Imagine looking down at the ocean from the edge of a cliff. You watch the powerful waves swell, pushing and pulling, crashing and spitting salty foam into the sky. You notice the chaos of the waves on the surface but take a chance and dive into the water. The second you pass through the surf, you reach a deep expanse of natural silence that sits just below the waves.
Just like the surface of the ocean, our mind is always active, pushing, pulling and changing. Our thoughts can often feel out of control or greater than we can we even manage and seeing passed those feelings of fear can feel overwhelming. However, within us all and just below the surface, is a natural ‘silence’ and space of calm, that with kindness and care we can each access. The challenge is finding the tools to dive into the stillness.
Anxiety is something that comes and goes in my life. I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and next thing I know I’m on the floor unable to breathe, gasping for air. Nocturnal panic attacks are just one of many ways my body has reacted to the added pressure of stress and worry but anxiety can look different for everyone. It’s normal to worry and feel anxious but when it starts affecting your day to day life and holds you back, it’s so important to speak up and get the help you need, so you can start regaining a better balance.
What a Panic attack looks like
First there is an environmental or emotional trigger – The subconscious mind might not always be aware of what this trigger is so it’s quite normal to be unsure as to why you started feeling a certain way.
2. Brain reaction
The part of the brain which reacts to this stress (the amygdala) prepares you to fight or run away.
3. Adrenal release
A chemical called epinephrine is released into the bloodstream which makes your bodily processes speed up. You might then experience some or all of the reactions below:
- A pounding heart
- An influx of energy
- Reddening in the face, arms, neck and/or chest
- Shortness of breathe
- Aching chest
- A sense of being disconnected to your body
There is no specific reason why some people suffer more than others with anxiety and factors including genetics, up-bringing, environment and personality can all have their part to play. To settle those relentless waves of worry when you’re in a moment of panic or feeling particularly anxious, I’ve found the following has helped:
‘WHEN YOU’RE IN AN ILL MOOD, LEARN TO PASS IT OFF AS SIMPLY THAT; AN UNAVOIDABLE HUMAN CONDITION THAT WILL PASS WITH TIME, IF YOU LEAVE IT ALONE. A LOW MOOD IS NOT THE TIME TO ANALYSE YOUR LIFE.’
- Avoid making any substantial decisions. Just hold fire on deciding what you are going to be doing later that day, that week, that month. Focus on the now and bringing yourself back to a calm space. Remember the quiet and stillness below the waves.
- Unless it’s something obvious, then stop trying to figure it out. Get comfortable with the fact that you can’t control how you feel sometimes.
- Give yourself some space. If you’re in an environment that isn’t helping how you’re feeling, try your best to remove yourself from the situation. Don’t be afraid to let others around you know that you’re not feeling well.
- Be okay with saying no. If it’s a particular pending social activity or event that is the cause or isn’t helping your anxiety, don’t be ashamed to say no. I’ve cancelled on meet ups including best friends birthdays before and trust me, if you show a bit of honesty about your situation, those who care and love you will support your decision.
- Breathe. Just do it.
- Engage in a mindless activity without guilt. Sometimes you’ve just got to take your mind away from your feelings and find a form of distraction to get you out of the chaos. Watch something, read a book, talk to someone about something different. The time to start evaluating what’s up is when you’ve reached a better headspace.
I’m constantly learning new ways to manage any feelings of anxiety or panic and I’m sure different things work well for different people! Find what works for you and when your better mood returns, make a mental note of what helped you reach that turning point, so you can utilise it in the future. Your tools will help make you stronger.