Last week, I had an unpredictable, unexpected and out-of-nowhere anxiety attack. It is been about two or three years since the last full blown anxiety attack. Difficulty breathing, trouble swallowing, heart palpitations, elevated body temperature, racing thoughts, muffled hearing, muscle weakness-Complete and utter physical and mental OVERWHELM. Over the years, I’ve developed some amazing and effective tools to help manage (and at times, even eliminate) my everyday anxiety but even when you’re equipped with right tools, panic and anxiety can and will resurface from time to time. It doesn’t mean failure, regression or instability, it means you are human.
It came out of nowhere and I wasn’t prepared-But triggers can be tricky that way. Sometimes it can be pretty obvious what triggers a particular reaction or emotional response. Other times (like this one), the trigger of an emotional event or reaction isn’t so obvious. This is because our triggers are activated by one or more of the five senses. Whenever we experience a stressor or traumatic event (whatever that means for you) our mind/body gather information from our 5 senses (before, during and after a difficult experience), store these sensations in our conscious and subconscious memories as trauma, stress, fear and danger.
When I noticed that I was starting to lose control, I knew I had to do something to interrupt my stress response. Here’s what helped:
- Stepped away
- Turned down the lights
- Lowered my gaze
- Took slow deep breaths (inhale through the nose, exhale slowly through pursed lips)
- Noticed and named the colors and textures in the room
- Used positive self-talk and separated myself from the emotion : This is anxiety, you are going to be okay, just breathe (on repeat)
- Was kind and patient with myself: Giving myself the space and the time I needed to center myself before I returned to what I was doing (no time frame, no time limits)
- Focused on my body and my breathing, not the cause of the anxiety/panic