I had my first anxiety attack by myself on the train on the way to my sisters house. I felt an overwhelming sense that something bad was about to happen and that I had forgotten something. I felt overcome with panic and I didn’t know what to do.
When I feel anxious it feels like my heart is beating so hard and fast that it could explode, I feel nauseous and I feel light headed.
This was about 10 years ago and I still get incredibly anxious now when I travel and sometimes it stops me leaving the house at all. Over the years I’ve had to cancel countless social engagements because I’ve gotten into such a panic and there was a period where I didn’t leave the house for three weeks straight.
When I first learnt that what I was feeling was anxiety and that I wasn’t about to encounter a horrific event and I hadn’t (probably) forgotten anything, it actually helped me to deal with it to an extent. Now when the feeling comes on I know what it is and that it will pass after a few hours (usually/hopefully) and that everything will be OK. This may not be ideal and it may not work for everyone but it is working (ish) for me for the time being.
It’s like my body is kicking into a fight or flight mode but that I’m not actually able to do either so the adrenaline is just stuck swirling around and around and around and around.
I fear most social situations; having to speak to people (not just strangers) leaves me in a cold sweat. I worry that whatever I say will leave the person I’m talking to bored and disinterested. This usually leads me to trail off stories midway through, mumble and I say a lot of disparaging things about myself.
Here is a list of things that I find help me deal with my anxiety (because if you’ve only skim read the rest of this because paragraphs, then I know I can catch you with a punchy list and bullet points because Buzzfeed has changed us):
• Time – reminding myself that with every second that passes I am closer to my anxiety attack passing, without having to really do anything except let time do it’s thing. Good ol’ time. Time’s got your back.
• Meditating – the process of clearing your mind of any thoughts; incredibly difficult but incredibly effective. If you’re new to meditating I’d highly recommend visiting Calm.com who have a free trial to get you started. I’m fond of meditating to their rain soundtrack which has the added bonus of making me feel really calm whenever it’s pouring rain outside!
• Reading – the best way to block out your internal dialogue.
• Exercise – yuck! Amirite!? But so helpful. Ideally something outside. Or yoga. Mainly child’s pose.
• Drawing, painting, colouring in, dot-to-dots, crosswords, sudoku.
• Pinterest combined with Netflix (my favourite one).
• Sometimes you just have to stay in bed, hiding under the covers and letting it pass and that is utterly fine. You’re doing the best you can.
Jen Shore (@twopinkpeonies)