Updated: Mar 14
Hey Strong Soul, this Feeling is Temporary.
First, I want to say that I KNOW you're tired, and I know it's exhausting to wake up every day and have to FIGHT to feel okay. I know you probably question your sanity at times, I know you may feel like a burden to your friends or to your partner. I know the toll it takes on you emotionally to smile through it. I know you want to quit sometimes. To curl up in a ball, to disappear inside yourself. I know that you might feel that panic and anxiety have stolen your confidence, your freedom, and your life.
None of this is fair, in fact, all of this is pretty much the worst. It's as debilitating as any chronic disease, it fucks with your life, you feel physically ill a lot. You did NOTHING to deserve it. Yeah, you have it harder than other people. You have to WORK to feel okay. And to make matters worse, it's INVISIBLE. No one can see it. Some people don't even think it's real. So basically, you feel really alone in this thing. You feel like you have no control .
Maybe you cry on your way to work because your heart is pounding out of your chest, you hardly slept last night, you have to concentrate on the road, it's raining and everything is blurry and you wonder how someone who cannot even drive like a normal adult can possibly be good at their job? Maybe you feel your arm starting to tingle and you feel short of breath and you just HAVE to get out of the room you're in, so you sit in the bathroom doing some weird breathing thing you read about on google, and you wonder how someone who has to teach themselves to breath could possibly a good parent? You should cry, you deserve to. This is so unfair. You can dwell on it for awhile and feel sorry for yourself. I've done ALL of these things. Sometimes I still do.
But when you're done feeling bad ,I need you to realize that guess what? You're strong as FUCKING hell. You've dealt with more mentally and physically upon leaving the house than most people do in an entire day. And guess what. You KEEP going. You KEEP waking up and doing it again. Yes, living this way makes you feel out of control, and that's scary. You can't control when an attack hits, but you can control how you THINK about an attack and how you react.
If you're here reading this you've probably been there. Your hands start sweating, your heart starts pounding, you feel like you cannot breathe, your vision goes blurry, and BAM you are faced with your almost certain death. TO make it worse this attack feels a little different from last time, which takes away your confidence that this isn't a heart attack , or a seizure or something else equally as scary. Because panic and anxiety like to evolve and surprise you at the party and unwanted visitor, dressed in a new disguise each time.
So, you pull over your car, you sit down in your chair, you search for the nearest exit and try to decide if you should call an ambulance, or go cry in a corner somewhere. And although you just KNOW you're about to die and you legitimately feel like you will, you won't not today . No one has EVER died from a panic attack.
You're gonna be just fine. You're strong and you CAN take control of a panic attack. You can take your freedom back from that confidence snatching monster.
So, it randomly hits you- you cannot think straight, you're scared to death. What do you do? Here are some tips for mindfulness and grounding that work for me personally.
1. Acknowledge that you're having a panic attack. Seems simple right? DUH You cannot freaking breathe, things are spinning, you KNOW what's happening. But this is important in grounding yourself. Mentally or verbally acknowledge the panic attack by noticing how you are feeling. Self talk is SO important. For example when having a panic attack I will say out loud " Okay, my heart is racing, I feel like I cannot breathe, I feel like I might die." Then say to yourself " I am having a panic attack." " How I am feeling is okay." "This is only temporary." Acknowledging the realness of your feelings helps you to feel less out of control and "crazy" . You've been through this before, you've survived this, you KNOW it's temporary. You are capable of handling this and this discomfort WILL end. Remember that.
2. BREATHE OUT: I have hyperventilated so many times during panic attacks. I think I"m taking deep breaths but I"m actually taking shallow breaths and not breathing out! This is what causes the " I CANNOT FREAKING BREATHE" feeling in your chest. If you can- sit down somewhere and work on breathing out for 5 seconds longer than you breathe in. If counting this makes you nervous then just practice "blowing out birthday candles" for a few minutes. Sometimes I even whistle to make sure I'm getting some breath out during this time. Singing also works! You're getting that air out! Turn on some music and sing LOUD. ( You might look weird or feel weird but who the frick cares? It helps).
3. Distract Yourself. This is number one guys. I know it can seem impossible. How do you distract yourself from this feeling of impending doom? You can't completely- but you can try- and most of the time trying is enough to settle it down a bit. There are many techniques out there for this to help ground you. I personally try to notice things, really notice them. I will count the branches on a tree I am looking at, I will name streets I'm driving by if I'm in the car, hell I'll even name the people in the room I'm in. Sometimes I'll call my husband or Mom and ask them to talk to me about ANYTHING at all. After a bit, I feel the symptoms fading.
4. Exercise. I know this sounds crazy as well. You feel like you're going to die and I'm telling you to exercise. But seriously, even walking helps. March in place if you have to. If your body physically sees a reason for your racing heart you'll feel better! It took me awhile to figure this one out. Exercise is literally the only way I can change how my body feels. I have control over it. I can SEE why my heart is racing, why I'm sweating, why I'm out of breath. It forces you to breathe deeply, not shallowly like you do when you're tense during an attack.
Finally, know that while these won't cure your attack. They will help you to calm the heck down and take control of what's happening. Even making yourself feel a bit better is control. And control is power. Yeah that's right, YOU are powerful.
You ARE capable.
You are NOT a burden.
You are NOT alone.
Keep fighting strong soul. I'll be right there fighting with you.