Although I’ve made posts in the past about what’s helped me get through anxiety, I still find “any advice about what I can do for anxiety,” to be the question I am asked the most on and off stream. So I created a set of quick tips that I have learned.
Recovering and learning how to handle mental illnesses and live our best lives despite them is incredibly difficult and requires quite a lot of energy and perseverance. I am continually learning new things about myself and adjusting the methods I use to help my bad days. The goal is to set up a toolbox with a bunch of ideas/techniques that you can try and pull from when you’re well. So I hope the following items make a great addition to your toolbox.
Here are three things you can do as soon as you realize your anxiety is rising:
Breathe - check that your breaths are not shallow. How will you know? Your shoulders will be rising when you inhale. The way I visualize it, I pretend that I am trying to fill my belly with air, not my chest. But your hand on your stomach and think about how to fill your belly, like inflating a balloon. Repeat until you feel the panic subsiding.
Reground – how you accomplish this is completely up to you. If you don’t own some sort of fidget toy, try touching things around you. Really touching them and engaging the senses. What does your phone feel like? Is it cold? Is it smooth? What about your jeans? Are they soft? Now, what are your feet touching? Are you standing on the cold ground, on a soft carpet, are your shoes stiff? It doesn’t matter if your problem isn’t going away. It's possible that the stressor is still around. However, you are you, right now, at this moment, touching your jeans, standing on a cold tile floor. You are nowhere else but here.
Accept – It doesn’t matter if this is your first panic attack or the sixth. During this moment, it doesn’t matter that you thought you would be better by now and not feel this way. You are you, and that’s enough. You are not going to die (even though you might feel like it) and the panic can only last 3-5 mins. This also means you are not too likely to experience a concurrent episode. So, if you're freaking out that you may have another one, or you don't know when the next one coming, know that is ok. It's ok to be scared, it's not like you're enjoying a picnic. When it comes to panic, however, the chances are that you've done it before, and you'll do it again. Feed the fear with confidence instead of more fear, and you'll find relief.
If you find that you’re panicking very frequently consider doing the following:
-Joining an online group/finding a support community
-Looking for a self-help/workbook
-Find a craft: coloring, knitting, scrapbooking
Of course, I also want to take this moment to remind everyone that there is nothing like a trained professional to help you learn good techniques. There are no short cuts that will be as effective, ever. I can only offer ideas for what has helped me, and none of these should be regarded as treatment options.
If you find that you are:
Having a hard time just enjoying a day, going through it without a worry
Experiencing several physical symptoms repeatedly, almost daily
Have withdrawn from friends and loved ones
Please, for the love of [insert your choice of diety], go to a doctor. At least a general practice doctor. You deserve to live a fulfilling, satisfying life just like everyone else. Just try it. If your anxiety is that bad, you have more to lose by not doing anything, than you do by trying to reach out for help.