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How I Stopped Anxiety and Panic Attacks

The “A” word.

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a health professional in any way. I wrote this from some research and personal experience. Read at your own risk…as if.

As an educator (which may already qualify me as crazy!) I’ve noticed a drastic increase in anxiety over the 15 years I’ve been in the classroom, not just in the students, but IN ME! If I take the time to break down exactly what causes it, well, one word stands out. STRESS!

For example, this year I have a female sixth grader who is in tears at least twice a week, and not just in my classroom.  She is a very smart, over-achiever, who puts so much stress on herself when completing class work, that she automatically ends in tears.

Immediately, I began to analyze how an 11-year-old sweetheart like her can have THAT much stress in her life.  Low self-confidence, unrealistic expectations, perfectionism, and that’s just to name a few.  It breaks my heart that a young lady can even HAVE that much stress in their life! I immediately go back to my sixth-grade year and think if I was stressed, or really down on myself, or anything even remotely similar to what my students could be feeling.  It’s tragic, really.

My anxiety first surfaced when I began experiencing a serious and quite scary physical symptom of stress called panic attacks, soon followed by Tachycardia. Whenever I experienced a stressful situation in my life, as soon as I felt it wasn’t relieved or solved, my heart rate would leap up to about 200 beats per minute in an instant, and stay there for anywhere from a minute, to 45 minutes!

According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, “A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute.”   Basically, it feels like your heart is about to explode in your chest and it feels as though you just ran a marathon.  I tried to count it as exercise, just to find the levity in the situation, but that really did not work.

My panic attacks and tachycardia began the year I got divorced.  My heart was healthy enough, but apparently, it was “misfiring” and the final doctor I saw about it, more than 20 years later, called it an electrical problem. A comical way to explain a not-so-funny experience.

As I aged and went through what women look so forward to all their lives (not having to buy sanitary napkins ever again), my stress, apparently, increased to the point where eventually I had experienced more than four Emergency Room visits, so eventually they diagnosed and scheduled me for an ablation.

Over twenty years of suffering with this issue, it took a five hour heart surgery, and my ticker was never to experience that discomfort again. Yes, your body can seriously react to any type of stress. 

Next came the anxiety that CAN’T be controlled with surgery.  The feeling of panic that comes from merely standing OUTSIDE an Apple Store.  Knowing I have to enter to do my business, but unable to take the first step.  When I finally do, I’m accosted by immediate sensory overload, to which my body reacts in a manner easily described as total panic.

I employ deep breathing, I look down at the floor, hoping the cacophony will stop and I can just do what I need to, and quickly leave.  I catch myself holding my breath, only to barely be able to force my needed breath in and out. It’s real, and it’s more common than we realize.

It literally took me years to realize that I wasn’t crazy, and that as people were pointing their own behaviors out to me, I began to seriously consider that no, it wasn’t something I was making up. It wasn’t a feeling that really wasn’t there, and that I should try to ignore. Just like everything else in our lives, we need to pay extremely close attention to what our body, and mind, is telling us.

It took one major issue at Denver International Airport, to push me almost literally over the edge.  “He said” and I were taking a trip and had just checked in.  We were making our way to the security line as this feeling began to inundate me.  Here I go. My hands, and legs, were shaking, the room was closing in on me, and my senses were blaring out at me, “GET ME OUT OF HERE!”

By the time we completed our security check, I was nearly jumping out of my skin.  The answer, at the time, as my poor husband had no idea how to console me, was a nice Bloody Mary, or three, prior to getting on the plane.  No, I don’t recommend trying to control your anxiety with alcohol, but in that situation, YOU USE WHAT’S READILY AVAILABLE!

HOW DID WE GET SO STRESSED?

Perhaps someone should have realized the growing trend of people suffering from anxiety and the increase of prescriptions written for anxiety.  It would be very interesting to track who is taking meds, what they do for a living, and what age they are when they begin. Perhaps then we could map it all back to a specific time period that our lives became so damned busy or stressful.

