Its more than 4 years now since I last had a debilitating anxiety attack. For a week, I couldn’t go to work, I couldn’t leave the house, I kept crying on and off… the one where my shoulders wouldn’t stop shaking.
Up until then, I thought I knew what being anxious is. I thought it was the constant worry about every little thing in my life and doing my best to prepare for them. I thought that it was just me going a hundred miles an hour and aiming for perfection in every part of my life. I thought it was just me being an invincible superwoman.
And then I had that week.
Its true. Not everyone who experiences an anxiety attack knows the reason behind it. And it can be very hard to pull yourself out of it. Knowing what I know now, I know this is mostly because the responses coming from my body and mind are conditioned immediate responses (they don’t even neurologically go through the rational part of my brain!). I was in fight-or-flight and something badly triggered it.
What I did know was that I needed support. I didn’t need to be told what to do. I needed to walk my way through it with someone beside me. And I needed to feel safe. That time, I wasn’t feeling safe at all inside my head or in my body which is the worst place ever.
Since then I realised the 2 key areas where I make myself feel unsafe… yes, it’s all coming from within ALWAYS.
1. The things I say to myself unconsciously, stemming from unhealthy beliefs.
2. The tension I hold in my body, conditioned by negative experiences.
After I saw my healer towards the end of that week, I finally got to a place where I landed back in the present… I came back “home.” And guess what, I managed to make it my scheduled trip to sunny Queensland where and when this pic was taken.
That week taught me a lot about myself and a lot of how-to’s. No one welcomes these kinds of experiences but if you do give yourself the care and compassion you need, you’ll walk away from it stronger, more resilient, and more compassionate to both yourself and others.
It also helped me recognise the symptoms of anxiety a lot better since then.
During the various times I’ve felt mental and/or physiological anxiety come up, I’ve always turned to my somatic practices to support me. Because when your mind is going like an Energizer Bunny with no direction, you have to turn your body to help you slow down.
Here’s a couple of tips to support you in case you find yourself in the same circumstances:
Going for a walk, run or dance brings you back in touch with your body and with the present moment. It also releases endorphin hormones which brings feelings of joy and general wellbeing.
- HUG SOMEONE or HUG A BIG PILLOW
This activates the touch receptors in your skin and starts to help calm down your nervous system. While babies need touch to support their growth, adults need it to feel safe because humans are innately social beings.
- SLOW DOWN THE BREATH
Have a conscious breath practice that slows down the breath, particularly the exhale. This counteracts the shallow breathing that is symptomatic of anxiety.
- DO THE 5-4-3-2-1 PRACTICE
Look for 5 things that you can see.
Listen to 4 things that you can hear.
Feel 3 things.
Smell 2 things.
Taste 1 thing.
This will bring you straight back to the present and induce a feeling of safety.
Although I teach that happiness is a door that opens from the inside, I do recognise that being totally un-affected by external events is impossible. This is why these practices I gave you are key. Its all about management, not eradication.
If you need support, please get in touch.
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