It’s much easier to deal with a panic attack that never happened.
My mental health med mix has done a really good job of putting Depression in my rearview mirror and greatly reducing the level and frequency of Anxiety I experience. Eliminated? No. But manageable? Yes.
The key to my additional success — accomplishing more than my medications by themselves would produce — comes in being proactive. For instance, it is much easier to deal with the panic attack that never happened than to make it through one and then mend from what you just experienced.
When I envisage proactivity, I think of a vacuum. Empty space — my time and mood — is going to fill up each day. If I’m not proactive, there is a greater likelihood that bad vibes coming from my demon, Anxiety, will enter in. So I try to do things that preemptively fill that vacuum with good vibes from a variety of actions and brain tricks. Here are two examples:
First, my early mornings, if not approached proactively, have a somewhat likely chance of filling up with irrational worries that I will fail in the day ahead. If, however, I begin the day with a combination of exercise, meditation, and expressing gratitude, the chances of this happening diminish greatly.
Exercise naturally fills a brain with chemicals that regulate moods. Meditation can produce a full-body sense of calm, while also encouraging focus on positive emotions and actions. Expressing gratitude focuses your heart and mind on positive things going on in your life.
Some people may not have time to do all three of these actions — exercise, meditation, and expressing gratitude. While I would encourage they try to do so, perhaps enough benefit can be accomplished by meditating for five minutes before getting out of bed each morning, deeply focusing your thoughts on something that or someone who deserves gratitude.
Second, Sundays are really tough for me — especially the afternoons and evenings. Again, I can get flooded with irrational thoughts of failure in the week ahead. Knowing that, my therapist has told me not to expect too much of myself on that day. Good advice.
But I’d like to not abandon the possibilities of success too quickly. So to proactively approach things, I begin with writing in the morning — usually journalling and / or blogging. Writing almost always helps me focus productively on whatever my chosen topic is. Middays (actually on Saturdays and Sundays) I often spend gardening and taking pictures of my garden — two of my favorite things to do. And I spend many a Sunday afternoon and evening with headphones on, listening to live recordings of music on YouTube or choosing uplifting playlists on I’ve created on iTunes.
Writing helps me process my thoughts and emotions so I can address them on my terms rather than letting Anxiety drag them into an absurd mindset. Gardening is very soothing to me; it’s a lot of repetitious work, which allows my mind to wander … positively. And as a fully-sensory experience, gardening really forces you to “be in the now” … the present. Now, as for music — ah, music — I find it hard to be anxious when I’m listening to good tunes. I may even play a chill-mix to bring peace to my mind.
So, again, I’ve noticed that over time, I am healing. Yes, I have built up a lot of useful tools for my mental health toolbox. However, I could still use more. For instance, I haven’t memorized mantras that I could focus on in some yogic way. And, I haven’t found/settled on things I can do midday at work to keep up on a day started well.
And lastly, I possess limited approaches to addressing Anxiety once It hits me with a sledgehammer. There are times I know I’m heading into Anxiety-inducing situations. I should be looking for actions and brain tricks to help me through these times. But usually my response is a reaction once Anxiety has begun to take Its hold rather than proactively addressing It well before It hits. And my approaches once It hits fall to simply acknowledging the Anxiety, letting It do It’s thing, and then move on once It’s done.
Actually, that is one approach advised by my therapist. She says, “Anxiety likes a fight. It will always win. So don’t fight it. Just acknowledge It, let It happen, and go on once It’s seen you aren not going to engage.” (We both talk about Anxiety as if It is an entity apart from myself.) While this approach may be advised for mental health reasons, it makes for a difficult rest of the day. Letting Anxiety ravage your mind and body is exhausting, and there can be residual body pain afterwards — for me anyway.
All this is to say: I am constantly searching for and finding ways to heal myself with regards to bouts with Anxiety. I’m getting better and stronger. In fact, that’s been the case for much of the several years since this current iteration of my relationship with Depression and Anxiety which began in March 2015.
Better. Stronger. But not completely healed. Room for growth. Room for improvement. I remain committed to that.