That galloping heart- feeling like you’re drowning on air…
Pain shooting across a chest that seems to have a sumo sitting on it.
The sweats, the shakes, the shame at crumbling like a two year old that spilt their juice-
Anxiety attack is not a fun thing to experience-
Whether you suffer from them daily or on one-off occasions, the loss of control we experience of in them feels nothing short of terrifying…
The good news is, with the right tools (and mindset) they can be managed!
As someone that’s had anxiety for many years, I’ve picked up a lot of tips and tricks on my journey figuring out what worked for me. Tips and tricks I’m sharing with you here today that can maybe help support- or inspire you as they did me!
You’ll likely find as I did with mine, not everything I came across worked or resonated.
So if you’re in a situation where it seems like you’ve tried everything under the sun and nothings worked-
Let me be the first to hammer this home-
YOU ARE NOT DOOMED TO FOREVER BE IN THIS CONSTANT STATE OF TURMOIL!
Rather, it’s much more likely you just haven’t found what actually helps you yet.
So our first unofficial tip of this post…
Approach with an open mind…
If you’re reading through these tips like- nope, nope, nope–
Ask yourself: WHY nope?
What do YOU think could help instead?
REMEMBER… IT WILL PASS & YOU’RE GONNA BE OKAY
If you’ve had frequent anxiety for any considerable length of time, there usually comes a moment where the attacks stop being- “oh s***, I’m gonna die” to “seriously, AGAIN?”
For as ending as anxiety attacks may seem, the likelihood of anything actually life threatening to actually happen in one is extremely slim.
As the paramedics told me on particularly nasty episodes of mine… “It’s not the anxiety attack we’re so worried about. It’s you falling and hitting your head from the oxygen overdose…”
(Unofficial tip #1.5: SIT DOWN!)
The proof was in their treatment.
They’d sit on the end of the bed, play breathing exercises, have a silly chat over a cuppa- generally just distracting until my body was back to normal. There was no rushing to hospital- no specialist treatment or technique to make it all go away…
Just patience, and the passing of time.
Because they knew, as you will too, that it will pass, and you’re gonna be okay.
HOW BADLY YOU SUFFER, DEPENDS ON YOU.
Through these experiences, I also learnt to accept this particularly hard truth.
Until you’ve got some kind of control over your anxiety attacks, this tip sounds horribly unfair-
I mean, it’s not like we asked for this, is it?
But there were two things that happened to me when I finally did accept this idea…
- The length and severity of my anxiety attacks reduced.
- How battered and bruised I walked away from them lessened.
Because the truth you’re swallowing with this, is about taking responsibility.
Accepting that yeah, whilst you might not have asked for this, you’ve got it-
So what are you going to do with it?
It might be comforting to remember, that as nasty as an anxiety attack feels, it WAS birthed from love.
Stemming from our bodies protective F-mode to get you through the danger. (Flight, fight, freeze, fawn)
Now you might be there thinking- well mine just happen out of nowhere! There was no danger! I was having a great day!
Or, how is it love when it goes so freakin’ overboard?
Until you take responsibility for your well-being- not just in a panic attack, but your everyday too- seeing anxiety as anything other than a negative, sabotaging thing sent to make us suffer is difficult. It makes us ignorant to our own potential at getting a handle over them, and blinds us to the teachings our anxiety can offer…
SEE ANXIETY AS A TOOL
Not for torture, but for teaching.
Some of you might be thinking- what the heck does anxiety have to teach?
And the answer might surprise you…
What it can teach, is you. Mostly the fear based side to you- the things that scare, stress, see you compromising and hate on yourself-
If we’re ready and willing to open our minds to this knowledge, our anxiety can offer us vital clues into figuring out where these fears are rooted. Bringing attention to the fears that have impacted us deeply- sometimes extending as far back as childhood, but have not been addressed in a way that has been healthy or healing for us.
Journaling is one of the best ways to assist you in this exploration- especially if you aren’t in a fortunate enough position to be seeking professional help right now.
Asking yourself questions like-
- What was the situation, smell, sight, sound, phrase- that triggered the attack? What do you think caused it?
- How were you feeling before the attack- had there been anything troubling your mind recently?
- What do you think this attack could be attributed to? What fears do you have that it could be calling attention to you to heal?
