You know the feeling all too well: shortness of breath, a feeling of pressure on your chest, maybe your arm is tingly or your face and neck are hot and red. It’s the dreaded anxiety attack that always seems to come from out of nowhere and at the worst possible times, hello grocery store! It’s so frustrating and annoying especially when it seems that nothing is going on at the moment to explain why it has struck. Here’s the thing that I’ve learned over the years: anxiety is always bubbling beneath the surface, waiting for us to address it and when we don’t? Ba’am, it comes on as a physical anxiety or panic attack which can debilitate us. Once you’ve gotten to this point, it’s time to get some professional help.
So, what is anxiety and where does it come from? I always think of anxiety as the umbrella term for all the things that we’re frightened of or the things we are trying to avoid. If we continue pushing down these negative thoughts/feelings over the course of our lives, it will oftentimes erupt as a great big storm and then we’re forced to deal with it! Working on the contributing factors of anxiety in therapy is the number one way to begin managing it more effectively and in a lot of cases, getting rid of it completely but as you’re doing that, here are some tips for “in the moment”:
1. Force yourself to sit down or stand still and begin slowly inhaling through your nose to the count of 10. Then slowly exhale through your mouth to the count of 10. Do this at least 5 times as your brain needs to get the oxygen and the message that you’re not dying. (When we are having an anxiety attack, our brain gets the message we’re dying because usually we’re holding our breath). This will calm your racing heart and begin pushing blood and oxygen into all your extremities which will also calm you down.
2. Sit down or stand still and reach for something that is textured like your purse, your furry vest, your fidget spinner, something cold or something rough like the carpet or your recliner at your house. This is called “grounding” and what this does is forces your brain to refocus on the item in your hand; this helps you slow down and become more present in the moment.
3. Another useful tip is one I was taught in grad school: Count five things you can see, four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste. Do this over and over until your breathing is slower and you feel less like you’re going to die.
These are easy and effective ways you can gain control of your anxiety at the time it’s happening. To master your anxiety for good, you can work with a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders and who can begin helping you figure out why you have it, where it comes from and how to conquer it! It is the one disorder that responds really well to therapy… I see women every day who have learned how to control their anxiety to live more fulfilling lives. Don’t you deserve to make 2018 the best year of your life? Stay tuned for a women’s support group beginning in the New Year for those of us who struggle with anxiety! Check us out on our website www.empoweredconnections.net for more information.