The first time I’ve ever felt the true weight of anxiety was after I was in a car accident two years ago. The flashing image of a large white truck hitting me on the passenger side reverberated in my mind for weeks. I closed my eyes I saw the white truck. I blinked I saw the white truck. I took the bus home I saw the white truck.
What anxiety and panic feels like is hard to explain unless you’ve felt it yourself. My first panic attack felt like a heart attack. My heart started racing and then all of a sudden I couldn’t breathe. I remember someone telling me it was ok as I started crying. I remember calling my Mom and ending up in the ER. The doctor said my heart was fine and my oxygen levels were fine. It was because of the PTSD, the stress, the depression, the anxiety.
The strange thing about my first encounter with anxiety and panic attacks was that nothing triggered it. There was no reminder of the accident. I wasn’t feeling particularly depressed or emotional that day. I was just on the computer. For me, the hardest thing about anxiety is that it can come without warning and trigger which makes it hard to prevent. I could be having just a normal day and still anxiety can hit me.
My most recent instance of anxiety was during a great time in my life. If you’ve read my latest post grad entry you’ll know that I got my first job in journalism recently! I was so ecstatic when I found out. But as I started working on my first article I felt a wave of anxiety hit me. Suddenly all these feelings of insecurity, worry, and nervousness consumed my mind and my body. I was filled with thoughts that my writing was terrible and questions on what if I would now lose this opportunity. What if I wouldn’t live up to expectations? My body reacted as well. My shoulders suddenly tensed, all my muscles felt constrained, and I felt dizzy probably from my lack of breathing.
Anxiety can come at the best and worst moments. But over my short time living with anxiety I’ve learned a few ways to help lessen its severity.
When I talked to a counselor about my depression and anxiety she gave me a great breathing exercise. Whenever you feel a panic attack or anxiety coming in full swing, close your eyes and breathe in for five seconds as you count in your head. Then hold that breath for five seconds. Finally, exhale that breath for five full seconds. It also helps to move your hands inwards and outwards as you inhale and exhale. I’ve found this exercise to be extremely helpful in calming my emotions.
Talk To Someone
It is so important to let out your feelings of anxiety instead of holding it all in. Communicating how you feel is a release and will really help you feel more at ease with yourself. Whether it is a friend, family member, or therapist it’s crucial that you let out your negative emotions to someone who will listen without judgement. You may be surprised to find out that many people are also dealing with anxiety or similar problems.
Change Your Surroundings
While in some instances anxiety can be untriggered, in many cases it can be preempted by your surroundings. You could be in a claustrophobic or uncomfortable social setting which leads to a panic attack. If possible, try to get out of your setting. Take a walk outside in the fresh air. Get in a room where you can be by yourself for just a few minutes. If getting out of your situation is impossible try envisioning a peaceful place and trick you mind into calming itself.
Trust in Something Greater
Over the past few months my relationship with God has strengthened and matured. God has made me realize that the worries which lay at the foundation of my anxiety are at many time rooted in my lack of faith in God. When we choose to trust in God with our life and circumstances rather than depend on ourselves a huge weight is lifted.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6: 25-34
Anxiety is a unique experience that is varied for each individual and their set of experiences. However, these practices have helped me feel better and live with progressively less anxiety and panic attacks. Rather than simply coping with anxiety, make your life better by actively trying to get rid of your anxiety. Although it is a long process it really is possible! Let me know in the comments if you have any tips on how to lessen anxiety.