Hint: For best results, start with step 5.
I was diagnosed with panic disorder at the age of 18.
Over the years, I’ve learned to recognize the signs of an oncoming panic attack and can usually talk myself down from one, but over the last 15 years, I’ve hit a couple of rough patches where I have a bad few weeks or months and struggle to manage the building anxiety.
These are the 5 coping strategies I find most helpful when I feel myself start to spiral:
1.) Relaxing Music
For me, I have to force my mind to stop racing. My mind works against me. I think too much. I think to the point that it impacts me physically. My heart races. My breathing gets shallow and fast. Putting on music with no words or a sound machine helps get me mentally to a place I need to be. If you have Apple Music, don’t forget that’s a great way to get access to calming music or relaxing sounds. Some of my favorites: George Nascimento’s “A Peaceful Soak” and “Distant Soft Rain” under Rain Sounds.
2.) Sleeping in the dark
For me, my panic attacks often set in at bedtime. Just thinking of the impending anxiety that bedtime will bring can get my heart rate up. You’d think TV at bedtime would take my mind off it, but instead, it keeps my mind buzzing. I’ve found turning off all the lights and creating a very calming, unplugged environment helps me find my center at night. I can mentally get to a place where I can talk myself through the attack.
Make fun of the holistic approach all you want, but when your body is constantly working against you, you’re willing to try anything. I’ve started diffusing essential oils at night, and I find certain blends help to ground me. Lavender is usually my go to for relaxation, but I also like Young Living’s Thieves. It smells good and helps boost the immune system. I also use YL’s “Tranquil” roller every night. I rub it behind my ears and on my wrists. It helps me focus on my breathing better. If you’re interested in getting started with Young Living click here.
4.) Cutting out caffeine
I was someone who drank at least three shots of espresso a day, plus had caffeine in other forms. I’ve started cutting out caffeine, and I’ve seen a huge improvement. I’m sleeping better, I have fewer headaches, and it definitely helps make me less edgy.
5.) Recognize when you need help
When I was 18, it was awful, and it took me months to get a grip on what was happening. I went to the ER one night thinking I was having a heart attack. I was misdiagnosed with “chest wall pain.” All the signs were there. It was so clear I was suffering from Panic Disorder. After more attacks, I went to a general practitioner who diagnosed me. I started on Prozac and was on it less than a year. It helped so much. It got me back in control of my life. Fast forward to now, I’ve started spiraling again; That feeling that I’m not in control of my mind or emotions. As a mother, and a manager, I can’t afford to go down that road. So I threw in the towel and sought help again. For you, that might mean medicine, it might mean seeing a therapist, it might mean just admitting to a loved one what you’re going through. Once you know what’s going on in your mind and body, that alone may help relieve some of your anxiety, but know it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You owe it to yourself and your babies, partners, and coworkers to be the best you. If you start with this step, the others will complement the process. You can do this.