Anxiety. It’s not something I have dealt with for a long time but just enough to make me aware. Aware of the hold it can have on one’s life.
At first, I thought I was just getting another “stress cold”. Ever heard of those? After a couple long days at work, I came down with what seemed to be a cold. Headache, a runny nose and a cough. Check, check, check.
But it was just anxiety.
Soon, it became more than just something I could sleep off. In the middle of the day, I would start getting nauseous. A lump would form in the back of my throat and I felt like I couldn’t swallow. I was just accepting a meeting invite via email. And suddenly, I felt like I couldn’t move. It would happen while I was in the middle of a client presentation or eating Thanksgiving dinner with my family.
That’s how anxiety works sometimes. Without reason, you become prisoner. I’d try to come up with an excuse. Maybe it was the salad I ate or the extra glass of wine I had the night before.
Thinking I better head to the restroom just in case, I would get up from the chair. I walked briskly down the hallway. Before I knew it, I’m in a stall taking deep breaths. And then it’s over. I feel fine, I’m okay and I’m back to work thinking I just miraculously overcame food poisoning.
But it was just anxiety.
It wasn’t until I took myself to the doctor after weeks of randomly feeling sick that I found out I was experiencing anxiety. Not many know that anxiety has physical symptoms that simulate an illness. To be honest, just hearing that it was just in my head and I can control it made me feel better.
According to the ADAA, Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses affecting 40 million adults in the United States alone. Forty percent don’t seek medical treatment. And in case you didn’t know how lucky women are, we are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety than men.
All joking aside, some people do need medication. Anxiety is a serious mental health disorder. It’s not always as easy as the tips I am about to tell you about. And if you are in a dark place, please seek medical attention.
But if you are like me, and want to try combatting the devil with a more holistic approach, take these for a spin.
Leave the Situation
Like I mentioned in my story above, removing yourself from the current situation is the first step I take to overcome anxiety attacks. Take a quick break and walk down the hallway. If it’s not too much of an inconvenience, make your way outside to some fresh air.
Anxiety usually happens at inconvenient times. One of my triggers is being “stuck”. Long lines, a meeting that has run over and window/middle seats on a plane all trigger an anxiety attack. In these cases, it’s hard to leave the situation. So I move on down to the other tactics.
Find Air Conditioning
For whatever reason, cool air helps me to calm myself down. I figured this one out because it’s what I do when I am feeling car sick. Something about feeling like I’m outside, helps me overcome that feeling of being stuck. When I am on a plane, the first thing I do is adjust the air nozzle to full blast.
I was recently gifted a mini fan that plugs into my phone. I carry this with me at all times so when I am stuck in a Disney ride line or in the backseat of a car, I can get more air flow.
Take Deep Breaths
One of the first things I would do when I felt an anxiety attack coming on is hold my breath. I wouldn’t even realize what I was doing. I suppose I was anticipating feeling sick so I would just stop breathing. Obviously, this is not ideal.
I try to focus on a spot on the ground in front of me and take a few big deep breaths. The kind you do for your doctor when they bring the stethoscope out.
Sip some water
Staying hydrated keeps you healthy but also gives your body something else to do. Take a few big sips and focus on getting past the lump in your throat. Once you realize your throat isn’t actually closing up, you’ll start to calm yourself down. I know it might sound crazy, but for me, it really is a mind over matter scenario.
Find a Distraction
When it comes to anxiety, distractions are your best friend. Anxiety is not just a physical feeling, it’s also what you are thinking.
As mentioned before, I would immediately start to think I had food poisoning. It would spiral out of control until I was pacing the bathroom thinking I most definitely had stomach cancer and I needed to double check that my parents were in fact my life insurance beneficiaries. But who would take care of my dog and cat. If I died right here on the floor, who would even know.
Anything that will help you snap out of it, keep close by. Maybe it’s scrolling Facebook for a minute or calling your mom. Keep a coloring book nearby or a sudoku puzzle. Chew a piece of gum or water your plants.
One of my favorite distractions is my Etsy shop. I get to be hands on and create some custom vinyl labels. It’s tedious and most think it’s a waste of time. But it’s a few hours a week that I am able to turn my mind off and give it a break from thinking. I focus on the creative project at hand and relieve the stress of work and life.
Let Others Know
For me, it was relieving to know that others know. Accepting it for what it is goes a long way. Don’t keep anxiety pent up inside you. That’s how it grows. It feasts on weakness and you are not weak. You are strong but don’t do it alone.
Having someone who you can always count on to answer the phone as a quick distraction will help you conquer anxiety. Having someone that knows your triggers, can help you avoid them. They will also check on you and cheer you on.
That’s what full-time friends are for, too. My manager knows that for me, taking breaks throughout the day is crucial. My desk mate always reminds me too.
Anxiety isn’t anything to be embarrassed of. Remember my facts? You aren’t the only one.
Let’s conquer anxiety together. Have any other tips for conquering anxiety attacks? Share in the comments below.
Kinsey is not a doctor. This post is strictly educational and is not meant to heal, cure or treat any mental health illnesses. Consult a physician before taking any action.