I believe everything that happens to us, happens for a reason. Yes, even the bad. Although we may not deserve it, we can learn lessons from it, and that is a reason in and of itself – no matter how painful that can be to swallow.
Exactly two weeks ago, I was at dinner with my boyfriend and his friends, and mid-way through the meal, I fainted and had to be taken in an ambulance to the hospital. I had no idea what was happening to me when I woke up. I stayed calm because I was so exhausted and in shock, but under the surface, my mind went to the worst places – as silly and as dramatic as it may sound, I literally thought I was passing a blood clot, or having a stroke, or having heart problems. Who knows, but my mind was racing, and I was terrified.
After another trip to the hospital three days later, countless doctors visits, and a week and a half of being ill to the point of vomiting and crying every day – I was seriously concerned. It all just seemed to happen out of nowhere and for no reason – but there’s always a reason – even if it feels like hell.
The craziest part was that everyone, from my boyfriend to all the nurses, said the same thing – I was experiencing severe panic attacks. I shook my head and didn’t believe it at first, but then it all started to make so much sense. I could feel it coming true as it was happening over and over. I lost control, would spiral to the point of no return, and quite literally make myself so sick over how I was feeling. It felt like I was imprisoned in my own mind for a week. And that’s a feeling no one should ever experience.
Unfortunately, yet fortunately, I’m not alone. 40 million adults (19.1%) in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder. The past few years have also done nothing but contribute to this statistic. I believe mental health and addiction are the real pandemics of our societies, but that’s a whole other conversation.
For whatever reason, it’s easier to understand if someone has a broken leg or a thyroid issue or even is an alcoholic, but it is much more complicated and stressful to process and explain when it’s your mind that is sick. It also can be embarrassing to admit or leave you in a puddle opening up about it. You shouldn’t have shame in something you can’t help from happening, however, you shouldn’t victimize yourself either. There are tools you can learn to help cope and live a normal life.
It is one of my missions to help those struggling with mental health problems, since of course, I know the feeling a little too well. And even though it does sometimes, I never want it to hinder me from living a beautiful, happy, full life. The craziest part, at least to me, is that you can form anxiety at any point in your life.
I didn’t have anxiety until I lost a childhood friend in a plane crash when I was 17. The ironic part is I have literally sky-dived, but since experiencing that tragic loss, my anxieties have spiraled and sometimes even driving a car can be off-putting for me. Everyone is different and life can be crazy in the best and worst ways, but it’s always a gift.
If you can’t understand, you’re truly one of the lucky ones, and the best advice I can give, is to at least give people that do struggle some patience and compassion.
If you can’t understand the feeling, I relate anxiety or panic attacks to a wounded bird. It’s like when a beautiful, harmless bird crashes into a window and falls into shock and panic. The bird feels broken past the point of return, it thinks it will never fly again, and feels as though it is dying. Even though the bird knows it’s not actually going to die, it really feels to them as though they are.
This is what it felt like when I was 17-years-old experiencing panic attacks due to losing my friend, being in a toxic relationship full of trust issues, and leading a terrible lifestyle, and it’s the same feeling I’ve started to feel come on in recent weeks to issues I am still trying to discover.
But if you know anything about me by now, you know I go deep. I’m not one to have small talk and I’m not one to put a bandaid on things – I get to the root.
Anxiety in your body is a natural response to feeling unsafe – whatever unsafe may mean to you. It can be as simple as being around certain people and certain situations that can cause anxiety in you to arise, to as major as being unable to leave the house because an anxiety attack will come on.
Either way – it’s hell, and the only way out of it is to work with it, which in itself is such a challenge and so unnatural to what the body’s natural response is – fight or flight. Though I promise you that it offers relief.
‘Working with it’ means working with and through the symptoms. When I feel an anxiety attack arising, I have learned to literally surrender to it and ask myself, “What is my inner child trying to show me?” When people ask me how I am doing while I am experiencing anxiety, the common response would be to cry, panic more, explain how terrible it feels (this is exactly how I’ve handled the situation so many times), but the best way is to shift your perspective, work with the symptoms, and say something like, “I am working with the symptoms right now” Or “I am allowing it to happen and be present right now”.
As I’ve said, it’s only been a few weeks since the start of my recurring anxiety attacks coming back into my life, but below is what has helped me in the past and what is helping me now.
My Ten Holistic Tools to Master Anxiety –
Everything I am Currently Practicing to Heal Myself from the Inside Out
1. No caffeine or alcohol – I usually have two to three cups of coffee a day, and I drink usually once or twice a week, but I have replaced my cup of Joe and glasses of wine with different kinds of tea, water, and green juices.
2. Pranayama breathing – If you feel an anxiety attack coming on, focus on your breath first and foremost. Breathe and center yourself no matter how impossible it feels. I personally love pranayama breathing and there are so many more benefits than just for anxiety!
3. Yoga every morning – I typically get my exercise in after work, but I have been starting my mornings for the past week at 6 a.m. by getting right on my mat. I’ve been doing Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Day Challenge (you can find her right on YouTube!) and I have gotten instant relief and peace from her classes.
4. Make a little safety kit – This is a big one and has brought me so much comfort. I made a little kit with everything I could possibly want if a panic attack is coming – water, healthy snacks, CBD, essential oils, lotions, a stress ball, teas, rose water, etc. Make it specific to you and your needs, and don’t be embarrassed – ya gotta do what ya gotta do!
5. Take a break from screens – Since I work a full-time job in front of the computer, I definitely notice not just my eyesight getting worse, but my eyes can get easily irritated. The past few weeks I’ve taken a break from watching TV and have been spending minimal time on my phone. Instead, I’ve been getting so much joy out of reading and writing in my free time instead. It settles the mind and is definitely worth a try – anxiety or not. The latest book I’ve been reading and loving is A Place of Yes by one of my role models, Bethenny Frankel.
6. Take a Shower\Bath – A shower or a bath is one of the simplest, yet most effective reliefs for anything. Whether you need an ice cold shower to cool down, or a hot bath to bring you comfort – there is little it won’t fix.
7. Prayer & Meditation – Everyone is different when it comes to religion, but for me, due to my Catholic upbringing, I rely on prayer and meditation in my everyday life. I am quite a spiritual person and turn to God often – even if it may seem a bit unconventional the way I practice. I often say, “I’m the most spiritual, religious person you’ll ever meet” Or “I’m the most religious, spiritual person you’ll ever meet”. Prayer and meditation just makes me feel safe and heard – and in moments of crisis, that’s all you could ever ask for.
8. Spend as much time outside as possible – Whether it’s a walk or a run, going to the pool or the beach, going for a hike, or just sitting in the sunshine on your balcony or deck, Vitamin D and fresh air are the best medicines out there.
9. Therapy – I’ve spoken endlessly about the importance of therapy and counseling, but it may be the most important tool in learning how to cope and survive with an anxiety or panic disorder. Most of my tools I’ve learned overtime stem from the amazing therapists I’ve had in my life.