Anxiety can be quite the roaring beast that takes over your life if you let it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. So how do you get rid of anxiety or panic attacks? Well the trouble is that it is different for everybody but there are some common tricks that work for many. I have had my own personal struggle with the beast and all the things I’ve listed here have played a part in helping me to get over what is nothing more than a barbed wire fence that was in my way.
- Take yourself to the Dr – do not sit at home trying to struggle with this on your own. Extreme stress is actually really bad for your health (and that of your unborn child if you are pregnant). Information is your friend as it will make this feel less scary and your Dr can give you that. Plus you will probably need to go and see a psych and your Dr (if in AUS) can put you on a mental health plan which will mean that your visits to the psych will be significantly subsidised.
- See a psychologist – I saw one that specialised in CBT initially and she was great. That served its purpose but once I was over that hurdle I didn’t really feel I was getting a lot from her anymore. Once I separated from my son’s dad my anxiety flared up again (surprise surprise). The hormone fluctuations alone post pregnancy can be a trigger so I was pushing it uphill as it was. At that point I started seeing a psych in my new town. She is the more traditional sit and have a chat kind and I’ve found her immensely helpful. If you see one that you don’t like then try another. You’ll know when you’ve found the right one.
- Stay away from caffeinated drinks – seems obvious when you say it but I didn’t realise it initially (hence the coffee before jury duty). The caffeine stimulates you and heightens the physical symptoms of anxiety. It basically makes you feel like you are about to have a panic attack. I’d been having this feeling for years but just didn’t know what it was. Anyway decaf esspresso is actually quite good these days. It’s almost all I ever drink now. On the odd occasion I will have a non decaf coffee (like at someone’s house where there isn’t a choice) but I’m always mindful of how I’m feeling that day. If I feel on edge, I skip the coffee and go a herbal tea or water instead.
- Stay away from alcohol – you don’t have to give it up forever but for the short term yes. An inability to still the mind is a common complaint of anxiety sufferers and while booze does just that it also increases anxiety the next day. It doesn’t help with depression either if you are predisposed to that. The two (anxiety and depression) are little BFFs. They like to go hand in hand everywhere they go as you can see in this lovely anxiety life cycle diagram that I stole off the internet.
- Exercise – something is better than nothing so if all you can manage is walking then do that BUT I noticed a massive difference once I joined the gym late last year and actually started doing exercise where I really exerted myself. The improvement is SO GREAT. Do classes at the gym or go for a run but really use up that energy. When you have anxiety you are over producing adrenaline so running it off really helps. Exercise also increases serotonin which helps us to feel happy so the more of that the better.
- Meditate – I have always had one of those brains that I felt was far too busy to be able to enjoy meditation. I finally did a great course on it and discovered I was 100% wrong (duh…what makes my brain so special that it can’t meditate? I’ll tell you: nothing!). I can’t believe I waited so long to try this properly but maybe it just wasn’t the right time for me. It helps enormously with calming my mind. A calm mind is not an anxious mind.
- Visit a naturopath – another thing I kept putting off but that has actually been really effective for me. Who knows if the pills are having an effect or if it’s just the placebo but who cares? Whatever the reason I feel much more calm and far less irritable or reactive than I was previously. I have more patience which is pretty helpful when you are a parent. A good naturopath can be hard to find so as with the psych just try them out until you find one that is right for you. Also, trust that they know what they are doing and allow them to tweak things if it’s not quite right initially. My goal is to increase some of the other stuff like meditation for long term relief so eventually I can decrease the dosage. I don’t want to be stuck on any tablets forever as what happens if you run out and can’t get them anymore? Or lose your luggage on holiday? Recipe for disaster. NOTE: if you are taking something prescribed by the Dr then you might want to talk to them first before going down the naturopath path as you don’t want to take things that conflict with each other. Probably a better approach would be to look at the naturopath as an option when coming off prescribed medication.
- Learn how to breath – in through the nose, nice and deep, out through the mouth, slowly and count the breaths. If you are feeling like a panic attack is coming on then counting breaths is a great tactic to ward it off.
My top tip for warding off a panic attack is this little exercise learnt from my CBT psych. I don’t have a name for it. Call it whatever you like. Basically, in your mind you just look for one thing you can hear, see and feel. And then you find two things, and three things and four things and five things. I only ever did up to 5 but you can do as many as you like. Or you can repeat it. The challenge is to always find new things if possible but don’t get hung up on it if you can’t. The activity keeps your mind so occupied that you don’t have time to be anxious and the jittery feeling slowly floats away. I loved it as it was something I could do anywhere and no one would know. I did it on the bus, walking down a busy city street and even at my desk at work. Apparently it is also a useful meditation technique as again, it occupies the mind.
Getting rid of anxiety takes effort yes; it won’t go away by itself. And you will need to put that effort in on an ongoing basis if you are a naturally anxious person. I feel I will always need to exercise and meditate to keep myself calm (sane) but I’m ok with that. It’s all stuff that makes me healthier anyway so why not do it? That’s life folks. Gotta give it a red hot go.
NOTE for da ladies: Since I posted this earlier today I have been chatting to a few friends who have reminded me about the effects that contraception such as the implant, the pill or anything hormone related can have on your mood. I can’t take the pill as it just makes me completely monkey crackers so if you are struggling with depression and anxiety it is something to consider. Have a chat to your Dr about it at the very least. As mine said to me at the time, it can’t hurt to go off it and see what happens and then go back on it and see what happens. I am far far far less emotional and neurotic since giving it the flick.