- How might you help yourself should this situation arise again? What simple things could you do, or remember?
(In fact, I’ve got a FREE 30 day journal series that covers some of these questions if you’d like some help getting started!)
Unofficial tip #3.5 I’ll interject in here with, is HAVE PATIENCE WITH YOURSELF
We could be undoing many years of unhealthy coping mechanisms as we begin to make sense of ourselves in this more intimate way- meaning it will take some time to begin to understand what’s going on, to accept it, and figure out how to best help ourselves through these fears…
Sometimes we will see our best efforts still have us falling down.
And that’s okay. But allow yourself to continue on with your exploration rather than be a reason for regressing to old unhealthy behaviours. Like I said earlier, it takes time (and self-dedication) to find what finally clicks!
If you’re on Instagram, here’s some accounts I recommend following for helping you along with your self-discovery toward anxiety- they’ve picked me up many a time on my down days!
- @the.truth.doctor (Dr Courtney Tracey – “your no BS therapist“)
- @fwfglife (Yogi Adriene Mishler’s “Find What Feels Good” Community)
- @thebraincoach (A resource for managing mental health)
- @anxietyhealer (Resource for anxiety related management)
If you suffer with anxiety regularly, the most invaluable thing you can do for yourself is prepare…
Instead of waiting for it to sneak up on you, be the one in the bushes waiting to take it down.
With a giant arsenal to take it down with.
Formulating a plan that sees you taking the power back: creating an anxiety attack plan, building a self-care routine for periods you feel anxious, or to help manage it overall in the everyday…
It can be helpful to think of it as like online shopping; putting your plan together…
First finding out what it is we want; browsing around, seeking guidance from professionals- till we find something that makes us want to try (buy). If it doesn’t work or later stops being useful, we move on, or up-grade it…
Treat the tips and techniques you come across with the same kind of attitude.
Anxiety management is not a one size fits all- what helps someone else, might do nothing for you. It’s unique to you… And as we all know, our tastes and abilities change over the years too!
What you could put into your plan, or look into are included in these next tips!
I used to hate this phrase… Somehow always hearing it most in a time that’s all I was doing- drowning on air… The thing with this phrase though, is that it’s totally right being there in that moment.
The hyperventilation many of us experience along with our anxiety; this loss of control in our bodies can be regained- with a fast, accessible, and simple tool each of us have right now!
But…hello? I’ve LOST CONTROL of my BREATHING!
I know, it seems a bit like fighting fire with fire doesn’t it?
It’ll probably be one of the only times you’ll witness in life this method actually helping…
Breath-work is more than just- breath…
It’s about helping to train your mind to focus on the things YOU want it to, WHEN you want it to.
Syncing our bodies and our brains back together.
But, also to bring different sensations to us, dependent on where we’re aiming our focus.
Thanks to the age of the internet, we’re blessed with a vibrant array of ways to teach ourselves-
From ancient yoga techniques to military stress tactics, meditations lovingly created by mental health professionals-
Shop around and try them on for size!
(In that 30 day series I mentioned, there’s a wealth of them in there for you to try too!)
Here’s a few of my personal favourites though, to help you get started:
(Not affiliated to these awesome folk in any way, I just LOVE what they put out there)
- Yoga with Adriene: @fwfglife / yogawithadriene.com
A free Youtube / website based collection of videos beautifully put together on yoga, breath-work, meditations- with ones aimed at anxiety, or the tension and soreness we feel from it.
It’s such a nourishing experience and a treat to practice. And Adriene is such a kind and gentle teacher who explains everything in such a simple, understanding way it’s hard to trip up without her having you laughing and moving on!
Plus her teaching aid Benji is seriously cute!
My favourite anxiety video of hers:
- SOS section: Simple Habit: simplehabitapp.com
An easy to use app filled with yoga teachers, therapists, self-care coaches, and more- offering their breath-work based meditations on a vast array of topics- from healing traumas, building self-esteem, managing depression, and calming you down in a panic attack!
