I was diagnosed with anxiety in my teens. I remember sitting in my accounting class in High School and all of a sudden feeling hot and antsy. I felt an overwhelming urge to run from the room. I felt like everyone was looking at me. This kept happening and my doctor diagnosed me with anxiety and put me on medicine. After High School, my anxiety wasn't as frequent.
From the age of 18-20 I became a party girl. I went a little wild. I was doing a lot of drugs in the clubs every weekend. When I was 20 I went over to a friend's house and did too much cocaine. It made my heart go out of rhythm and I experienced my first panic attack. I thought I was dying. My heart was skipping. My friends were talking about dropping me off in front of the hospital and leaving. I feel like I really came close to dying that night.
I eventually calmed down and went home. The next day when I woke up, I was fine. I got in the bathtub to take a bath and all of a sudden the same thing happened. My heart was pounding, skipping, my chest heart, I felt impending doom. I got out of the bath and called 911. An ambulance took me to the emergency room. I was sure I was having a heart attack. When I got to the ER the Doctor hooked me up to an EKG machine and ran some tests. He came into the room with the results and just really dismissively said, "You're having a Panic Attack" and walked out.
It kept happening. I went to my regular doctor and was prescribed Xanax. I still felt like something was wrong so I went to the cardiologist. They did an echocardiogram and a stress test. I was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse. Years later I was rediagnosed as simply having a heart rhythm disorder caused by cocaine. I started taking a beta-blocker called Atenolol which helps me to not feel the palpitations.
Don't do drugs kids. Seriously. Your life can change in an instant. I was a skinny and active young adult who wasn't afraid of anything. Now I have a heart problem, debilitating panic attacks, and have to take heart medicine every day. I gained weight because of the medicine and I was afraid to do anything that increased my heart rate. Eventually, I saw a psychiatrist who put me on Venlafaxine and Klonipin which made the panic attacks mostly go away.
Fast forward to this year. I am on new medication that does not manage my panic disorder as well as the venlafaxine but I don't want to go back on it because of the side effects. I am trying to manage it naturally. These are some of my favourite ways to relieve anxiety.
Exercise is scientifically proven to lessen anxiety. Why don't we as anxiety sufferers do it more? Because it increases heart rate and that is one of the things that scares us the most. In my experience most people who suffer from panic disorder are very worried about having heart attacks. If you can get past this then Exercise is the best thing for anxiety in the midst of a panic attack. When you increase your heart rate you increase anti-anxiety chemicals in your brain, you can read more from this Harvard Medical School Blog. Can exercise help treat Anxiety?
Meditation has helped my anxiety immensely. I have been meditating at least five minutes a day. More when I am anxious. I use the Headspace app, Headspace also has free videos on YouTube and Netflix. They make meditation easy and accessible.
#3 Essential Oils
You do not have to spend a ton of money on essential oils to increase the benefits. There are several muli-level marketing schemes around essential oils that tear down each other and terrify you into buying their product with baseless claims and made-up words. All you need to do is make sure the essential oil is pure. I use Plant Therapy whom I have researched and trust (not sponsored) and they are on Amazon. My favourite scents for anxiety are: Tranquil, Vetiver, Relax, and for nighttime anxiety Sleep Tight. I keep a roll-on in my purse for when I am out and about. For more info read this Johns Hopkins article Aromatherapy, do essential oils really work?
#4 Deep breathing
I start out every morning with a deep breathing exercise. I also do deep breathing throughout the day, especially when I am anxious. My favourite is to breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and exhale for 6 seconds and repeating 4x. Concentrating on the breath distracts me and relaxes me. Here is a video to follow from Calm. Box Breathing
#5 TIPP Skill
If you are having a really bad panic attack and feel out of control try the DBT Therapy TIPP Skill. T stands for temperature. The first step is to put your face in a bowl of ice water. Make sure your eyes, nose, and mouth is fully submerged. Hold your breath for 30 seconds. I stands for Intense exercise. Walk on the treadmill, dance, do jumping jacks, or dance. Anything to get your heart rate up for 3-5 minutes. P stands for paced breathing. Slow down your breathing. Breathe in for 4 seconds, Hold for 4 seconds, Exhale for 6 seconds, repeat 4x. The second P stands for paired muscle relaxation. While taking a deep breath tense your muscles as much as you can, hold, and then while you exhale in your mind say relax and release your muscles. Notice the difference in your body. Here is a video demonstration of the TIPP skill from The Psych Show How to immediately calm down in 30 seconds
I hope these help you. Share what works for you in the comments.
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