Month: January 2019

Was that an anxiety attack?

I noticed I have been writing about anxiety a lot more these days. This is not surprising considering that I have been in a state of mild anxiety every other day for the past few months. Today I want to discuss anxiety attacks because I feel that in our society, we often overlook anxiety and brush it off as a normal part of our everyday lives.

Have you ever woken up to an anxiety attack or experienced it as you were busy going about your day at work or school?  This website HERE describes an anxiety attack with the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
  • Fear of dying

If you have ever felt the above, you have had an anxiety attack. I can definitely attest to the fear of losing control and that feeling when you think you’re about to lose your mind (approximately every moment of my adult life, LOL…I exaggerate, but yeah).

If only there was a way to stop thinking about the thing that is causing you extreme anxiety.  I started wondering why the mind does not have a switch to turn it off from certain thoughts or does it? What is the point of mulling over something that is obviously causing you to become anxious? You want to stop thinking about it, but the more you try to, the bigger it becomes. The image below comes to mind…

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Here are some of the ways that I find help to deal with anxiety since switching off the mind is not an option:

  • Try to reframe the anxiety-inducing thought. I always think to myself “since I am already overthinking, why not just think of the issue in all the possible ways there can be?” Reframing means I will be looking for a different explanation, a different way of understanding the issue. For instance, instead of thinking someone was mean to me today that means they will always be mean to me…they hate me and everybody hates me, I can reframe this by thinking, maybe they were having a bad day or this was not personal. Bear in mind this only works in a positive way if you are an optimist or at least a realist. If you are a pessimist, the end result is always negative and the anxiety will not go away. If you are an optimist, you find a positive spin to the issue or at the very least think ‘what’s the worst that can happen”. In the end, you feel better. If you are a realist, you will think of it in practical terms, which may or may not solve the issue at hand.
  • Try to think of something else.  This is easier said than done, but I always try to find my happy place. If I have time during my anxiety phase, I sit down and meditate on a happier time or I think of a person who always lifts my hopes up and give them a call. Sometimes I just make time to do an activity that I enjoy like writing (you will be surprised how therapeutic this activity can become for you). I think this also depends on the level of your anxiety, if it is mild it may go away for a moment or you get words of encouragement that will shift things around.  Some extreme forms of anxiety may need medication or to speak to a qualified therapist.
  • Try to avoid mood enhancing substances like alcohol or drugs. This has proven to provide temporary relief and no solutions. It actually brings an additional problem if it becomes a habit, addiction. The issues that were causing anxiety may become compounded or actions taken to try and provide solutions will all be bad ideas. I know a lot of people drink alcohol or smoke when they are stressed, but I have seldom seen this solving anything.
  • Check the people around you. I had a conversation with a friend yesterday and she was telling me how she started noticing that certain people were triggers for her anxiety. We often take this for granted, but it is very important. If you hang around people who are always negative and complaining, people who never look on the bright side or always preaching doomsday, you will find yourself being anxious more often. At least, that has been my experience. The opposite is that there are people who simply light up the room with their outlook on life. Having more positive people around you is good for your mind.  However, the trick here is to avoid comparing your life with others. Like my friend, she felt triggered by certain people around her because they were constantly speaking about how well their lives were going and she would look at her life and feel like she is lagging behind. Her crowd, although they were happy and confident people, was also not good for her.
  • Find your triggers. Building from the previous point, identifying what triggers your anxiety is a step in the right direction if you want to figure out how to reduce anxiety or stop being anxious. If you know what your triggers are, it is easier to work around them or avoid them. One of my PhD advisors is definitely a trigger for my anxiety. It is so bad sometimes that I try to avoid conversations with them until I really must.  This does not mean they are a bad person, I actually like my advisor, but sometimes I get so anxious around them or because of some comment they made that it takes days to get over. Most perfectionist bosses are anxiety triggers for many people because you are always under pressure to perform to a standard that will please them.
  • Last but definitely not least, PRAY.  If you are not religious, you may not find this useful, but prayer works for me. I feel a sense of peace after praying that I have never felt with anything else.  There may be different ways of dealing with anxiety in your faith, but my faith recommends talking to God and letting him know your worries, then trusting that He is in control of all things and He will turn things around for your good, because He cares for you.

How have you been dealing with anxiety in 2019 so far? Please drop me a comment.

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