There’s a free and paid subscription. Whilst I’d love to afford the paid, the free version has ample enough and the odd new addition to keep me occupied, and they offer little tasters of paid subscription meditations too! (E-mail sign-up required, but Simple Habit aren’t spammy at all)
- Box-Breathing: a great how to is provided by healthline
A simple technique popularised by the Navy Seals for combat stress- and my go to for when the anxiety hits out and about…
JUST BREATHE 2
Titled so, this tip is for getting a second person involved to help calm your anxiety!
Maybe your friends, family, or partner is around more often than not when you have one.
Maybe, as much as they try support, they end up flapping about and freaking you out more than actually being helpful…
Help bring some comfort to both of you in these situations, with them helping you focus, and you showing them the way how to.
My partner and I fall back on a silly sequence game when I have attacks when we’re together-
Numberwang as I like to refer to it.
After that ridiculous game-show concept on “That Mitchell & Webb Look” series- if you’re familiar, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say- GET CREATIVE WITH IT!
Get your partner/friend/parent to sit opposite you- they can hold your hand or give you a cuddle for extra comfort if it helps.
They’re then going to voice a generic number sequence: 4,5,6,7,8-
Which you’re going to repeat- as best you can.
They’ll continue: 9,10,11,12-
13, 19, 42, 20…
Focus all your attention on repeating that sequence.
112, apples, 133, Cindy Crawford-
The important thing in this is all of your attention is honed in on their voice, and the sequence coming out of it. Warning, laughter may ensue… It can get pretty ridiculous sometimes!
If there ever was a time for distraction to be healthy to our well-being, in the middle of an anxiety attack is one of them.
Sometimes we just need that break in focus from the anxiety to help bring ourselves back.
For instance- I don’t play games on my phone very often, but there’s still one at the ready on my home screen for those moments all my other efforts in calming myself haven’t worked out and a distraction is needed instead.
Ask yourself, what distracts you? What can’t you help but pay attention to and get lost in?
Music? Your favourite film? Playing with a pet? Talking to a friend? TV?
Consider how you can bring these things to you in the times you need it most.
A playlist of calming songs available on and offline, copies of the film at friends and families homes you hang out at most- I mean, you can even play with your dog via webcam and a treat dispenser nowadays…
Other distraction ideas:
- A book of doodles or colouring pages.
- Make a book of “touch and feel” things. Fill it with fabrics, loud rustling paper and other things you like the feel and sound of in your book.
- Feel good playlist of songs you can’t help but nod along to! Make it available on and offline- just in case!
- Make a cup of tea, or wash your face- something ritualistic and nourishing to help bring the attention away from the anxiety.
- “Baby Pose” Lie on your back, hug your knees to your chest, grab the outer edges of your feet and raise them gently into the air- now rock and roll around like a newborn! A funny and easy to do yoga move to help us feel attentive, but relaxed within ourselves.
DEAL WITH THE AFTERMATH
After an anxiety attack, it’s normal to feel like you’ve been ten rounds with Mike Tyson.
It’s not pleasant, but it is normal.
Headaches and dizziness from the increased oxygen intake, pain in the chest from the muscles tensing and fighting to keep up with the rapid breaths- exhaustion, aches or loss of feeling in the face and fingers…
It’s overwhelmingly tempting to just collapse and wallow- it can feel like that’s the only strength we have left.
In my experience, the faster you get back on the horse- that is getting back to a better state again, the faster the road is to recovery. The longer we leave ourselves in the aftermath of anxiety, the harder it gets to get back on- the more likely we are to fall back to unhealthy behaviours to see us through this crisis- not the newer, healthier, less experienced ones we’ve been trying to cultivate.
The hardest thing for me is that anxiety can leave you feeling so crappy, it’s so easy to slip into a negative mindset. Making any effort to do anything to better myself almost futile…
If you’re nodding along right now, try what I do…
Instead of judging your actions by what you CAN’T do, judge them on what you CAN…
I’m so drained, I can’t move.
I’m so drained, but I CAN put on a meditation.
My chest hurts, I can’t relax-
My chest hurts, but I CAN ease that tension to help me relax by…
And actually DO those things.
The more you support yourself through these times in ways that are healthy, and helpful to you-
the more you teach your brain to naturally gravitate towards these things should anxiety ever decide to pay a visit…
We’ll wrap it up there today- hopefully it’s given you some things to think about!
Drop me a comment- let me know what you thought, or if there’s anything else anxiety related you want me to talk about!
See you next time!