I’ve been having panic attacks since childhood + actually thought that was just what life was supposed to feel like up until recently.
I can recall the feeling of my chest tightening — thinking I’m surely having a heart attack — so vividly.
Just a few months ago, the all too familiar feeling hit my husband + we found ourselves in the emergency room getting a full cardiac evaluation just to be sure it was, in fact, not a heart attack.
Anxiety knows no bounds. And I’m not sure it ever completely goes away, but there are definitely ways to space anxious events further apart.
When my anxiety strikes, I always feel hopeless initially: like there’s nothing I can do but wait it out.
For a woman who rises to action (and is very Type A to begin with), standing in inaction makes my anxiety even worse. I have to make a conscious effort to pause to acknowledge “ok, I’m having anxiety right now” and then I have to get up and get something physically productive in motion.
I’m sharing my actionable plan with you here.
These steps aren’t a cure-all, but they’re a get-to-a-more-manageable-place strategy for me. When you’re responsible for another little life, I feel that management matters even more.
Since implementing this strategy, my anxious events have spaced further and further apart. I feel better having a strategy in my back pocket that allows me to return to my best motherhood faster.
As always, I’m sharing my personal story for your educational gain. Take these insights as a starting conversation point with your individual healthcare providers — the holistically-minded people who know you + your circumstances best. My posts aren’t prescriptions.
Step 1 — Inputs
I take 10 minutes to put good fuel into my body. Stress can rise up when we’re dehydrated, depleted + hungry. Everyone has 10 minutes. I claim it for myself so that the next 10 hours aren’t lost. It’s not selfish; it’s necessary.
In this order, I:
- Water — Drink 1 entire HUGE glass, then refill + repeat.
- Daily vitamins + supplements — Take any of my daily recommended doses. You can check out what I take here. If I’m away from my supply when anxiety strikes, I find an organic, raw green juice at the nearest grocery store.
- Healthy meal/snack — Choose something substantial + ideally protein-based first. My go-to is Peanut Butter and Banana on Whole Grain Toast.
I’ve never not started to feel better after this step. Refilling what’s likely depleted helps our bodies function at their best — it makes sense.
As I continue through the day, I prioritize real food first: organic fruits + veggies, lean meats + fish, nuts + seeds.
Anxiety can worsen with refined sugars + processed foods and I want my body to be appropriately fueled for the next step in my plan, so I avoid the emotional junk food snacking as much as possible.
It’s worth the discipline to me!
Step 2 — Outputs
- Go for a minimum 10-minute walk (ideally 20-minutes) outdoors to get natural vitamin D. I put baby in the stroller, grab some headphones + listen to something soothing that gets my thoughts flowing.
- Make a list. Think about what triggered me, what I’m expecting of myself unreasonably + what help I could ask for.
- Ask for that help: Anxiety usually means I need to delegate something to create space for myself. Call grandma to see if she can come babysit the kids. Pay for grocery delivery. Ask my husband to bring home something he can cook for dinner (or to pick up a take-out order).
Exerting some productive energy makes me feel the best on any given day, especially an anxious day, but it’s important that I prioritize putting good fuel into my body + setting an attainable small win (like ordering groceries) first so that I don’t get burned out + ultimately more anxious.
Later in the day, time and help depending: I try to catch a yoga class for some extended movement + focused breathing. Sometimes that yoga has to be done in the living room with kids crawling all over me and that’s okay, too! Some consistent movement is better than nothing.
Step 3 — Get Quality Rest
Resting can’t be underestimated.
I take a nap with the baby + let any miscellaneous responsibilities take a backseat for now.
If the toddler isn’t up for napping, we snuggle with special snacks + watch a movie together. I keep the pantry equipped with an emergency snack stash for unexpected moments like these.
Step 4 — Conversations
In the heat of a panic attack — an elevated anxiety attack — there are helplines you can call + text. Do this first, let someone walk you through a good venting session, and then find someone you can connect with in-person more regularly.
I was raised on the idea that people who go to therapy are weak. It took a series of traumatic family events in a short amount of time to knock me sideways enough to reconsider that judgment.
Choosing to see a therapist was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I only wish I had gone sooner.
Here’s a few posts about my personal experience with therapy:
- Getting Started with Therapy
- What Happened at My First Therapy Appointment
What about talking to the kids about anxiety?
Children pick up everything. I find it important to communicate a few things:
- Yes, you’re right. I am having an “off” day because _________. [I keep it short and sweet.]
- No, this is not your fault and I don’t need you to try to fix it.
- I love being your mom.
Anxiety can run in families for many reasons: one being that parents unload their problems onto their children by either under-communicating or over-communicating.
The goal is to acknowledge that your child isn’t crazy — what they’re seeing is real — and to reaffirm them that their role isn’t to fix your problems and your role as their parent hasn’t changed. You still love being their mom and you are still going to do all that they need to be taken care of.
Lastly, but Most Importantly: Promise to Edit Your Life to the Essentials
I read a quote that really resonated with me:
If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present. — Lao Tzu
What a truth bomb, right?
I’m committed to living in the present as much as possible, but for someone like me — the perfectionist planner — that’s exceptionally hard to do. I am always preparing for what’s ahead.
But the reality is that 95% of health issues are the result of stress. And continuing down an anxious path is only going to create more problems for me down the road if I don’t intervene + stay consistent in an anxiety management practice.
So I work at this everyday.
I follow functional medicine.
I keep loose routines in place to help with predictability + I practice “essentialism”. If you haven’t read Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism, then at least listen to the cliff notes version on Tim Ferriss’ podcast.
Prioritizing the simple few has become my life’s mantra + made all the difference in how I handle relationships, finances, wellness, motherhood + entrepreneurship. I bet it’d make a difference for you, too.
What helps you during an anxiety or panic attack?
How have you tried managing anxiety organically? Share in the comments below.