I can remember the very first time I had a full-blown panic attack in excruciating detail. I was 16 at the time and in rehab for drugs, alcohol, an eating disorder, and various mental illnesses. We took a water break where one of the staff took a group of us to the ice machine to fill our cups and bottles. I was waiting in line when all of a sudden, I started to cry. Not just a few tears streaming down my face, either. No, full hysterics.
My throat felt like it was closing up, my lungs began to ache as I hyperventilated. I could feel my heart racing as if I were running a marathon. My face was hot to the touch, my hands shook. I was frozen, though. Unable to move. Everything felt far away. I could see what was happening around me, but didn’t feel connected to it at all.
The staff member, Drew, told all the other people to leave the room and waited with me until my breathing slowed and I came back to reality. He helped guide my breathing and gave me a glass of ice water when my hands finally quit shaking. I had no clue what to call whatever had just come over me. I had no idea why it happened or if it would happen again.
Drew explained it was a panic attack. I had suffered from anxiety for as long as I could remember, and at times I had felt overwhelmed, but never quite like this. A lot of people suffer from anxiety without experiencing panic attacks, but many people (roughly 2.4 million Americans aged 18-54) do.
Anxiety is a beast. It takes away your control, makes you think and feel in ways that are not rational. Anxiety can feel like your master at times. It calls the shots. We become slaves to our anxiety and let it determine the places we can go, the things we can do, even the people we can associate with.
So what happens when you have a baby? A baby that relies on you and knows nothing of anxiety. A baby that can’t give you a minute to compose yourself if you’ve had a panic attack. A baby that doesn’t understand the feeling in the pit of your stomach that makes it seem like even opening your eyes is too much today…
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We have to find new ways to cope. I, for one, can no longer just hop in the shower whenever I want (which, for me, is incredibly soothing). I can’t just drop everything and get a massage. So, I’ve gotten a bit creative with methods of coping.
1) Go for a walk with your little one
Maybe you’ll strap the baby in your favorite carrier (I love THIS carrier), maybe you’ll use the stroller. If your kids are walking, maybe you’ll want to let them walk with you. Whatever you decide, going on a walk is an excellent way of dealing with anxiety. Enjoy the nature around you, breathe the fresh air, and get out of the house!
2) Use some distraction
Sometimes when my anxiety gets the better of me, I just have to distract myself for a bit. I might watch a TV show (depending on the show, you could watch with your kids), make myself a snack, or work on an easy task that I know I can accomplish. It’s okay to distract yourself from your anxiety, as long as you don’t live in this state.
3) Do a mommy and me workout!
This can be fun, stress relieving, and good for you! Win, win, win. There are seriously so many videos on YouTube that you can follow along with. You don’t need to sign up for an expensive class, or even leave the living room.
4) Do some deep breathing
This is great for a number of reasons. First of all, it can be done literally any time and any place. Whether you’re sitting in church, breastfeeding on the couch, or making dinner; you can do this. Another awesome thing is that this works. If you slow down your breathing, you will absolutely become less anxious. By breathing deeply, you increase the oxygen sent to your brain which stimulates a part of your nervous system that promotes a state of calm (SOURCE).
5) Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Don’t know what this is? Essentially, it’s mindfully tensing and relaxing different parts of your body. If you want a super in-depth guide on how to do this, I made one for you! Yay!
If you need more information or someone to talk to about your panic attacks, please call 1-800-64-PANIC (72642)–
the Panic Disorder Information Hotline. If you’re ever in danger of harming yourself or others, call 911 immediately. Also, this website has loads of great information.
What do you do to ease your anxiety? Do you have any other tips that you use on the daily? Don’t forget to share this!