It’s hard to find someone in this day and age not experiencing some form of anxiety. We live in a society that believes the busier you are, the more successful you are. I know for me, being a woman who is doing everything, and wants to be perfect at everything, is a cocktail for anxiety and panic.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is one of the most common mental illnesses in America. More than 40 million adults over the age of 18 in the U.S. has some form of anxiety disorder. There are many other forms of anxiety including:
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
When My Anxiety and Panic Started
My anxiety and panic attacks started shortly after I graduated high school. It started with chest pains, which the emergency room doctor deemed a chest cold. It eventually turned into crying spells and full-blown panic.
I found a doctor who knew that this was anxiety, and put me on 10mg of Lexapro. The medication is great for masking symptoms, not much for actually solving the issue. The anxiety and panic attacks continued.
They eventually got so bad, I entered a behavioral health facility in an attempt to get the panic under control. Many of the people in this facility were attempting to detox from drugs, so this place really scared some perspective into me. I was not about to allow anxiety and panic to keep me on medication the rest of my life.
In college, I met a wonderful life coach who taught me the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. With anxiety and panic attacks (at least with me) many of the problems are created focusing on the future or the past. Meditation is helpful in bringing me to the present. Mindfulness is helpful in focusing on the present.
I also found out through hormonal testing that my progesterone levels were in the gutter. I use natural progesterone cream to get my levels up, and found my anxiety levels improved overtime. The body has so many connections, and when one player is out of whack it can toss the whole team out of whack. Hormones play such a pivotal role in brain, gut and overall wellness.
Not to say that I don’t experience anxiety or panic from time to time, but I now have a name for it. I now know what it is. I also now have the tools to help understand it, and control it.
Tools to Help with Anxiety and Panic
First and foremost, it is really important you find a doctor you like and trust. With anxiety, it is hard to trust a doctor when you are convinced the world is against you. That’s why it is important to find a doctor who will listen to your concerns, and look at the body as a whole and not just the anxiety. There can be so many underlying causes of anxiety that are missed when anxiety medication is the common fix. There are sometimes though that anxiety medication is necessary to help level things out while learning to deal. It can be helpful to bring the anxiety levels down while you learn tools to contain anxiety and panic attacks.
Managing stress is one of the best things you can do to control anxiety. I know, easier said than done right?
Stress management should be a priority. Just like brushing your teeth, or locking your doors at night, it is important to make stress management part of your routine. One thing you can do during the day if work is getting out of hand is alternate nostril breathing. I do it twice a day while sitting at my desk, it’s a great way to bring everything back to the present. It’s also helpful if work is driving you nuts. What’s great about it too, is that you can do it during meetings if you are getting anxious and nobody will notice.
I also use the tapping method during work as well. This is another great way to bring focus back to the present and your breathing. You can read more about tapping here. There’s also plenty of YouTube videos that can show you how. This is also something you can do at work that nobody will notice. I find it helpful during stressful meetings.
I also meditate at minimum once a day. I find it best to do at night right before bed (it also keeps me away from the tv). I use the Calm app, which I love because you can do something different daily. They also have tracks for help falling asleep.
Stress management works best when you practice these techniques even when you are not anxious. It is helpful to call on your skills when you are in the middle of an anxiety attack, and not too easy if you’re trying to learn something new while you are upset. Bring these tools with you to work, school, or anywhere, and you will be ready to handle anything.
If I start obsessively thinking about things in my life I am not happy about, anxiety starts to creep in. I actually have a day planner that has an open section where I write what I am grateful for in daily. It’s not only good because I see it every time I open my journal, but it also helps me gain perspective. I may be unhappy at my job one day, but I am thankful for the roof over my head. Sometimes it helps to have a little reminder of what I have to be happy about. It can be helpful in moments of depression as well.
Exercise is a must for dealing with anxiety and panic. When you are in the middle of an anxiety attack, all of that adrenaline needs somewhere to go. Why not use it at the gym, and get a good workout in?
Exercising when anxiety and panic attacks are severe can be quite difficult at first. Getting your heart rate up is not one of the things you want to do when it makes you nervous. Start out with lower impact activities like yoga or Pilates. These types of classes are great because you are focusing on what you are doing, and also in a social setting with others. If it makes you anxious at first, set up your mat by the door for the first couple of classes. Over time, you’ll build up your confidence to move closer.
The key is to listen and honor your body. Start out at a pace that is comfortable for you, but also outside of the comfort zone anxiety has created. Even if you just have to drive to the gym but not go in, that’s a start. Remember, you are doing this to show anxiety who is actually in control.
I enjoy going to yoga classes a few times a week. It is great to be around others, and for an hour a day to not focus on anything but my wellness.
Talk It Out
It is so helpful to have someone you trust to talk about what’s going on. When I first started having anxiety and panic attacks, my mom and husband did not really know how to help. Over time, they have come to understand what anxiety and panic is, and how to help me through it The first thing my mom always asks me is what is stressing you out? It’s so comforting to know someone will listen and understand you. Even if this person is a life coach, pastor or the ice cream man, find someone you can talk to. In my situation, having that person to talk to over time I became more enabled to handle anxiety myself. I always think what would mom tell you? It is also important to talk to yourself the same way your trusted person would talk to you.
Don’t Give Up
The most important thing I learned on my journey is to not get angry with setbacks. It is a journey. Most likely, it took a long time for the anxiety to appear, and it may take some time to get it under control. It can be difficult when anxiety is at it’s worst to see it getting better but it can. Everyday is not perfect for me, but I know I am heading in the right direction, and want to encourage anyone dealing with anxiety or panic as well.