When did our lives become more about getting things done quickly, rather than getting things done?  When did our lives change so significantly that no one has the time to sit and write out 50 Christmas cards anymore, or handwrite a thank you note, or ANY note for that matter?

Perhaps it was when suddenly more women went into the workforce and it became a juggling of home and work, leaving no time for ourselves. Maybe it was when kids became not only responsible for having a successful academic life, but an extracurricular life as well.

Perhaps it was when we stopped caring about being passionate about what we choose for a career and found ourselves forced into a high paying, boring, and unfulfilling job. Suddenly we are reading books about how to take care of ourselves, as though we haven’t already been raised, and additionally raised kids.  Mom stress is real.

What about Dad stress? Imagine carrying around the burden of having to be the bread winner. In my childhood, both parents worked. My sister and I spent a ton of time at Nanna’s and Pappy’s house, just up the street, and ALWAYS had dinner at the table, sometimes doing a lot of the preparation ourselves, until our parents got home.

That was back in the 50s! Dad’s stress is also very real, but I’ll let “He said” address that one. Gender roles have changed so very much. Is that fact accompanied by equal stress? I do believe so.

IS THERE HOPE FOR ME?

As I sit and peruse the school’s daily schedule, especially over the past few years, I notice one thing.  WE ARE WORKING OUR CHILDREN TO DEATH, or at least to the point of needing medication to handle this ridiculous thing we call formal education.  Seriously, students at the school I’m in, have a whopping total of 30 MINUTES for lunch.

They arrive at 8:30 a.m. and are here until 4:00 p.m. most days. Some of them even stay after for additional help.  Can you remember what your school day was like? Did you ever freak out about juggling your schedule for school and trying to figure out when to do your homework?

Oh, and when you got home, was it restaurant night every night, because both parents were working full time and no one had time to cook a REAL dinner?

As I began to look at this world we live in now, and after a few discussions with fellow educators, I came to realize it wasn’t all about Menopause, or getting older, or losing control of my thoughts and feelings. It was about this life, and not taking time for me and a plethora of other things.

I wasn’t in this alone, but I, alone, had to figure out how I was going to surpass this, especially since retirement was still MANY years away!  Suddenly, there was hope. There were tools, ideas, and yes, medication.

TROUBLESHOOTING

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not pushing meds here at all. I’m saying that even after years of counseling, panic attacks, and tachycardia episodes, it was my ultimate relief when I found the med that helped.  Not only that, but I had to double it one year when my tools were failing me in every other way.

However, there are other ways to figure out what’s happening to you and ways in which you can alleviate those symptoms.  However, when you are in the midst of a panic attack, your entire body is caught up in the moment and it is sometimes nearly impossible to stop and STOP!

 

According to Web MD, there are many reasons we suffer from anxiety.  Some are actually physical reasons, based on different types of medications, such as side effects.  Mental conditions cause anxiety in many individuals, such as panic disorder and thyroid issues.

Phobias are also big stress causers. It appears as though mental conditions are at least a reasonable cause for anxiety, or, is the anxiety causing the mental issues? Hmmm…

 The one thing that was even more impactful, when it came to seeing the origination of anxiety, was the list of EXTERNAL FACTORS that can cause anxiety.

Notice a pattern?  A common thread? Wow. In this world of stress, stress, stress, what can I do? More importantly, what can ANYONE do?  The fact is, until you can identify the cause, you really are going to remain a captive to your emotions and feel that lack of self-control.

Me? I refuse to find myself standing outside the Apple Store for hours, just getting up the nerve to face my fear and walk in.  Now, don’t get me wrong, anxiety is NOT always a mind over matter situation. Trust me, I’ve tried.  However, there are things you can do to alleviate your anxiety that I have found extremely valuable time and time again, even being on meds!

SHE SAID’S MAGICAL IDEAS (NOT REALLY) FOR ANXIETY

The hardest part of anxiety is to actually STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AT THE TIME YOUR ANXIETY IS AT IT’S HIGHEST POINT, OR JUST BEGINNING, AND ABORT! ABORT!  Once again, I am NOT a medical professional, but I can tell you what works for me, and perhaps, it will help you, too!

