We've reached the end of 2017 the Anxiety Relief series (for now). Since it turns out that Anxiety is a life-long thing for many people, there is a high chance that more of these posts will come around as I find tips and tricks throughout the year.
Anxiety sucks when I am trying to walk outside and enjoy a nice, summer day. Or when I am in the checkout lane trying to leave a store. But it’s more frustrating when I’m in a crowded subway or about to enter a job interview. On days when my brain chemistry is all out of whack, anxiety doesn’t care what I’m doing. It just sucks. Sometimes, a full-blown panic attack is going to happen no matter what I do. Especially if I need to go somewhere where I am guaranteed to encounter triggers. By the way, on bad days, everything is a trigger.
It’s frustrating when I’m just trying to get a simple task done. I touched on this in my Target-almond-milk-scenario. When I know I am going through a tough time, I try to keep a few things constant.
- staying in my comfort zone for a while
- having things to ground me and keep me in a logical space as much as possible
Here are a few scenarios to display how they work.
How To: Handle Anxiety As You Become Aware of It
I have found that right before a panic attack, I might start dissociating. If I can become aware of this as it starts happening, I can usually stay in a good head-space. To avoid dissociating, I normally try two of three things:
First, I make sure I designate something on my body as a totem. Something small, like a coin. Something that either fits in a pocket or can be worn, like jewelry or a piece of clothing. For me, it’s usually my wedding ring. Other times, it’s the watch my husband bought me on valentine’s day. Basically, things that make me feel warm and fuzzy.
When I can feel the nerves building up, I put my hand or even just a finger on the item and take a deep breath. For a moment, I will try to evoke a lovely memory associated with the piece. e.g. with my wedding band, I will think of my wedding day. This can neutralize the notion that I am being threatened and help me finish my task.
Then I usually look around the room and describe it to myself. There are chairs, maybe I am sitting in one. My feet are touching the floor, my toes feel warm in my socks. At this point, my brain may let go of the idea that we are under siege and I can then keep going. If not, I repeat these two notions until I am either better or truly need to excuse myself from the situation.
Third, is a sense of humor. I try to step outside of myself and think about the situation. How silly is it to be worried about x? Ugh, in the checkout isle? Really? Thanks, brain.
I have established safe zones for my mind. Spaces where I know I can be myself. Whether that self is having a panic attack, crying or having a jolly ol’ time watching a funny movie. One such zone is my home. Another, is at my in-laws’. Third is usually a close friends’ home.
It doesn’t mean that I can’t feel anxious and be panicky when I am in these spaces. But it helps to know what they are, just like it helps to establish totems. We need things that make us feel safe and remind our minds that we are not in any ‘actual’ trouble.
When I feel trouble coming on, I try to get to a base as soon as possible. Then, I am going to bring out the works. A venting or distracting conversation can help when I get to my designated space. Other comforts include: Mac N Cheese, Ice Cream. And why not both? I know it’s not great, but it’s no worse than the cortisol a panic attack shoots into my body. It provides the comfort I need in that moment.
In addition to just being anxious, I am anxious that I could become too anxious to leave a safe zone. If I ever feel like my whole life is being disrupted by anxiety and I can’t leave the home, I know it’s time I change some things. Perhaps I re-visit my issues with my doctor, or consider different medication. Whatever it is, I fight hard to ensure that anxiety never runs my day, focusing on ensuring that my body can function fully despite some anxiety.
As I finish this set of Anxiety Kits, I need to tell you something: you’re not that weird. Even though I might be pretty weird. And if we are both weird? Well, that’s why I suppose you’re reading this. To be reminded of just that: you are not alone.