Update: This post was originally posted on 4th October 2020 but after changing my website this post had to be re-published due to technical issues.
You'd never think looking at that photo of me that I suffer from mental ill health, but I do. In fact I've spoken before about my history with mental ill health and how I won my war with depression ten years ago. But last year I was formally diagnosed with anxiety, although I suspect I have been suffering from anxiety for several years.
And when I was diagnosed I was given Beta blockers to help deal with the physical symptoms of the anxiety, as I was very clear with my doctor I didn't want any medication with any sedative affects as I drive a lot.
In the past 12 months I have slowly become stronger and my anxiety attacks which at their worse were once a weekly occurrence, are now happening infrequently. However, I do still suffer from anxiety attacks, the difference now is that I have coping mechanisms to help me ride them out. And I wanted to share these with you as they may help you or some one you know.
Now before I proceed I wish to point out I am not a mental health professional, I am not qualified in this field in anyway. The advice I am giving is purely from my own experience and although these techniques work for me that does not mean they will work for everyone.
For me an anxiety attack starts with a niggly feeling in my chest, then my breath starts getting to shallow and I feel like a weight is on my chest. Which leaves me feeling like I can't breath and that things are completely out of control.
If you have never suffered from an anxiety attack then it will probably be difficult for you to understand how scary this is.
Now it took me many months after diagnosis to develop these coping mechanisms after being formally diagnosed, but since developing them they have helped me cope and sometimes even stop attacks becoming overwhelming.
Firstly I will concentrate on slowing my breathing down taking this step has been enough to stop the anxiety becoming overwhelming for me. But if that doesn't work then I move on to my other coping mechanisms.
The second technique is light. For me about 99% of my attacks happen at night when the lights are off and I'm left with just my thoughts. So by putting a light on it means I can focus on what I can see. There have been times where this has quite literally been all I've needed to bring the attack under control.
My third technique is to put my headphones in and listen to music, for me a trigger for my attacks can be noise from outside my home. I have touched on before how where I live was not really much of a choice last year as I was 2 hours away from being homeless with my daughter who was at the time 6 years old. So for a long time I felt very unsettled and at times unsafe where I live. Now although I am settled now and do not feel as if I or my daughter are in danger anymore, noise can still trigger my anxiety.
So, by putting my headphones in and putting music on it blocks out whatever the noise is that has triggered the attack. I often listen to Classic FM as late at night the music is incredibly soothing.
While listening to music I use technique four which is to read something. Normally it is the book or magazine at the side of my bed but failing that it is something online. It doesn't have to be anything in-depth but just something that takes my mind off my anxiety.
Technique five and my final technique is to message my partner. He's a night owl so is normally up later than me and over the last couple of years has been a great support when I'm having an attack. He might just be on messenger with me but just knowing he's there for me is a great source of comfort to me.
Now these techniques might take anything up to an hour to help me overcome my anxiety but they do work for me. Now I will say that I am often exhausted the next day after an attack but if I have managed to survive an attack without reaching for the medicine that the Doctor prescribed me, I view it as a win. And to this day I have never used the medication I was prescribed, and I hope that with these techniques I never will.
Now please don't think if you are on medication for anxiety I think any less of you because that could not be more from the truth. Anxiety is a horrible monkey to have on your back and we all manage it differently.
I hope going forward there will come a time when I have no more anxiety attacks, but until that time I have these techniques to fall back on. And if you are suffering from anxiety attacks but don't have your own coping mechanisms yet I hope this post helps.