First, identifying when your anxiety is beginning is the key. I begin with small things to actually keep that “beginning” from ever getting started.  So, each and every day I listen to a Christian Music Station during my morning and afternoon commute.

If you are not into that kind of thing, religion I mean, you may decide that jazz, or classical music fits the positive thought goal. Whatever works for YOU!  Just be sure it’s something soft, slow, and calming. Maybe listening to a motivational book (which I’ve also done) will help.

Keep your focus on driving slower (for me that would be THE speed limit), being a considerate driver, leaving enough space for another car to “fit in” if necessary, and a LOT more waves of appreciation for people, even if they didn’t INTENTIONALLY allow you to slide into their lane.

Second, be good to YOU! It’s terribly sad that we have to be TOLD to take care of ourselves, but from my personal experience, as a mom, we decided that all our time HAS to be for the children until… High school? College? Never? Start making massage appointments, start a new morning routine of beauty, or an evening bath with the bomb of your choice.

Additionally, be sure that you schedule a slice of time for silence.  Yes, I’m serious.  For me, that’s easy. Sometimes on my way to school, I simply turn off the “noise”.  Even if it’s GOOD noise.  And I, personally, like to talk to God.

Being faith based feels like I have Someone to fall back on, and it’s very peaceful for me.  I focus on what it will take to have me walk into school, each and every day, feeling blessed, as I very well am.

You can also begin journaling.  The great part about that is that you write it all down, focus on what you are writing (I prefer to write so my brain slows down to actually absorb my thoughts).

I actually, after journaling for months, decided that my entries were filled with questions and that wasn’t beneficial for me, so for every question I wrote, I was sure to at least GUESS an answer.  It was all about MY benefit, not that I was going to sell my journal for a million dollars, although boy, wouldn’t that be nice.  I still have them all, a full stack of steno notebooks, and they are even dated.

What you SHOULD NOT do is perseverate on things.  When you find yourself freaking out about an incident, and you can feel your anxiety rising, think of the blessings or positives in your life.  PUSH THOSE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS OUT! Put out the trash, is what I call it.

I will never forget the wonderfully “new start” feeling I got when I took the entire box of a former “He said’s” belongings and put it into the trash.  I was so exhilarated by that one act that suddenly I realized holding on to memories of the past, that are painful, are not worth my time.

I am not talking about trashing everything from your past, but you KNOW which memories are going to always be there, and you don’t need that physical reminder to keep it.

Do NOT feel as though you are ever alone.  The biggest wake up call I received was when I had a personal conversation with a colleague, only to find out that not only she, but her partner, was on anti-anxiety meds.  Suddenly, what I was battling was not just a private matter.

HIPPA SCHMIPPA!  I felt in such great company, only to find out many others were also taking anxiety meds and were actually able to live a fulfilled life as a result.  The biggest battle I had to fight was molding my mind around the fact that I actually EXHAUSTED all other tools in my extensive toolbox, before I went on meds, and suddenly I didn’t feel like I was weak, or choosing the “easy way out”.

Be confident that you KNOW what will work for you, and when it’s not working anymore, MOVE ON.

Anxiety is a horribly crippling condition that affects so many more people than we can even imagine.  Ask yourself this…how long are you willing to wait to be happy?  Yes, exactly my point.  Blessings and love to you all!

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Procrastination…She Said

As I read He Said’s article on procrastination I suddenly stopped to look behind me to see if he was watching.  Once again, he was reading my mind and writing about exactly my life of procrastination. I wish he wouldn’t air my dirty laundry in public, but I guess it’s EVERYONE’S dirty laundry, isn’t it.  How can I stop procrastinating???

As I stopped to ponder, so many times, my feeling of procrastination, but moreso WHY I was having this feeling, it dawned on me. My biggest fear was failure. I was truly my own worst enemy and doing a better job at sabotaging my life than anyone else could.  Why is it we fear failure when failure is simply practice on our way to success?

