I have it and always have. I remember getting migraines as a child brought on by anxiety when my parents were screaming at each other nearly every weekend. I’d complain that my head hurt (it really did) and was taken to the eye doctor, the regular doctor and various specialists. I had all sorts of tests done and in the end my parents were told that I ‘just wanted attention’ and was making it all up.
This was the 1970’s; no one thought to look into the social dynamics of my dysfunctional family and ask questions and if they had I wouldn’t have said a word, anyway, for fear of punishment and threats. One of my father’s favourite threats was: “I’m gonna knock your teeth out!” English not being his first language, it came out: “teet” rather than “teeth”. I’ve never forgotten that and he’s been dead 28-years.
That was my childhood. As I got older, anxiety lead to panic attacks but surprisingly not until I was an adult. I didn’t have them often but when I did, it was full blown I-think-I’m-having-a-heart-attack episodes. If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you’ll know what I mean: difficulty breathing and catching your breath, pain in your chest, shaking, sweating and feelings of utter chaos. Your heart races and your mind keeps up; they end up doing endless 100-meter laps with your thoughts in tow until you’re able to release it and start to calm down.
It doesn’t last forever, but when you’re in the thick of it, it seems you’re either going to pass out, whither and die on the spot, or explode.
Although it’s been a few years since I had a heart-racing panic-attack (the last time was when Brian took his life) I’ve had other anxiety-related issues: lack of sleep, terrible dreams, worry to the point of being ridiculous and being very irritable.
So what’s the magic formula? How does one cope with the escalating madness in the world – both in your own and on the outside where you have little to no control? How do you handle stress from work, family – demands upon your time, illnesses, finances and then contend with our Southern neighbours worst mass murder in their history?
If you’re sensitive like me, and are prone to anxiousness, it’s no easy feat.
You may find that people around you tell you to: calm down/get over it/take it easy/relax etc. None of these help, by the way, but there are a few things you can do for yourself.
Breathe. Concentrating on just breathing keeps you grounded in the moment and helps calm you in the gentlest way.
Take a walk in nature. The energy of plants and water is incredibly calming and healing. Make sure you are by yourself and with no distractions and simply ‘be’ with the beauty. The forests, oceans, fields, rivers and lakes have amazing healing energy. You’ll understand better when you immerse yourself in it.
Pets and animals. If you have a pet or two, spend some time with Fluffy. Animals are very psychic and pick up on our emotions. You may have noticed that when you’re feeling down or anxious, the family pet seems to gravitate towards you with extra cuddles and affection. This isn’t a coincidence. Their energy will always help make you feel better. There’s a reason why trained animals are used as helpers. There are psychiatric service dogs, comfort pets and companion animals. All make a huge difference.
Lastly, there is professional help. Counsellors, Coaches, Psychologists and Psychiatrists are trained to help you maneuver through your anxiety with a variety of tools.
Take care of yourself and be gentle. You matter and there are people out there who ‘get it’ and understand what you’re feeling.