Okay, I hate my life, my job sucks, the kids are fighting, I have no money, I can’t breathe, my chest hurts, Oh my God I think I will die, I can’t breathe ….
Does that sound familiar? It sure does to me.
I could work myself up into quite a tizzy on a moment’s notice and didn’t realize that I had the control to stop the anxiety attack. Granted taking medicine for a short time helped but the trick to stopping the attacks completely was to learn what to do before one came a knocking. To this day I am thankful that I found the ways to grow stronger as a woman, especially in the aftermath of the abuse I lived through for years.
Without this coping skill I never would have become the strong woman I am today, some 20 years later. Today I wanted to share some of the things that I did and still do today to relieve anxiety and just stay in a focused state of mind and body. I am stronger than my past. I am not my past and neither are you.
Be prepared for the storm:
Knowing how to relieve your own stress is a priceless gift. Everyone in the world can offer up ideas but like anything else, you need to find what works for you. The key is to know ahead of time what will snap you back to reality. Know before hand what you will do when you feel an attack coming
Talk yourself out of the attack before the attack takes you out!
Today, I allow myself to stress for a bit, just enough to know I need to take some action, then when I realize that what I am thinking about is causing me to be anxious, I count to 5 and then force myself to think of something else, it doesn’t have to be something crazy, just maybe my son’s face, a happy memory, something to tell my anxiety, nope, ain’t going there with you.
Granted there are times I have to continue to pull myself out of the anxiety loop, but for the most part, this helps me realize that even though I may not have control over the situation, I do have control over my own thoughts and what I chose to focus on.
I have recently read about the 5 second rule by Mel Robbins and think it will help you too, force yourself to count back from 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and then change your thought, move and do one of the rituals you will put in place ahead of time to change your focus.
I had been doing this on my own for years and to then read the science behind it was pretty cool.
Sounds like a simple solution but when you are having an attack you forget to breath, I know this was true for me. Once you begin to cut off your breath the attack goes full force and knocks you to your knees.
Take long deep breathes. Even as the anxiety attack is taking hold, if you keep taking the deep breaths you will begin to take life from the attack and give it back to you. Your body isn’t causing the attacks, your MIND is. You are thinking something that causes your body to react.
Be prepared to break:
Do something to change the state your body is in, take a nap, make a coffee, paint your nails, read a book, play with your kids, take a bath if you can, put in a movie for the kids and sit on the back porch. If you are better prepared for the attacks they won’t last as long. The goal is to quickly change what you are focused on as that is what is causing your anxiety, shift your thoughts, stop the attack.
I don’t believe in you:
Silly but try to think of the anxiety attack as a physical being that is trying to steal from you. Don’t let it, stand firm and fight for your life. “You are not real!” Imagine the anxiety is a big balloon and each time you take a breath you are letting some of the air out of the balloon and taking it back. Soon, the balloon will fade away.
I would like to use a Lifeline please:
The best tool I had was one friend that knew about the severity of the attacks. I could call her anytime of day. The poor thing would answer and I would be gasping for breath, telling her I can’t take anymore. She would coach me through the attack and back to sanity.
She would tell me to breath. Then she would ask what was really wrong.
I would tell her and she would always say, okay, is your son safe, are you safe, is anyone in danger, is this issue going to end the world, will you die because of this and so on, helping me to realize that what ever was causing my attack wasn’t the end of the world.
I swear just being asked those questions usually helped me to calm down. Eventually as I learned to ask myself those same questions I didn’t need to call my friend each time.
Break something to stop your breakdown:
Sometimes, no matter how hard I tried I just needed to break something. While this isn’t something that I have done in years, in the beginning I did it often. I don’t know what it was, but anything would work. It was usually a poor coffee cup thrown in the sink and I hated when it was a coffee cup I really liked. Eventually I learned to throw rocks or eggs at trees in the back yard or one time I took ice cubes and threw them on the ground, it was as if this act helped release some of my anxiety. My son would often laugh at his silly mother and that would be enough to bring me out of it.
