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This past weekend my husband, Pete, and I went to Calgary. It was a quick trip and we did A LOT of driving around. He showed me where his childhood home and elementary school was in North Calgary, we caught a movie at the VIP Cinema in South Calgary. On Saturday afternoon we decided to take a drive out to Chestermere just East of Calgary. It’s a beautiful little community, there’s a gorgeous lake with cute little parks and beaches. I was really looking forward to looking around when I started having a panic attack. It started out slowly and I was just trying to control it with deep breathing. It wasn’t long before it turned into a full fledged panic attack, heart beating super fast, nausea, sweating. It was horrible. I told my hubby to pull over and puked in the parking lot of one of the cute little parks. I haven’t had a panic attack like that in years. I’ve known Pete for over 7 years and he’s never seen me like that.
So, what do I do when I’m having an attack? Here are some very practical things I do to get through my anxiety.
1- Ginger Ale, Gravol and Gum ~ I’ve never gone onto any fast acting anxiety medications like Ativan, I haven’t felt the need to especially in the last few years as my panic attacks have been fairly well controlled. I take my anti-anxiety/anti-depressant every day, but nothing to take when I feel an attack coming on. So Ginger Ale and Gravol are my go to’s. They both help cut the nausea and the Gravol helps me settle down and pass out for a little while (see tip #3) I get very physical reactions to my panic attacks, so gum is always helpful after throwing up.
2- Remind myself of what I can control ~ The only thing we can truly control is ourselves. How we react, what we think, what we do. When I feel so out of control I find it helpful to picture myself in a box and remind myself over and over that I can’t control what people think of me when I’m like this, I can’t control the circumstances that led to the panic attack, I can’t even really control whether or not I throw up, but I can control myself and my thoughts. I had an instructor once explain it as the hula hoop. We can only control what happens in our hula hoop, not in anyone else’s.
3- Go to Bed ~ Getting some sleep make a world of difference for me! Thankfully the Gravol leaves me sleepy, so if I can get an hour or two of sleep, I usually wake up feeling refreshed and with a better outlook on life. I find having a weighted blanket or at least a heavy blanket or comforter helps me settle as well. I tried just throwing a small blanket over myself at first, but it really didn’t help. Once I put something heavier on, it seems to help control some of the reaction to anxiety (shivering, shaking, wakes of panic etc.)
4- Pray ~ Prayer helps to remind me of the bigger picture. God is ultimately in control of everything… the small things and the big picture things. It also reminds me that I am not alone. I am never alone, God is always there walking with me through the good times and the bad.
“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:6
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” ~ Psalm 139:7-10
Finally friends, I want to remind you (and myself) anxiety does not define you. Let me say that again, because if nothing else helps you from this post, I want you to know that anxiety does not define you. I was really worried I would have another panic attack the next day, but I didn’t. I was fine, my anxiety attack did not define me or how the weekend went. I still had a great time. I am just a regular person who has panic attacks sometimes. There is nothing wrong with you if you have anxiety like me. It’s a sickness and it can be dealt with and overcome to live a happy, healthy and fruitful life. Don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it, it is nothing to be ashamed of.
What are some of the ways you cope with stress/anxiety or panic attacks? I’d love to hear from you! The more “tools” we can have in our belts to fight these kinds of things, the better! We’re in this together.