I know exactly why my anxiety got the better of me this week. Back when I was not yet Mama Pants, I struggled with anxiety. I was even on medication for a time. My heart rate was accelerated for like three straight years. But then something pretty cool happened when I started breastfeeding. Suddenly, I evened out. So I started to research ways to deal with anxiety without medication so that I was prepared should it come roaring back when I was no longer nursing. I practiced meditation and controlled breathing. I read a lot about discovering your triggers and how to spot anxiety attacks that were on the way and how to beat them before they came on strong. I still practice a lot of this today. But I haven't needed to very much. And you know I got cocky. I was all, "I don't have anxiety anymore cuz I'm a rock star and I beat it and GO ME!" Well guess what?
This week, anxiety has punched me in the nose. And it all started with that bleepity bleep nurse in the emergency room on Sunday night. When I looked into my son's eyes and saw the most fear I have ever seen in him. As he covered his mouth and begged me to go. Knowing I couldn't take him away and that he was straight up panicking and nothing I was doing was working. Nothing. That was the moment I started to truly fear his upcoming surgery. That was the moment my anxiety came and set up camp in my brain for an extended stay, put its dirty feet on my couch and lit a smoke. I didn't know it at that moment but that's when it happened.
And this week was a total bomb. On top of becoming zombie mom, I had some completely ridic dreams. Scary and upsetting dreams. One featured my two babies wandering onto the dragster roller coaster at Cedar Point and no one sees them and the ride starts and well...I screamed for about ten straight minutes in that dream only to find them safely tucked under the seat when I finally got the attention of the ride operator (stupid kid, oh wait, just a dream). As weird as it sounds though, this was the dream that started to pull me out. See, they were ok. I was a mess. Daddy was a mess. We were crying and screaming and freaking the eff out but the kids were fine. Scooping them up and running away into a completely new dream, they looked at me like, "What? We're cool. Calm down, mom". So it would seem that even my subconscious is trying to help out.
And the anxiety about having the anxiety and will that make the kids anxious? Puh-lease. That makes me want to pass out thinking about it. Screwing up our kids is at the top of every parent's, "Oh please don't let me [fill in the blank]" list. So I won't waste any more time. A week of funk-master mama is plenty too long for me. It's a warning. One that I recognize now. Anxiety be damned, I'm not bowing down anymore.
I have jumped back in to some of my old go to exercises. And it's helped. Like almost instantly. And a lot. They are like an old friend. I remember how to do them and they feel good. So I thought I would place them here too. Just in case you know exactly what I'm talking about. Or maybe you don't but your partner does. Or your child. Because being anxious at times is completely normal but letting it get behind the wheel and steer is not. So I'm kicking this brain fart to the curb. It's a hiccup. And just in case you'd like to join me, this is how you do it*...
1. Breathe - Sometimes I will find myself actually holding my breath when I'm tense. This falsely alerts the brain that I am running out of air and ushers in panic. It only takes three good and deep breaths to turn of the fight or flight response in your brain. How simple of a solution to just breath. For me, full breathing works best. For Mr. Pants it's balloon and drain breathing from here.
2. Talk to yourself- Self talk can be so helpful. Yeah, sure, if you are in a crowd of people, it may make you seem like a crazy person but oh well. I will reason with myself by saying something like, "You are about to panic and you don't have to. You have control. Breath.". Speaking aloud can pull you out of your brain and slow you down.
3. Water - Drink some.
4. Stretch - This goes along with breathing. Breath through some stretches. Get your blood flowing.
5. Smell things - Pleasant scents can do more for your nerves than a glass of wine. If you don't have any essential oils around, try preparing food that smells really great if you have time. If not, cut an orange in half, close your eyes and sniff that sucker. Or slather your hands in lavender scented lotion, put your hands to your face and sniff away.
6. Read - Reading can allow you to step outside of yourself long enough to calm down. Jump in to someone else's life for a minute and leave yours to calm down without you.
7. SING!- Singing a song can do the same thing as reading. Sing loud and like you mean it. I swear to you, this works. Just don't sing a completely depressing song because that would be counterproductive (Eric Carmen's All By Myself = not the right song choice). I will confess to you that Irene Cara's Fame is a go to belter for me. I mean, it soars and provides me with just the right amount of drama to really feel it.
8. Make faces in the mirror - One of the physical warnings for when a panic attack is coming is that my face will start to tingle. Go to the mirror, talk to yourself and stretch you face all around. Try to make yourself laugh. Be silly and stupid.
9. Don't call your mom or best friend...yet - If you are like me, then when you are scared or sick, you want your mommy. But you know what happens to me when I hear my mom or bff's voice on the other end? I cry like a baby. When I hear their voice, it is a like permission to let the flood gates open. And when I'm about to panic, that's the last thing I need. I need to control it first to avoid the attack. Then when I get my schmidt together, I can make a call.
10. Involve the kids - 1,3,4,5,7 and 8 can all be done with kids by your side and participating. Mr Pants is very enthusiastic about most of these. I mean, what three year old doesn't love to make funny faces in the mirror? Does that kid even exist? Anyhoo, this is obviously important for the mom at home alone with the kiddies. Gaining the cooperation of the kids can be the make or break part. Trying to breathe through a panic attack become a smidgey impossible when your three year old is crying and your toddler is trying to crawl into your shirt. So finding ways to involve them can be a game changer. But if you cannot and you are in the throws and you can't pull out, ignore number 9 and call someone.
Now I ask you... What are some of the ways that you handle your anxiety? What about panic attacks?
* I am not a doctor. It took some time (and a few years of medication) for me to get to a place where these tools worked for me. If anxiety is ruling your life, call for help. You deserve to feel better and the cool thing is, you CAN feel better. If you need more help, make the call. You can start here...800-950-NAMI (6264)