When Emily and I first came up with the idea to share our life struggles with anxiety, I was really excited. Growing up I had struggled with moments of severe anxiety and look at me now: I was living my life without medication and doing great. I was proud to share my story with the world!
And then I had my first anxiety attack in over 6 years.
Suddenly all of my confidence was gone. I felt ashamed. Here I was trying to help others and I couldn’t seem to even help myself. And how was I going to explain this to Emily? I did not want to cast a shadow over all of the work we had been doing.
That is when it hit me: this was actually a perfect story to share.
Throughout my wellness journey, I sometimes lose track of why I am doing all of this in the first place. I was struggling to live my life on a daily basis because I was constantly overwhelmed by anxiety and fear. I did not know how to live in the present and appreciate all of the moments that were happening around me every single day. I had changed my habits because I wanted to change my life. It wasn’t about perfection, it was about my wellbeing.
Reminding myself of my “why” helped to bring me back from my spiral. There was no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed; in fact, my loss of control was actually a beautiful reminder that I am human…. I am alive. These struggles are simply another moment of my life – something to look back on and learn from.
I know, I know – it’s easy to write these things after having some time to reflect on my experience. You’re probably wondering, “but how did you get through your attack in that moment!?” Here are a few things that worked for me:
Accept that it’s happening.
This one is very important. If there is one thing that I’ve learned in my life, it is that fighting panic or anxiety attacks is the worst thing you can do. If you feel one coming on, acknowledge it. For example, mine happened when I was at work. As I began to feel worse and worse, I reached out to my boss and told them I was not feeling well and had to go home. I immediately left.
NOTE: If you are not able to leave wherever you are, try to at least take a moment and step away from what you are doing. Once you are alone, close your eyes and spend 1-3 mins focusing on your breath and try repeating some mantras
Head to a place where you feel comfortable and safe.
For me, this meant laying on a yoga mat in my bedroom. I started by taking a few breaths in a few different positions (laying on my back, on my stomach, on my sides). Similar to yoga, focusing on the breath along with the movement helped to relax my mind. I also made sure that my dog was in the room with me. Petting her and listening to her breathe connected me with something outside of myself
Focus on the environment around you.
This especially important for anyone who may be unable to leave where they are or what they are doing. While you focus on controlling your breathing, note the things around you. The sounds, the smells, the visuals. When we take a moment to ground ourselves by acknowledging what is around us, it can help bring our minds back to present. You are breathing, you are seeing, you are hearing… you are alive and you are going to be okay.
Give yourself some time to recover.
Remember, anxiety happens and that is okay! Take the time you need to get back up – do not ignore your feelings. I spent the entire next day working from home. I took the breaks I needed throughout the day and made sure I was surrounded by things that made me feel good (once again, my dogs!!!). I did not force myself to jump right back into the swing of things. Giving myself the extra day to recover gave me the boost I needed to get through the rest of my week. And even if you aren’t able to take time off, at least try to find extra time in your day to focus on yourself.
Like I said before, these are just a few of the main things that helped get me through my recent anxiety attack… and they may not work for everyone. If you would like to share any tips or tricks that work for you, send us a note because we would love to hear them!