I had to go back into some, what we call old movies, before I had the answer, and then, it became clear that my success was going to include overcoming more than I had anticipated.  I would not only have to dilute those old memories but rebuild them in order to push my way through everyone’s arch enemy, PROCRASTINATION.

I’ll be the one to pick out procrastination in an instant…when it’s someone else.  I am also quite astute at figuring out WHY they are practicing this terrible habit.  Ah, yes, it’s much easier to tell others how to fix something than to look inward at our faults.  So, I started my trek into the muddy waters of what was holding me back, almost every time I would attempt to break free.

First came the identification process.  Knowing you are putting something off should be very obvious, unless YOU are the one trying to put something off.  Then, it becomes smoke and mirrors.  “Oh, I’m not procrastinating, I just don’t have time.” FOOL ME ONCE.  “I am sure I’ll get to it tomorrow when I’m feeling better.” FOOL ME TWICE.

I have a small business, and thus far, I find myself unwilling to pick up the phone and call a client, when I know they have an interest.  After all, people who say “no, thank you” are the ones I wouldn’t dare call, but these people actually gave me their info TO call them.

I freeze.  

What am I afraid of? My options are, call, at possibly an inappropriate time, and either they order or they ask me to call back, OR…don’t call and, well, we’ll never know what could have been accomplished.  And yet, I select the latter option.  Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it.

As I read He Said’s article, I couldn’t tell whether to be upset, knowing he just outed me to a ton of people, or try to change because He Said obviously wrote about me and was, secretly, hoping I would recognize myself in the article and fess up, change, or get over it.

I actually re-read it a few times, hoping that I wouldn’t see myself in it at all, but obviously, I did.  And, rightfully so.  I am truly hoping that there is hope for me in my procrastinational lifestyle, and know it takes one bold step after another, however…there are things that I procrastinate doing because I truly hate them.  Cleaning is one.  Nope, not getting over that one!

Leave us a message on what you procrastinate about.  Better yet, join’s our conversation and tell us how you got over it!

 

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I Am A Liar…

I feel so relieved that I said that OUT LOUD!

And, well, it’s true.

We are all liars, unfortunately. Who do we lie to? The biggest lies are crushed inward, from us, TO us, and do the most monumental damage.  So, STOP IT! 

the lies we tell ourselves, I lie to myself, self help lying

Easier said than done, I know, because I’m still working on it myself.  It’s a daily fight, with myself, to know who I am and be fine with it. Embracing my faults and loving every one of them.  Boy, is it exhausting!

Why we lie to ourselves…

Do you remember when you were a youngster and you heard so many positive things about yourself that, perhaps, you started to believe were being given to you under some pretense or another?

Can you remember a nice thing someone said to you when you were younger? How about something that hurt you terribly? I’m guessing you might be able to come up with both, but the second is much easier to remember.

Pain cuts deep, and as if that’s not bad enough, as a young human being, we began to believe the lies people said.  STOP IT!

Here we are, adults.

As adults we have become so used to hearing the negative, we stopped believing our own truth and replaced it with lies we owned.  We owned those words people said to us, we lived a lie and forgot who we were.

We began to think we aren’t good enough, or we’ll never be good enough, or perhaps you tell yourself how ugly you are, or how you will never find a spouse because “all the good ones are taken”.

For me, my lies to myself are that I talk too much, I am fat so people don’t like me, I’m not good enough to get a high paying job, I’ll never make money enough to retire, and the list goes on. Each and every one of those things is how I beat myself down each and every day.

Negative Ninny…

Each time I lie to myself I am creating a negative cloud that I can feel form around my head, then expand downward to my itty-bitty toes. That cloud engulfs me and allows that negativity to just fester into a huge festering wound consisting of negativity galore.

Now, ask yourself, first, am I guilty of this? Second, ask yourself why on earth you would want that gross negative cloud hanging on and around you each day. Honestly, think about it. Isn’t there already enough negativity in this world?

Do you really want to perpetuate it?  If you are one of those people who don’t mind feeling and acting like Eeyore each and every day, well, obviously, this article is not for you.  And yes, those people actually exist.

