Although I am recovered, I think I will always have some degree of anxiety left behind. It’s normal for everyone to have anxiety, it’s dates back to our caveman days when we sensed danger, our body pumped extra adrenaline giving us our fight or flight response. Obviously we don’t really need this anymore, but when you struggle with anxiety and panic attacks that adrenaline pumps through our bodies when it’s not needed.
For me at my worst, panic attacks occurred daily. Anxiety was a constant for me, the feeling in the pit of my stomach that something was wrong, either with my children’s health, for events have haven’t happened yet, or for having to leave the safety of my home. I started to feel anxious about being left on my own with my children, I believed that I was going to faint or become unconscious and no one would be here to care for my children. I even taught my 2 year old how to call my husband if she couldn’t wake me up. I begged my husband every day before he went to work not to leave me alone. I was having terrible panic attacks, which then reinforced my belief as my heart would race, I would feel short of breath and feel faint so I would convince myself I was going to have a heart attack.
Since recovering I would say my anxiety is definitely more of a “regular” level. I get the same anxiety any one does, but going somewhere new isn’t the same as it was when I was struggling. Before if I had something coming up I wouldn’t eat, I’d count the days down with dread, I’d literally make myself unwell with worry. I would have terrible panic attacks, and leaving the house would be near on impossible. Now I might feel a bit nervous, but I don’t dread it, I might get butterflies but they settle quickly and I don’t have panic attacks anymore.
There’s only a couple of situations which still cause high anxiety and sometimes panic attacks, my main one being stuck in a car in traffic. Three times a year we travel to Devon to my Grandad’s farm which is on average a 5 hour car journey. I love going, it’s wonderful family time, I love seeing my grandad and the kids always have a fantastic time. The car journey though I hate. If we get caught in traffic it causes my anxiety levels to rise and sometimes I will have a panic attack.
Over time I’ve learnt some self care tips that help make my journey a little less stressful.
Distraction is my main tool – I take my iPad, I use it to write blog posts, play games or surf the net. Or I take my note book and I will write/plan things.
Mindful Breathing & Grounding – I use deep breathing (in for 4 through your nose, hold it for 3 and out for 4 through your mouth) or I use a grounding technique where I find 5 things I can see, 4 things I can feel, 3 things I can hear etc
If I’m tired I will nap (obviously kids dependant!)
My best one for me though is driving. It is an excellent way for me to distract myself, and on this most recent trip I drove the full journey and didn’t experience anxiety.
However, If I do have a panic attack I allow myself to feel ok with stopping at services and taking a break, I will remind myself this is just a feeling and it will pass.
Being prepared helps, and knowing that panic attacks will pass and soon you will feel ok…imagine it as a cloud that’s passing by. By doing your mindfulness deep breathing you’re blowing those clouds away.
Although I don’t get them much anymore I am prepared incase I do. The important thing to remember is that you can learn to take control and manage through theses feelings. With help from professionals, such as therapists and counsellors you can learn live a life without anxiety controlling you.