My brain’s latest fun trick is to begin throwing me into panic mode at the most ridiculous times because we all know how great that is! Rather than submit to the game, I thought I’d get involved and at least try and win…
Now, this whole “panic for no reason” isn’t really that new to me (or to many of us for that matter). Being the anxious type, going down aisle 6 at Morrisons on a Saturday afternoon can give me palpitations, however it’s only recently I’ve actually listened to it properly to understand what’s happening.
The first time I really noticed my new reaction to it was a few weeks ago. My boss called me into his office like Alan Sugar would his victims, sorry *apprentices*, and in I tootled and perched myself on the chair opposite. To set the scene, I basically work under the boss and manage the rest of the business, so these types of “meetings” happen quite regularly. There I was listening to him go on about “budgets”, “expenditure” and “profit margin” when all of a sudden my brain said “oh, imagine if you got a bout of anxiety now…?”.
And that was it. Suddenly my leg began to twitch, I felt my breathing begin to get faster, fidgeting with my hair (something I do when anxious), squirming in my chair and the hot flush soon followed, leaving me feeling uncomfortable and in the throws of panic only 15 seconds after I’d felt completely fine. As we know, panic attacks are hardly a ride at Alton Towers, so my instant reaction was to think “I need to go, where do I get out of here, what excuse can I use?” – the standard response when you need to escape from absolutely nothing. I was in full blown panic mode.
Then I stopped. I’d remembered a doctor on This Morning (British TV Show) saying “When you’re having a panic attack, steady your breathing. Panic cannot exist if you are breathing slowly”. So that was my first port of call. I began breathing slower, nice long breaths which slowly brought my heart rate back down. My legs felt like jelly, I was twiddling my hair like a mad man and I was fumbling to take my jacket off because of the hot flush, but I’d taken some control. Then I listened. I listened to what anxiety was doing to me.
Jelly/twitchy legs: part of the fight or flight response. Rise in temperature: happens every time I have anxiety. Pins and needles: my muscles reacting to the increased adrenaline. Racing heart: my body getting ready to either run away or fight on. I chose to sit there and fight on. After all, my body was preparing me to fight! My brain was telling me to run but my body was saying “I’m ready for the fight” so why should I let it down?
I sat there, saying to myself over and over “this is JUST anxiety, it’s only a panic attack, you’re going to be absolutely fine after this”. Experience has taught me that yes, a panic attack is unpleasant and sometimes crippling, but ultimately it’s going to go away. Be it in 5 minutes or half an hour, eventually a panic attack has to subside – it’s just a waiting game and one I wasn’t prepared to lose.
As I repeated this to myself, it became weaker. I knew I was taking back control, and the more I realised this, the easier the situation became. After what felt like an hour but was actually about 2 minutes, the panic attack had all but gone and had been replaced with a feeling of elation! I’d basically talked myself into a panic attack, and just as quickly talked myself back out of it. I was finally in some kind of control.
We can be in control even when we don’t believe we are. We will always fight against our thoughts. I’ve learned that rather than change your thoughts, challenge them. Don’t believe everything your brain is telling you, believe in yourself, how strong you are, and how capable you are to manage situations even at your weakest.
As I tuned back in, I refocused on the task at hand to hear my boss saying “so once you’ve sent that email come and talk to me” and he ushered me out of the room. Still to this day I have no idea what he was going on about or what email he wanted me to send but I didn’t really care. I’ve just spent this whole time beating anxiety! Send your own sodding email.