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4 Methods to Use Against Anxiety Attacks

Grocery store induced anxiety attack – a true story.

“I cannot do this,” I thought, every much as frozen by my anxiety attack as the 20 lb. turkey I was examining in the grocery’s freezer.  (Yes you read that right, a 20 lb. turkey, my husband has 12 siblings, enough said.)  Other holiday planning procrastinators bustled and grumbled around me, throwing canned goods, produce and hunks of meat into their carts.  Despite the activity, my field of vision narrowed on the poultry carcass as clammy sweat beaded in my arm pits.  I inhaled and exhaled in rapid succession as my muscled tightened.  Like a guitar string pulled too thin, I was at my breaking point, ready to abandon my heaping load of food and bolt.  I envisioned knocking over the grandma inspecting apples and the stock boy layering cans of pumpkin pie filling in my haste to escape.    “I cannot do this,” I repeated, shame and self-loathing suffocating me as I called my husband in defeat.

Finally, he found me unmoved 20 minutes later, still staring shell-shocked at the frozen bird.  He finished the shopping and we were able to have turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie with the rest of America.  But for the next several days, my embarrassment continued and my inner voice abused me mercilessly.

What causes anxiety attacks?

This was not my first tango with anxiety or panic attacks, but it was the first time I was unable to talk myself down.  Despite the stigma, fear and its associated physiological response, is a normal body function.  Because as a matter of survival, we are wired so that: 1. Brain perceives threat, 2. Brain alerts body to the threat, and 3. Body reacts with physical and emotional symptoms to counteract the threat.  However, becoming paralyzed by fear and panic at “inappropriate times” is a result of our biology not keeping up with societal developments.  While a rush of adrenaline aides in escaping a pack of wolves, it is less then helpful when facing a room of executives (or a crowded grocery store).

Anxiety Treatment.

So how can we manage these “overreactions” at “inappropriate times”?  Here are 4 ways I continue to manage my anxiety:

  1. Open the dialog ~ The effort to de-stigmatize anxiety and mental health issues is ongoing. My past inclination was to hide my struggle in embarrassment.  I finally sought help after almost a year of regular debilitating panic attacks.  That is too long!  If you find yourself in this position, please know you are not alone!  Reach out to a friend, a parent, a spouse.  If you don’t feel comfortable with someone you know, there are online resources and anonymous discussion groups.  Suggested resource ADAA.
  2. Practice proven calming methods ~
    1. Breathing – Interrupt the physiological symptom of rapid breath by purposefully controlling the rate of your breath. I have found the “box breathing” method effective.  This is where for equal counts each (I usually use 4 counts) you breath in, hold breath, breath out, hold breath (repeat).
    2. Mediation – I admit, my mediation practice is a work in progress, slow progress. My mind tends to wonder in random ping-pong directions.  Hopefully, my recently downloaded meditone (specialized music frequencies to get you in the zone) from Sonesence will get me on the right track (I’ll report back). I’m looking forward to adding this one to my anxiety fighting arsenal.
  3. Medication ~ I’m not talking about self-medication (but a glass of wine is never a bad idea). While anti-anxiety medication cannot cure you of anxiety, it can help manage its symptoms. For complete transparency, I take a low dose of Zoloft which reduces the frequency and intensity of my panic attacks, but comes with side-effects (for me – insomnia and occasional mild nausea).  Based on your history and goals, your medical provider will work with you to determine the right type and dosage.
  4. Finally, Be kind to yourself ~ To my mind, this is the most important and difficult action.  Beating yourself up is not helpful.  Start noticing and analyzing your inner dialog.  Would you tolerate someone speaking to you (or your kid? – yep, I went there) the way you speak to yourself?  Once I started paying attention, I found my self-recriminations exceedingly cruel and untrue.  No way in hell would I tolerate someone speaking to someone I loved that way (wow – epiphany here that I will explore in-depth on a later post).

I know I am not the only one who rides the anxiety roller coaster.  Therefore, if you are going through a similar struggle, know you are NOT alone.  Please reach out if you have thoughts on this article, I would love to hear from you.

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  1. Hollie Geitner

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! It’s only a recent discovery that I, too, have anxiety. I’ve found that crowds and feeling overwhelmed bring it on. I have never seen a professional about this because it’s only in my 40s that Iv’e finally discovered what it is. I suspect I’ve had bouts of anxiety over the years, but it’s more clear to me now when it happens and why. A friend recommended Bach’s Rescue Remedy all natural drops. I’ve tried them twice and they seem to help. I’m carrying it in my purse from now on. Best of luck to you! Looking forward to more of your posts!

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