Hello Mental health champions, how are you doing?
Today I really want to dig deeper into anxiety and panic. These two things have made my life a living hell. I think I kind of always had anxiety. When I was younger, I had a lot of stomach issues and I think a lot of that was linked to stress and anxiety. Growing up, I dealt with a lot of trauma and hard life lessons at a young age. In so many ways, I am beyond thankful for these experiences. However, I do think that some of these situations contributed to some of my anxiety issues. I want to dive right in deep today.
The first thing you should do is check your symptoms. The problem with anxiety is that it can present itself as so many other issues. It can show up as breathing issues or stomach pain. That is why so often, people go to doctors to get a diagnosis and figure out what is wrong and nothing shows up. A lot of times this could be by your body having a physical response to the anxiety and trauma you are feeling. This can be so frustrating. However, if you have an open mind, you may be surprised to know that maybe your mental health is suffering and needs more attention so that it can improve your physical health. Please check out my other blog post on this topic. I go way more in depth on the way physical and mental health impact each other. In this blog post, though, I really want to talk about figuring out where your anxiety comes from and possible ways to help alleviate it. Finding where exactly your anxiety comes from is not necessarily an easy task. Sometimes you have no clue where it comes from. In fact, most panic attacks happen in public places like stores and schools for what seems to be no reason at all. This is why anxiety and panic can be so debilitating and upsetting. For me, I didn’t even originally know why I was anxious. Through years and years of counseling and self-discovery, I learned that I struggle with the fear of abandonment over almost everything else. When I realized this as one of my main anxiety triggers, it made it just a little more simple when I was trying to identify why I was feeling certain ways and why anxiety was hitting me when it did. When I learned about this trigger, it made it a little bit easier to figure out coping methods. A couple coping methods I would have was calling my mom. Now listen, I don’t ever recommend counting on only one person whenever you need mental support, however, during this time, I was literally barely making it through the school day. That was how intense my panic attacks and anxiety was. The reason that I say you shouldn’t count on just one person is because sometimes, in life, that person may be busy and can’t help you and talk you down in that one moment you think you need them. In emergencies, like I was having almost everyday, I had to do what I had to do. However, you HAVE to learn how to be okay on your own and self soothe. It was a process, trust me. It took me about a year to actually finally know how to help myself. Here is what I would do when I would feel a panic attack coming on.
When you feel that panic attack coming on, you can usually feel that stress start to try to make its way out of your body. It does this by speeding your heart up, speeding up your breathing, and sweating. Your body is trying to go into fight or flight response mode. The problem with anxiety is that you may not know that you’re not in danger, but for some reason, that anxiety tricks your brain into thinking that you are. This is your body’s natural reaction to going into fight or flight mode. Now, getting out of fight or flight mode is the hardest part. You have to try to mentally overcome that adrenaline trying to take over your body. So, when I feel that panic this is what I do.
- I try the breathing technique. I know that once I personally am able to get my breath under control, usually everything else falls in place for me. For me, I think the feeling like I can’t breathe is enough to make me panic even more. So this is where I personally start. You breathe in for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, then try to exhale for 8. This should help to reset your body’s breathing.
- Although I would like to think that the breathing trick works every time, it doesn’t. The next thing I will do if I am unable to slow my breathing is touching on the five senses. I take note of something from each sense.
Touch- I keep a small fluffy ball keychain on my purse to fidget around with. This sense of touch reminds me that I am awake and able to move.
Taste- I always carry gum on me. When I start to panic, I always take out a piece of gum. Chewing it is also a good way to get some of that energy out. I also make sure it is a STRONG flavor so that when it hits my tongue, it reminds me that I can still taste and once again awakens your body.
Smell- I always carry around Jergens Cherry Almond hand lotion. This hand lotion was used by my grandma my whole life and the scent reminds me of her. It always made me feel comforted when I would smell it so I chose that as my smell to go. I use this lotion and inhale deeply to take me back to that time where I felt safe.
Next is hearing. I try to just pay attention to the sounds I hear around me. If my environment is contributing to my panic, I will get up with my phone and leave the meeting, class, etc. I will sit in the hallway or bathroom for a couple minutes and play a meditation on my phone to calm me down.
Finally is seeing. When I take note of what I can see, I usually try to refer to what I can see on my body. Sometimes looking around your environment can make it worse. This is why I personally like to look down at my hands, my lap, or my feet. I remind myself that I am grounded and in no immediate danger.
When I put these five senses together, it helps so much. If possible, I also like to go for a walk when I feel the panic sit in. It is almost as though I am giving in to the flight response. This can be a good thing here and there but you also want to help teach yourself that you are safe inside the classroom or meeting too and that the hallway isn’t your only option to feel safe. However, sometimes just walking it out for a couple minutes can help tremendously. I also really try to relax my muscles as if I am drifting off to sleep.
I will get deeper into this topic again because there are so many ways to cope and train your mind. In the meantime though, I hope this helped someone reading this.
Talk to you soon brain battlers- Gracie <3