There’s anxiety attacks and then there’s panic attacks. I have been #blessed (not really) with experiencing both more often than I’d like. They happen and it sucks, but I know how to handle them.
My anxiety attacks happen a lot more frequently than my panic attacks do.
It comes in waves and is very short-lived. It’s usually triggered by something. Did I get on the wrong subway? Where are my keys? Does this person hate me? I usually feel my stomach churn with an unexplainable bad feeling. I freak out until I’m reassured that everything is okay, and then it’s chill. Kinda. Not really.
My panic attacks are a lot more overwhelming and they usually just happen.
With no explanation or trigger, I’ll suddenly feel very sad. My throat will tighten. I’ll ugly cry. I’ll hyperventilate. I’ll get very lightheaded because of my quick, poor breathing, and sometimes I’ll faint because of it. It happens for a long time until I can actively get myself to relax. At first it’s hard getting over a panic attack, but then it starts to get easier. Slowly but surely.
When I feel lightheaded and start to lose my vision and my balance, I know it’s time to slow my breathing. I know I need to start taking care of myself.
I inhale for 5 seconds and exhale for another 5 seconds. 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi, 4 Mississippi, 5 Mississippi.
I talk myself up to try and calm down.
“Relax. You’re fine. You can get through this. Your mind is playing tricks on you. You’re going to be okay. You got this.”
I breathe. Inhale, exhale.
I keep breathing slowly until I can see clearly again. I keep breathing until my heart feels lighter.
I focus on water.
I splash cold water on my face to try and toughen up and then I get into the shower with warm/hot water to calm down. For whatever reason, this always works for me.
I take care of my body.
When I get out of the shower, I focus on self-care. I lather lotion all over my body. I put on a refreshing or moisturizing face mask. I drink a full glass of water. Sometimes I eat a little bit of dark chocolate just because I deserve it.
I distract myself.
I light a vanilla candle or fill my oil diffuser with lavender and eucalyptus scents. I eat a light snack. I drink more water. I watch a funny TV show (The Office or Bob’s Burgers) to consume myself with mindless, lighthearted entertainment.
I climb in bed and sleep.
After a panic attack, I feel very drained and very tired. Sleep helps everything.
These attacks happen so often that I’ve mastered how to handle them. I tell myself that everything will be okay and that I’ll get over it soon. I always do.