I remember when I first started having what I call "anxiety attacks" which quickly started turning into full blown panic attacks. They all started when I was a sophomore in college. At the time I was not only dealing with MAJOR amounts of academic stress but I was also in the middle of getting endless amounts of tests done due to a recent health scare. My life was just not going my way that year. They only got progressively worse from there.
When I have an "episode" it starts out with the feeling that something is VERY wrong. It's similar to how you feel after getting bad news. Then I get really hot (mostly ending in the stripping of clothes.) That's when I realize what's happening and I start to have pressure on my chest. The heaviness in my chest usually results in shortness of breath and rarely hyperventilation. The last symptom is an unusually high heart rate and exaggerated thumping of my heart, so much so that I can actually hear my heart beat.
I was able to deal with my anxiety/panic attacks for about three years on my own. I would just take cold showers or go for very brisk walks until I cooled off. Sometimes there would be weeks between episodes. The only problems I would have would be waking up in the middle of the night from my heart beating so hard it woke me up. (Like I said, they can happen suddenly for no reason at all, even while you sleep.) But if that was as bad as they got I wouldn't be writing about them.
Last year at the end of September they got out of hand. It got so bad I had to take medication to help me out, which was the last thing I wanted. I had just accepted a new job, in a new place that I had never been. I had interviewed for the job on a Wednesday, was offered the job that evening, and was asked to move by Thursday. Can you say MAXIMUM STRESS?
I asked for a few days grace to you know...find a place to live, and we made a new agreement that I would start work the following Monday. Now when I'm stressed, I can't eat. Being a hypoglycemic that causes a big problem. I was so stressed from this sudden life change that I didn't eat from Wednesday evening until the following Monday at lunch. I was suffering so bad from anxiety that I couldn't physically make myself eat. I would just end up choking on my food. It was awful. I love food so very much.
The Saturday before I moved to this new place I begged my dad to take me to the doctor. I couldn't do it anymore on my own. I was really suffering, so we waited until the Walk-in Clinic opened and I was the first patient at the door. This is where I met a fascinating woman who changed my life and the way I deal with anxiety.
She was a National Guard/ER Nurse.
The woman who took care of me at the clinic that day was the best person I could have ever had. She is an ex ER nurse and current National Guard nurse. She said "You want anxiety? I know anxiety." The few minutes I spent with her gave me some of the most useful life lessons I could ask for. After she prescribed for me a quite frankly scary dose of anxiety medication to deal with the immediate problem, she gave me ways to deal with them on my own.
Ways to Deal with Anxiety
- Breathe slowly. VERY SLOWLY. She told me four breaths a minute max, about one breath per 15 seconds. Basically what it does is it resets your nervous system and stops you from continuing with the terrible anxiety attack.
- Children's Benadryl, a half dose of Children's Benadryl to be exact. It's enough of a sedative to allow you to fall asleep but not enough to actually do anything to you. (Also excellent if you have anxiety and frequent drug tests.)
- Think about how it could actually be worse. The nurse told me her worse anxiety attack was while she was in the middle of a C-section with her second child. She told me there is nothing worse than being open on the table and panicking (I just took her word on this one.)
- Go for a drive. My family tries very hard to help me cope with my anxiety so that I don't have to take medication. When I start feeling one coming on we go for drives.
- Take a cold shower. Nothing says stop panicking like a cold shower.
- If no one is around, call somebody. Don't try to do this on your own. It's hard to realize nothing is wrong when your anxiety is lying to you.
- Just remember that there is nothing wrong with you because you have anxiety. Being human is stressful, and this is just how some of us cope with it.
If you want more information on Panic Attacks, Zoella wrote an excellent explanation of what they are, what they feel like, how you can help someone deal with them, and much more here.
My favorite form of anxiety control is taking my Jeep for a drive. What's yours? How do you deal with anxiety? I'd love to hear ways you guys deal with maximum stress.