It is always great to be aware of the way that we feel – but if we can somehow control our thought process during these times, I think we could all benefit form that.
Below are some great strategies to work on when you feel an attack coming on, whilst your having an attack + even after the attack.
Sleep: Sleep is essential – I don’t care what anyone says! If you don’t get enough sleep – you will be a human zombie (that is not a pretty sight) Ensure you are getting 8-10 hours of sleep per night,
Limit Sugar: I can barely eat any sugar at all these days. While I still crave it hugely in a big bad way, it is never worth an attack to me. Start thinking of alternative snacks you can have that don’t have such a high level of sugars. Fruits and low sugar baked goods usually are ok for me, and they often curb my cravings.
Limit Alcohol: This seems counterintuitive, but alcohol uses up vital calming nutrients (like fatty acids, vitamin Bs and folic acid) in its metabolism leaving less for your brain and body to use for relaxation. You also don’t sleep as restfully when there is alcohol in your system. I keep it to >1 drink per week.
No Caffeine: I never really started a coffee habit, so this is probably a bit easier for me than most people. Caffeine give me the jitters & causes almost guarantee anxiety for me. I don’t even mess with decaf. If you can ever wean yourself, but you still want something warm to drink, try rooibos tea. Totally caffeine free, and it comes in lots of great flavors.
Drink Water: Did you know dehydration is a huge cause of anxiety in many people? Keep your water intake up. I am so bad at this. So very bad.
Eat Protein: I don’t know about you, but I get shaky without protein. Make it part of each meal and snack.
Exercise: Oh, come on. You knew this would be in here. But it’s here for a reason. Wanna know a secret though? Two minute bursts of activity (think parking in a further spot, pacing while on the phone, etc.) that add up to 30 minutes a day is as effective as a more structured 30 minute workout when it comes to improving cardiovascular health.
Know Your Triggers: This may take a while to figure out, but at least become aware of the fact that you should be watching for them. For me? Loud music or noises, visual clutter, and just sensory overload in general throws my anxiety out of whack. I also get increasingly anxious when I am overheated or when my blood sugar dips too low.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Consider CBT to learn more ways to reprogram your brain and its reactions to stress.
Find Your Calm: What makes you calm? Not “What do you think should make you calm?” What makes you calm? For me, I need alone time to breathe, pray and read. I also need it every day.
Move Slowly: I am a chronic multi-tasker, get things done at light speeder. To prevent anxiety, I try to deliberately move slowly.
DURING A PANIC ATTACK
Challenge the Attack: If you feel an attack coming on, do not shy away from it. Acknowledge it and tell the attack that is has 20 seconds to start. After that, you plan on going on with your day. For minor attacks, this sometimes will stop them before they start.
Breathing 7/11: Use your diaphragm to breathe in for 7 seconds and out for 11. The idea is to make sure you expel all of the air from your lungs before filling them back up. This prevents hyperventilation.
Loosen Your Clothing: Take off any heavy jewelry and scarves. Remove heavy layers. Avoid wearing things like turtlenecks and other restrictive clothing.
Don’t Go There: I make it a rule to never let my thoughts go to the panic thoughts. I don’t wonder how I will manage another one. I don’t think about the future and the responsibilities I have. Yes, this takes practice, but I started to note the thoughts that really make my panic spiral. These ideas are fine to think about when I am not in an attack, but I strictly avoid them during panic. Instead of thinking trigger thoughts, I simply tell myself over and over, “Do not go there.”
Have a Mantra: A go-to phrase is nice during a panic attack. It is a calming thought that is readily available. I tell myself, “These are only uncomfortable feelings. They can’t hurt me.”
Time Them: Once I started timing my attacks, it was a game changer. I was able to see how long they normally last, and it is pretty consistent. For me, the first 10 minutes builds up, and the next 10 minutes calms down. After 20 minutes, I am feeling more normal, and after 30, I am usually able to resume normal activity. When an attack starts, I look at my watch.
Talk It Through: Find someone who won’t just tell you to calm down.
Stay Where You Are: Don’t try to drive home when you are in an elevated emotional state. It is dangerous. Get somewhere comfortable.
Observe: Ground yourself by making observations about the present. I feel the breeze. I smell… I hear…
Don’t Fight: When you are sure an attack is inevitable, just accept it. Fighting it only tells your body to keep panicking. Your goal is to convince your body that it is not actually in a panic situation. You are trying to turn off the panic switch. Let the attack happen, and practice the above tips to bring your body back to stasis.
AFTER AN ATTACK
Call in Backup: If you can swing it, have someone come take care of you and yours. I don’t need this after every attack anymore, but in the beginning and before I knew more about them (and sometimes after a particularly bad one still), I needed my mom to come take over.
Veg: If you don’t have anyone to help, please veg. Cancel whatever you can cancel, and take a mental health day. Going back at it when you don’t need to will just increase your already fragile stress level. Really decide what is necessary and what you just feel like you need to do.
Bare Minimum Mode: While you recover, go into bare minimum mode. This means no unnecessary housework or errands. No limit on TV. No worries about meals. Leftovers, sandwiches and carry-out are all acceptable and edible options.
I hope the above has helped you.
Wherever you are in the world, have a lovely day ❤