However, in YOUR case, I’m going to assume you began reading this article to NOT be a Negative Ninny and just need some insight into how your lies you tell yourself are increasing and replicating this nasty thing we call negativity.

Embrace your lies…

We all know our reality. If not, we are truly fooling ourselves.  I can list every single thing I could find fault with looking inward, but I don’t, because…WHY? I am fully aware of who I am and yet I still find the need to keep my thoughts positive on a daily basis.

I am who I am, and I absolutely refuse to allow anyone else to steal my personal power, let alone give it away! I embrace my lies. I can tell myself all the great things about me each and every day and not give way to the negative.

I fill myself up with accolades, positive affirmations, and all things YUMMY instead of negative.  No negativity, no cloud! It’s that easy! No matter how much you weigh, you will immediately feel the weight being lifted and your mind clearing.

Hold onto your personal power.

By embracing those lies you have believed from others, owned, and pulled inward to rehash each and every moment of every day, you will hold onto your precious personal power and feel the positivity emerge, breaking all bonds with anyone else’s attempt to possess your power.

Send it out to the Universe…

I know that everything isn’t roses and candy all the time and you may be thinking, well, isn’t it a lie to not lie to myself? Wait, what? This isn’t really about the lying, it’s more about doing what’s best for you, and believing, or worse yet, OWNING the lies you have been told by others, is not going to help you in life AT ALL.

Don’t just believe the positivity, send it out to the universe! Bleed it, sneeze it, love it, embrace it, and I can guarantee you will feel it lift you up in so many ways.

An idea.

I recently listened to Jen Sincero’s, You Are a Badass. I purchased it months ago, and “never had the time”.  Another lie I tell myself…CONSTANTLY.  Talk about a kick in the butt!

Her humor had me engaged right from the start, but the more I listened, the more I found myself shooting my fist into the air in some sort of HELL YES gesture, even though no one in my surroundings (usually in traffic as I listened and drove) knew why and I probably looked like a crazed individual.

WHO CARES!?

I was totally ready to go! I knew what I needed and sometimes that means a leap of faith. I felt the air around me lightening and my head becoming clearer. I learned that it was time to take that step and stop worrying about what people think. I will be a positive person.

I will sweat positivity out of every pore in my body, speak positivity with every word, and live positivity in all I do. I will lift up, but know my responsibility is to myself, not others, and by lifting myself, or others, up, I have become the best person I was meant to be.

It’s so ingrained…

Right after hearing (feeling) the words of Ms. Sincero, I latched on to yet another book.  Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be, by Rachel Hollis.  See the title? Sound familiar?

All those lies you are owning are doing nothing but, in Rachel’s words, “holding you back”. It’s really amazing how easily we own the negativity and have gotten so used to it that it becomes the natural thing to do.

Positivity has to be learned.

Positivity, now, has to be learned because we got so used to all the B.S. we were telling ourselves, that we now have to think and retrain our brains.  Sad isn’t it.  Why is it easier for you to believe something negative about yourself than something positive?  For example, someone you know tell you how beautiful you are.

What is your first response, inside your head and perhaps that comes out of your mouth? Mine would be something of the deflective or sarcastic nature like, “oh yeah, I took a shower this morning”, all the while thinking inside my head, they were so sweet to say that just to make me feel better.

Wait. Someone just mentioned how beautiful I look, and everything in my head is of a negative nature. Nah, not me. I’m not beautiful. What do they want? They hate my new haircut. They hate my new glasses. I must have my eyeliner on too thick. Do I have a nose hair poking out?  Why is it so complicated?

Moving on…

Today is the day. If you are like me and need help, then read the two books I listed above, and there are so very many more. I would love to be on this journey with you, as I continue to grow and learn, and begin to hit one lie after another and come out with even more positivity.

Always remember, when you put positivity out there, you will begin to see and feel it come back to you. As Willie Nelson said, “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” Putting good things out there, brings good back to you tenfold in many, and unexpected ways.

Do it for you…  Blessings, Love, and Positivity!

 

 

 

 

 

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