Dealing with Anxiety and Panic

When you deal with anxiety and panic, it seems like you are being taken over by your body and brain. It may feel like you have no control over what is happening and that is a terrible feeling.

I’ve dealt with panic since I was 19 years old. At that time, information on this topic was limited and my doctor threw his hands up and said he didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was send to the hospital to take an EKG and they put me on heart medication.

That didn’t help. It became worse yet.

I felt alone, misunderstood, embarrassed, weak and confused. What was wrong with me? Why was I unable to breathe at times and how did this start? Was I having a heart attack? Was I dying? I ended up in the emergency room many times and left more confused every time. Nobody had answers for me. It was a mystery.

I searched high and low for my own answers. I came upon Lucinda Bassett’s cassette tape program that dealt with the same issues I was experiencing.

Finally! Someone had answers and a way to understand what to do in the midst of an attack. I didn’t want to be a victim anymore and completed her program, feeling more in tune with what was happening and why I was suffering these issues.

But that alone, didn’t help me recover completely. It was at that time I had my third child and family issues were at an all time high. My body was fueled with stress, hormones and depression. I was a mess.

I can’t tell you for sure what helped me start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I had epiphanies and found information that gave me new hope and a new freedom. Funny that at this time, I finally went to a therapist and poured my heart out. I thought he might act like all the doctors that I had seen over the years, but he looked at me with a different expression.

What was it? I hadn’t seen it before. It seemed like compassion. Why had nobody ever treated me like this was a real problem? I realized that over the many years that I suffered, I was met with complete lack of care and understanding. It made me feel more alone than ever and only exacerbated the anxieties and disarray. With this look of care and understanding and compassion….I instantly felt my mind and my body relax.

He then said something to me I will never forget for the rest of my days. I actually get emotional each time I remember that moment because it was a break in my struggles. He said to me,

You are a strong woman to have dealt with what you’ve gone through.” 

That was it. I felt like a wave of healing powers had entered my body. This was amazing!!

Now I’m not saying that it was as easy as his understanding look and words that helped me through the worst of it, but it was definitely the first chapter. And that, after almost 15 years of not knowing and fears of the unknowns, was a miracle to me!

He prescribed me medication and some simple steps to begin the process of healing. This, my friend, is what I am sharing with you today in hopes it gives you a first step and some hope of a way out. Don’t lose hope, please. There is always hope and there is always someone who cares that you are going through this.

I learned that those of us who suffer from anxiety and depression are; above average in intelligence, highly creative, have amazing imaginations and are detail oriented and analytical. The downside of these are that we over analyze, over stress, over intellectualize, imagine the worst case scenarios in every situation concerning our fears, and create thought mazes we cannot get out of.

Knowing this alone, is a major step in clarity and understanding what we are dealing with instead of fear of not knowing and thinking like a victim. The steps below are critical to your daily habits at the start. As you read above, we are over thinkers and over achievers and this only compounds our stresses and anxieties. The first phase is to get laser beam focused on what needs to be done now…and let the rest go. You will have time to get back to those when you are feeling “well” again.

  1. Create a daily list of no more than 5-10 things that must be done that day. Nothing more, less is optimal.
  2. Do things every day in order of importance. Don’t worry about perfection; consistency and moving forward is where your focus should be in this phase.
  3. Do things with focus and a reason, instead of just haphazardly and mindlessly. Put your phones down, stop scrolling the internet and take time to BE.
  4. Think before you take any action.
  5. Move slowly and calm down every time you feel your body and/or mind racing. You are not in a race.
  6. Practice writing down your feelings and thoughts for at least a week or two. Notice the patterns and issues that start to create stress in your body.
  7. Find a way to deal with rising tension in your body as you start to take notice. When we move slower, we are then able to see what is happening before it becomes a full blown attack. Find a safe hideaway and just notice your breath. Don’t try to analyze how to breathe or what you think is happening in your body..just know you are going to be okay (because you truly are!) and watch your breath as you slow it down and allow it to move in and out like the ocean waves on the shore.
  8. Read or listen to audio books on topics that relate to the mindset. Read, “What to say when you talk to yourself”, “Think Better, Live Better”, “The Power of Habit”, Eliminating Stress, Finding Inner Peace”, As a Man Thinketh”, “Life was Never Meant to be a Struggle” and “How to Be Happy”. There are countless books and audiobooks on this topic and I suggest you keep learning and growing with new information every single week, month and year. (I read at least 10 minutes every day and take action on what I read immediately. It truly starts to change the way we think and how we react).
  9. Find a therapist to work through issues that are out of your control. Many of us have deep, dark experiences, painful pasts and areas of stress that are out of our control. Find a professional to help you work through some major huddles and you’ll notice that you gain more confidence in knowledge of your mental and emotional battles.
  10. Become your biggest cheerleader. It may sound cheesy, but you’ll have to create a mantra that helps you out of negative mindsets. I am known to say to myself (and I’ve said this to my clients and my classes all the time), “You’re OKAY!” I say this repeatedly when I am feeling like negativity and anxiety are seeping in. I relax my shoulders, smile to myself and focus on my breath. Reminding ourselves that we can only control what we think in the moment, the rest is truly out of our control and deciding we are going to be “OK” with this fact.