Change the damn record already:
Years ago I would play the stress over and over in my head, always focusing on the worst that had happened or the worst that could happen. Eventually, I would work myself up in to a full anxiety attack by playing the same old record in my head. I can still remember painting my son’s room when I really didn’t want to but I had promised. I was in the room where I had been almost killed and I didn’t even realize that I was playing thoughts over in my head. I was getting more anxious and could barely breath. I walked outside, sat on my porch and started to realize what I was doing. It was a growth moment for sure. I realized I didn’t have to paint the room today, I cleaned up the supplies and relaxed the rest of the day. When I returned to paint the room the next day, I felt great.
Have your go to music or action ready:
To help myself destress from everyday life I learned that for me playing a certain few songs would snap me out immediately, for some reason the tape for River-dance gave me energy, Bach as well. Find what works for you. Many times to clear my head a good old hot bath and a few candles would do the trick. The true trick is to force yourself to only think good things while you are in the bath. If you focus on the issues you won’t relax. Even if you just stare at a candle and clear your mind you will feel so much better after your bath.
Knowing how to de-stress before the stress is full blown is the key.
Talk and Share:
I encourage you to talk to someone you trust. It may not be family, it may be someone that you don’t know online or over the phone. Sharing what happened and how you felt will help you to move on. The worst thing you can do it keep it inside, thinking that makes you stronger. Letting it out and moving on makes you stronger. Keeping it in may allow it to return to your life one day. Break that invisible chain.
Read and Write:
I often encourage women to read, it helps you to see that there is a way out of the depression that is often felt when leaving an abusive relationship. I tried to read during the abuse but my abuser belittled me and I finally gave up trying to better myself. I actually secretly wrote a novel during the abuse. It was my only sanity. I had to hide it for her ripped up the first copy. You are writing for you, not for anyone else, just keeping a journal and looking back years later shows your growth.
Know in advance what makes YOU smile:
Find something that is for just you. Anything that makes you feel a bit better. It doesn’t have to be a day at the spa, simply fixing your hair on a day that you don’t want to helps. Painting your nails, buying a new comforter or perfume. It doesn’t have to cost money, find simple things that you like to do. Make your pretty smile a priority. You wore it upside down for way too long. You are what you decide to be, not what someone else led you to believe.
Physically move if you are in the place you suffered:
Ten years after my husband had been removed, I remained living in the same apartment. While I felt most of my scars were gone, I still had nightmares but the day to day was better. I will never forget when my then 16 year old son said, no matter where I look in this apartment I have a bad memory. I felt my entire heart break, how had I never thought to move from the apartment where so much pain had been? Within 6 months my son and I moved, now life was not perfect but it took us out of the physical environment where so many things went wrong.
When in doubt, talk to a professional:
I hesitated at first but after placing my son in counseling I was encouraged to go too. I had thought since the abuse was over I was fine. Never mind the constant anxiety attacks and the fact that I was living off of only coffee and stress. It was one of the best things that I ever did for myself. I was able to share things that I would never share with another soul, even my closest family and friends.
You know, things that you can’t even believe you put up with. It was an impartial party that helped me through the grieving process. Yes, grieving. Even though you are most times happy to be away from the abuser you had lived that life for so long you feel alone and empty. Your routine of suffering in isolation is suddenly gone most times. If you are like me I was unable to talk or even have an opinion in my home with my husband so suddenly having someone encourage me to share was difficult at first.
Once I got over being embarrassed that I cried each time I opened my mouth I just let it out. I would then come home and read and write in a journal. When I later looked back at the journals I was amazed to see how much stronger I had become, one day, one boo hoo session at a time. Don’t mask the pain with drugs or ignorance. Let the mask go.
Share what works for you to help others:
What do you do to stay inspired and strong and deal with anxiety? I would like to ask that women who visit please share something here. This is a frequently asked question of readers. What do I do now. Please share what you have done and keep doing to stay strong. Your tips will help other women who seek this wisdom.
Love & Peace,