“I stress about stress before there is even stress to stress about.”
I’m not certain the origin of this quote, but I know that a vast majority of us can relate. No matter your walk of life, we all experience stress. Some handle stress better than others. Some handle certain stresses well, but then crumble under the weight of others. Some do not handle stress well at all.
If you have ever had a panic attack or bout of overwhelming anxiety, I know this quote hits home for you. I know you can recall those moments where the mere thought of stress, a stressful event, or anxiety provoking person in the future is enough to send you into full on panic mode. Before anything or anyone stress inducing has even crossed your path, you are in meltdown. Sometimes, the anticipation of stress is enough to trigger that anxious creep. Regardless of the outcome (the event was panic provoking or not), the associated anxiety is too much to handle.
Anxiety info #1: most panic/anxiety episodes last an average of 7 minutes. That does not sound like an infinitely long period of time, but if your pulse is racing, your heart is beating out of your chest, and you feel like you cannot catch breath, 7 minutes is a LONG time. In fact, I challenge you to sit, without doing anything, for 7 minutes, while calm, and just feel it.
Anxiety info #2: anxiety is the most common form of mental illness. That means, you are not alone. Anxiety is more prevalent in the general population than even depression. At some point or another, most of us experience anxiety.
We all manage stress and anxiety differently, so what calms one person may not work for someone else. As the holiday season is upon us, most of us are heading into the gauntlet of stress triggers, people, and events. How do you get through it?
Breathe. This sounds a bit simple and mundane, especially if you are in the throws of a panic attack and feel like you cannot breathe. However, keep breathing. Count your breaths. Focus on breathing. Feel that deep inhale and sense that exhale out. Be mindful of air coming in and out of your body.
Think. Also, this sounds simple and mundane. Hear me out. If you are having a panic attack, more than likely the thoughts running through you head are something along the lines of “I’m going to die.” So, control those thoughts. Hone in on something calming, whether it’s children, spouse, a glass of wine, the beach, a massage, your pet, or sipping coffee on your back patio. Focus on picturing things that calm you and focus your energy on that.
Some of us need others to leave us alone in silence in a dark room to calm down. While not always practical, if you need physical space in panic mode, get yourself wherever there’s space. Tell everyone to please ignore you because talking about it just focuses in on it more and let you be.
Some of us need others to distract us from what we’re experiencing. A friendly voice to talk about something else, anything else, to get our mind off what is going on. Sometimes saying things out loud takes away their power.The holidays are in full swing and for some, that means contact with relatives and in laws, which incite super stress mode. People we usually keep at a distance because they are stressful to encounter are in up close and personal range. Sometimes talking out our stresses can help to alleviate them, simply by giving them a voice. Focus on controlling the things you can control. Breathe. Think. Seek mindful solace. If you can’t find that friendly voice, I’d love to listen.