and how I cope with them
There are quite a few things in life I haven't experienced but I would like to. I'm terrified of heights but I fancy jumping out of a plane at some point - with a parachute, obviously. I hate running long distance but I'd like (don't take the use of that word too seriously) to run a marathon, eventually. I have approximately 0.5 seconds of spare time but I would quite like to write a book at some point in the next two years.
There is one thing that I have experienced on more than one occasion though, sadly, and that's a bloody anxiety attack. I'm not talking about a slight panic when you can't find your phone. I'm talking a full scale 'I am going to die' anxiety attack - heart palpitations, excessive sweating, dizziness, sheer extreme panic and all!
When you're having an anxiety attack, all you want is for it to end, imminently. Now, I'm not a qualified mental health professional but I'm one hell of a seasoned anxiety attack sufferer. This means that I have a few tips and tricks I turn to when it comes to managing this heavily unwanted experience whenever it rears its ugly head:
Let it happen
This is probably the most life changing advice that I've wholeheartedly embraced when it comes to anxiety attacks. Now I know this is a potentially scary idea and definitely easier said than done, but trust me when I say it works. It's natural to want to suppress the anxiety attack with all your might because no one enjoys them. But doing that only gives the anxiety more power and strength which it ultimately feeds off. You want to starve it, not handover your deliveroo app and give it the green light to order whatever it likes. Telling yourself that it's okay for it to happen and encouraging yourself to let it happen, I find, instantly releases some of that increasing pressure.
Tap, tap and tap some more
I'm one of those annoying foot tappers anyway, so it will come as no surprise that I rely on this even more when I'm in the eye of the anxiety attack. I'm not going to bore you with the scientific benefits of body tapping. I'm also not a scientist in any sense of the word and unlike half of the people on Facebook since the start of the pandemic, I'm not going to pretend to be one either. All I can tell you is that for me, when anxiety attacks trigger an intense influx of energy, it helps me to release some of that unwanted energy that has been involuntarily thrust upon me.
Find some fresh air
Fresh air is one of the most underrated and underappreciated elements on earth, along with being able to breathe through your nose when it's not congested and the first few gulps of a drink when you're really dehydrated. Fresh air has been proven to ease stress and anxiety (again, not a scientist so just use Google), so what better time to get outside than when you really need to reduce your anxiety - and fast! I often find that the lack of confined space helps to remove an unnecessary added layer of pressure as well, pressure you just do not need when you're already in fight or flight mode.
If, like me, you can get dizzy and light headed when you have an anxiety attack, it's really important that you sit down as soon as you can. I've had too many near misses with hitting my head on something or falling on stuff, so learn from my mistakes. I also find that sitting can be very grounding (and really helps with the foot tapping exercise that I mentioned before).
Breathing feels like the most obvious piece of advice to give you, but something we often forget. People have their own counting structures but I personally opt for a 4-2-4 rule - breathe in for 4 seconds, hold my breathe for 2 seconds and then breathe out for 4 seconds. It's one of the first things we forget to do in our fight to survive but it is really important to focus on your breath as soon as possible.
I appreciate that when you are having an anxiety attack, your main objective is to survive and therefore you may not be able to remember the techniques I've suggested for coping, but considering or developing some sort of a plan for how to deal with it can be empowering in itself. Anxiety doesn't like you empowering yourself too much so that's why I try to do it at every given opportunity...*smug face*
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