These steps are meant as a starting point. You may find another way altogether that helps you move forward but as I mentioned before, you are not alone and you definitely matter so start with the areas you can manage today and add another as you feel ready to. Don’t wait for panic to take over again before you take action…start now and make sure to let me know how you feel or if you have questions about the information above.

 

Next up: we will learn how to breathe like we were meant to breathe…do you EVEN breathe right??

Are you emotionally tied to your goals?

It’s funny how many of us have goals we hope to reach one day (such as; losing weight, earning more money, having better relationships, etc) but end up repeating patterns endlessly that never quite add up to more in the long run. What are we doing wrong?

I had someone ask me recently about my panic disorder. If you have read my story, you know that I suffered (quite debilitating) panic disorder for over 20 years. It started at the age of 19 after a devastating break of a relationship that was unhealthy in many ways. I was young and I was quite naive, so I allowed stresses and unhappiness to pile up in my body to the point of near break down. My heart would start to pound out of my chest; I’d be unable to catch my next breath; I’d have pains shooting through my body and I was certain that I was near death. These episodes would come on suddenly and without warning. I never knew how long they would last and each time it was unclear if I would survive. I ended up in the emergency room more times than I can count and to anyone who has never experienced a panic attack; I cannot explain the enormity of the feeling during an episode. I became more and more fearful of being in public because of the sudden outbreaks; to which I had no control over. Who wants to be seen by others when they are experiencing a life or death situation in their minds and bodies?

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This went on for many years; some more mild over time and some periods of immense attacks. I researched what to do and why they would come about but it was never quite clear on how to handle it the best before, during or after. I remember one doctor visit (which my sister in law drove me to because I wouldn’t allow myself behind the wheel) when I couldn’t even speak since I was trying to catch my breath and relax as much as possible. She told the doctor what had been happening and asked him what to do and what could happen. I remember his callous and uncaring remark, “Nothing will happen. She’s just panicking and she’ll either stop eventually or pass out.”

This was probably the worst thing he could have said in front of me. He didn’t even speak to me but was looking at me, quite disapproving. It was cruel and made me feel as though I was crazy. What could he have said that would have helped me better? Anything in terms of acting like he actually cared and then stating some facts that could help me begin a healing process.

Which it truly was, in the long run. I ended up seeing a psychiatrist in order to figure out how to sleep through the night. He confirmed that I was doing well on my studies into mental issues that plagued my issues and needed to relax my mind in order to sleep. I was prescribed a low dosage tricyclic antidepressant to help alleviate the anxiety and allow me to sleep through the night. I am so scared of medications that I only took half the prescribed dosage and still thought I was having a bad reaction in the first dosage.

In any case, it did help me begin to relax. I started to sleep through the night but didn’t like how it would knock me out at a certain hour every night. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be how I’d live the rest of my life but decided it was a step forward from feeling out of control. There were many times I realized I would have gone into a full blown panic attack but nothing happened and it was due to being on the medication. I dove into studying about mindfulness, becoming happier and having more clarity in the goals I wanted to achieve. Through my studies I began to realize my shift in how I believed about myself and my capabilities. I began to let go of stresses that would have plagued me in the past; trying to be ‘perfect’ in all areas, caring what others thought about me and thinking I’d have to live up to anyone else’s standards besides my own. I started to focus on the areas that were the most important to me; my well being, my family and my faith. These areas of focus began to increase and the lesser important areas began to decrease. I literally felt the shift happening within my body. After three full years of taking my medication daily, I decided I didn’t want to be tied to a drug any longer and stopped taking it.

I won’t lie and say it was an easy decision. I was scared out of my mind and kept the bottle of leftover pills in case I started to suffer anxiety issues again. But nothing happened. After a point, I then celebrated by tossing the pills into the trash and listening to my body and my mind’s cues in how I was feeling at specific times of more stress and busyness. I simply changed the way my mind and body worked and believed were ‘normal’ and in doing so, I stopped having my panic.

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I’m not saying this is typical and I’m not saying everyone who suffers anxiety should take this on. I am simply stating that when we have more mental focus, more clarity and a deeper desire to create a new reality; we can do just that. It takes time and it takes patience but I am a firm believer that if we want something badly enough, there is a way to reach it. Start with knowing exactly what that goal is and how to measure it when you’ve arrived.

I hope this helps you set up your goals in any area. Instead of saying, “I want to lose weight” or “I want more money”; you need to have a clear definition of the specific goal. For example, if you lose 1 lb, then you’ve technically lost weight; so is that acceptable to you? And if you earn $1.00, you now have more money so is that enough? I wouldn’t think so and if that was your goal then you’re going to realize it much easier than anyone else! 🙂 If you are looking to lose more weight or earn more money or achieve any other goal; you have to be specific about the desired outcome. It must be something you can measure and track along the way, until you actually attain what you’ve been working towards.

It will happen if you stick with it and stop making excuses about why it’s not happening if you’re repeating the same cycles. I cured my anxiety; what do you want to do?