Staying aware of my anxiety sometimes leads me to more…anxiety. There is a delicate balance between avoiding and prepping for an anxiety attack, and staying calm in the throws of one. But, DONT.PANIC! Let me tell you what my attacks feel like, and ways I stay CALM.COOL&COLLECTED.
1. Have a gameplan.
Easier said than done, because anxiety may creep up on you when you least expect it. I try to have a toolkit of DBT.SKILLS for when I feel anxiety, or a full blown attack, and use them to calm me. We cannot always drop and meditate in the middle of the workday, but we can use a quick deep breathing exercise and count our breathes. Try breathing in and out to the count of ten. Focus on the feeling of your chest as it rises and falls. Stay grounded, and enjoy the small break while in the moment.
2. Know your triggers.
We do not always have the luxury of avoiding our daily life triggers. Stress at work, an unexpected loss, or a flashback to a traumatic event are difficult to predict. So get to know some of the foreseeable triggers. Maybe you get social anxiety at the supermarket. I get anxiety in crowded places like at concerts. Avoiding triggers like these is not reasonable or helpful. But if I make myself aware of the stress I am going to be placed in, I can gain an understanding of why I feel the way I do. And I can cope with it as exposure lightens the load of anxiety. There are triggers that may be important to avoid: for instance, I like to steer clear of eating at bars simply because I want to keep myself away from alcohol. Get comfortable with your triggers, and you might save yourself from HEAVY.ANXIETY.
3. Get through it, it won’t last.
I have heard and read many times that the ultimate fact is this: you cannot die from an anxiety attack. It may feel reminiscent of a heart attack. Keep breathing. I make sure to drink some water or tea, or lie down and close my eyes if it sneaks up on me late at night. Ride it out. I don’t know the world record for longest anxiety attack, but if it does not pass, call your doctor or 911 in the case of an emergency or worsening pain or tightness. I’ve gone to the emergency room for anxiety, and get piece of mind that I am safe and with professionals. Notice that you are in the midst of one, and gently accept that it is a feeling that will soon alleviate.
The more ready I am for my anxiety symptoms, the more capable I am of soothing myself until it drifts away like a feather in the wind. Remember, even people who are not diagnosed with anxiety have stressors in life that may cause feelings difficult to overcome. We are all in this together. And DONT.PANIC! You got this.
Try out some simple breathing practices found here at PsychologyToday.com.
“To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self…. And to venture in the highest is precisely to be conscious of one’s self.” — Søren Kierkegaard