In my previous post I talk about how we need to give ourselves credit for shutting down, or stopping panic/anxiety attacks. What I failed to talk about is how exactly I do that. Which was pointed out to me in a couple of emails. Oops! My bad! I guess that is good information to share. So here’s how I stop my panic attacks before they become ER worthy. Please note, I have panic attacks, not anxiety attacks which you approach from different angles. If you have anxiety attacks, I’d love to hear what you do differently or the same!
- Know my triggers, and how to soothe them. I have two dogs and they are my babies, so them being attacked by another dog is the thing of nightmares for me. I know this, because they have both been attacked by other dogs on multiple occasions. Therefore, my biggest trigger for panic is when I hear two dogs snarling/growling at each other. I hear it, and my heart immediately begins to race. So when this happens, I remind myself that my dogs are safe and I look at their pictures on my phone to reassure myself that they are just fine. If they are around, I hold them tight for that reassurance. Nine times out of ten, I can cut that panic attack off by specifically addressing the trigger. Of course, this only works if you can identify what triggered the attack.
- Close my eyes and inhale on a count of 5, then exhale on a count of 10.
- Tune into and name the objects in my immediate surroundings – 2 framed paintings, a light switch with 4 switches, 1 window, 1 door, 2 coffee mugs, etc.
- I move to a completely different environment. If I’m inside, I go outside. In my office, I run to the restroom. Anything that completely changes what I’m seeing/hearing. Sometimes I panic because I feel trapped but don’t realize that until I’m in a new place.
With the exception of #1, these techniques are not enough on their own. They’ll take off the edge by mentally taking me out of fight-or-flight mode, but the racing heart, tightness in the chest, etc usually remain to some degree. So then I move on to one of these two things.
- Curl into myself as much as possible while tensing every muscle in my body. We’re talking white knuckles, thighs engaged, abs flexed and butt squeezed. Tense those muscles until it hurts, then release everything all at once. When you strain your muscles then let them go, they release endorphins – I think that’s it, but it might be some other chemical that ends in ‘phin,’ so don’t quote me. This is the cause of the “workout high” that you hear gym-rats talk about. Truth be told, they actually are high, it’s just on their own hormones/chemicals/whatever you want to call them. Clearly I’m not a science major. So by tensing all of your muscles then releasing them, you replicate a fraction of that gym-rat high, which will counter the adrenaline released in a panic attack.
- If trying that a couple of times doesn’t cut it, I’ll go run up a couple flights of stairs. I’ll essentially burn off whatever adrenaline is still there. Also, if you’re out of shape like I am, your body becomes more concerned with breathing than panicking. Good times!
So basically, I do a combination of those things, generally in no particular order and with some of them repeated. Okay, #6 ALWAYS comes last, but that’s because I’m lazy and don’t like running up stairs . . . or I’ve injured myself and running up stairs is seriously painful. On a good day, this will take care of my panic and I’m okay. On a bad day, I start this all over again every few hours. Those days suck, but not as much as going to the ER. So I’ll see ya on the stairs.