I have started to open up and share more about my struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. One of the best things I have done for myself is to open up and be vulnerable about those things I saw as weaknesses. It has been such a wonderful conversation to open up to you all about my struggle and how I have learned to cope with it – if you missed that post you can read it here! I promised that I would continue to offer up ways I cope with anxiety, panic attacks, stress, etc., so today I want to dive deeper into one of my very favorite ways to calm my mind, body, and soul – floating!
Do you or someone you know struggle with anxiety and/or panic attacks? This has been something I have dealt with myself for the last five years and I have finally learned to spin what most see as a negative into a positive.
My anxiety and panic attacks come and go as they please, and I never truly know when it is going to be a good day, week, month, or year. In the last five years, I have gone from weeks on end with countless panic attacks a day that have left me broken and drained, to also experiencing the bliss of one year free of a single anxious thought or panic attack.
I have always been a somewhat really high-strung person. I hate to even have to type that but any close friends and family know that is a very true statement. I’m thankful that I had a wake-up call that might have saved my health and possibly my life a few years back.
My sophomore year in college I was living in my sorority house with 20 other girls. Mixed with my 20+ hours of college courses per semester, 30 hours of work and being a part of 5 student organizations, it all came to an ugly head and I found myself experiencing my first ever full blown anxiety attack one night at the sorority house.
It was one of the scariest moments of my life to date, because I had never felt my body or mind feel like that before. My teeth were chattering so fast, I was afraid I was going to bite through my tongue and my entire body was violently shaking, while 2 or 3 of my extremely helpful sorority sisters held me down and did their best to stay calm and soothe me.
That was the start to a battle I’m still fighting 3 years down the road. I had multiple tests done and discovered that I have a few heart murmurs, as well as some pretty hectic heart palpitations that come out of nowhere, that were actually setting off my full-blown anxiety attacks.
With the help of some wonderful and caring doctors, I was able to get on some medicine to balance my mind and my heart out for a bit to try and feel normal again. It was a battle each day for the first few months to try and not exceed more than 5 anxiety attacks in one day. There was times that they were so intense that I was unable to talk or walk after and had to take 5, 10, sometimes 20 minutes to rest before I could function again. I still have to take a beta blocker every morning and every night to keep my heart rate down, which has really helped with controlling my attacks.
I’m sharing all of this because while I have come so far, there are still some moments in my life that everything is so overwhelming that my body immediately tries to revert back to an anxiety attack, but I finally have learned how to get a handle on most of them before they happen.
Breathing is absolutely everything during an anxiety attack. The moment your mind starts to race and realize your body is shaking too hard, teeth and mouth chattering too fast, eyes rolling back in your head, your breathing gets shorter because you become even more nervous, scared and upset.
I have learned a trick from some meditation/anxiety therapy sessions that has truly been a game changer. It is called the 4-7-8 breathing trick. How it works is, you take a deep breath in from your nose for a whole 4 seconds, then you hold that breath and think calm thoughts for 7 seconds, and then exhale slowly and calmly for 8 seconds. Doing this 2-3 times when I feel like I might be close to a “freak out” moment can take my resting heart rate from a speedy 140+ beats per minute to around 100 beats per minute or less, all in less than 90 seconds.
Next time you are feeling stressed or seem to be struggling shutting off your brain before bed, give this a try 2-3 times until you start to feel at peace and much more calm. The best thing is, you can do this in class, at work, in the car, in the grocery store, movie theater…practically anywhere and no one will even notice!
I hope this can help someone the way it has helped me. This meditation tool has helped me grow so much and conquer my anxiety attacks and I am so thankful to know of this simple breathing tactic that might be a life saver to my heart in the long run.