Anxiety feels completely paralyzing. One simple thought can pull us into an obsessive loop of negativity, self-loathing, and defeatist thinking. Often we don’t even know how it started and all of a sudden we feel trapped, helpless, and without any options.
I’m no stranger to these feelings. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a little girl. This week I’d been planning to share a post about my own journey with mental health and anxiety but funnily enough, after writing my post about Living in Your Flow, my period was a week late - a rare occurrence for me. I had an extra week of feeling downright rotten: completely drained, low energy, crampy, extra critical, and mega brain fog. Taking my own advice, I knew it was not a time for big writing projects.
Luckily, we had recently had a conversation in Girl Gang HQ about panic attacks and anxiety and how we cope with them. I think we could all use some extra tools in our toolbox when it comes to managing our mental health with loving kindness for ourselves and the wonderful women in the group kindly allowed me to share their advice with you. I'll come back to my own mental health journey soon, but today I'm excited to share this girl gang wisdom.
"My boyfriend had really, really bad panic attacks for a long time. They used to wake him up in the night regularly. Are you doing any form of cardio? He's found that since taking up martial arts about a year ago that they don't really happen anymore. Its all to do with burning off the adrenaline that builds up in you and causes the panic attack.
I've heard a lot of people talking about how the 5-4-3-2-1 method of grounding helps: Describe 5 things you can see right now. Describe 4 things you can feel with your sense of touch right now. Describe 3 sounds you can hear, or your three favourite sounds. Describe 2 things you can smell around you, or that you like to smell. Describe 1 thing you can taste right now, or that you like to taste.” - L.
"When ever I have a panic attack my husband makes me put my chest against his and he breathes deeply and tells me to mimic his breath. Then once I'm grounded my go to is yogi kava tea and (the best advice anyone's ever given me for anxiety) eating an apple. Focusing on the physical act of biting into the apple.” - Amanda
"In the summer my stress levels were very high and I realised that my anxiety stress would manifest in my hands shaking ad trembling so much. It was so noticeable and embarrassing, i started putting a few drops of neroli essential oil into water ( in middle east - orange flower water us used for shock) and i would calm the F down. My hands would stop shaking and i could feel my heart an mind stop shaking ! I also started using a herbal adrenal calmer to help support my adrenals as the fight or flight response was really playing havoc with my body! Both have been great successes with me.” - Holly
"I've found that whenever I have a panic attack, my thinking is completely restricted - things feel impossible, hopeless, etc. so it can really help to use a phrase like "I am open to creative possibilities" or "I surrender _______ and trust that everything is unfolding exactly as it should" to pull yourself out of the obsessive loop.
And of course, focusing on the breath - long, deep inhales right down into the belly and long, deep exhales. By slowing and evening your breath you'll activate your parasympathetic nervous system and start calming down your entire body.
I'm also a big fan of aromatherapy and even just taking a big sniff of an essential oil like lavender can do wonders to help pull me out of the panic and ground me in the present moment.” - Me
"I struggled with anxiety at the beginning of last year. My recommendations are: really cut back caffeine, drink copious amounts of water, eat snacks to keep blood sugar stable, practice "square breathing", keep a funny video tabbed--humor seems to work the best at anxiety busting for me, lavendar tincture, lavendar essential oil, and an exercise class in public before work. The thing that helped me the most however might sound like a unicorn--telling myself my feelings were okay. I would repeat that to myself and remember that I had anxiety in the past but that no matter what I feel at work I typically just keep on going. The anxiety is there but I just keep on doing what I do. Somehow not asking my anxiety to go away, noticing it, but shifting my focus to my tasks was the strongest and most enduring anxiety reducer.” - V.
"For me lavender (oil, diffuser, roll on) really does magic when I get anxious.” - Sarah
"Playlists can help too - I always have at least one on standby on my phone in case I feel wobbly, doesn't necessarily have to be calming (although there's loads of Deva Premal on Spotify if you wanna give mantras a whirl) - more like some of your favourites to pull you out of the anxiety loop.” - S.
"I feel you there. I've dealt with anxiety and panic attacks for most of my life. One thing that has helped me is the idea of "time boxing." I set aside a certain amount of time each day to "worry," and I tell myself that I'm not allowed to worry about it until that time. I imagine myself putting my worries in a box and locking it. I also think seeing a good therapist and medication has helped me.” - B.
"I deal with panic attacks too, and a few things that help me are not pushing the anxiety away and not avoiding. When I avoid my anxiety, it just grows. I just let myself sit in the anxiety sometimes and know that it's ok to be anxious, it's not going to kill me (even though sometimes it feels like it will!). When I get anxious I say to myself "Hello anxiety, my old friend." and that helps too, even though it seems a little weird. Also labeling things in the room, going through my body and listing every symptom my body is feeling. Anxiety is horrible and I'm in no way a pro, sometimes I do ok dealing with it and other times I just let it take me over, but I think anxiety is way more common than we even realize.” - Catherine