What some difficult times we have all been through. Obviously, I have not been writing or keeping up my blog, or doing anything of a fun nature. Both of my sons are on the spectrum and need residential services. This year, that system collapsed. My oldest son had to move home because we couldn’t find a provider who could hire staff to support their clients. A lot of providers shut down.
It wasn’t just us. Many disabled children and adults either had to move back home with their families or ended up homeless. It’s really a travesty. There are many things wrong with the system, and I’m still fighting for change.
Through it all, both of my sons have struggled with depression and so have I. The suicide prevention hotline got a few extra calls. I’ve been through some stressful episodes with my heart. I share this because all of us have had especially difficult times the last couple of years. In order to cope, I went searching for some online help. I didn’t find quite what I was looking for in help with depression. Everything just seemed to be a distraction and the minute the activity was over; I would start panicking again. Thus, my search for help with anxiety instead of depression.
Here are some things I’ve found helpful. I don’t take credit for any of the ideas. I hope they will help you too.
Reducing Anxiety and Stress
1. Remember that it will pass
During a panic attack, it can help to remember that these feelings will pass and cause no physical harm, however scary it feels at the time.
2. Take deep breaths
Deep breathing can help bring a panic attack under control.
Try to breathe slowly and deeply, concentrating on each breath. Breathe deeply from the abdomen, filling the lungs slowly and steadily while counting to 4 on both the inhale and the exhale.
3. Smell some lavender
A soothing scent can help relieve anxiety by tapping into the senses, helping the person stay grounded and giving them something to focus on. Lavender is a common traditional remedy known for bringing about a sense of calm relaxation.
4. Find a peaceful spot
Sights and sounds can often intensify a panic attack. If possible, try to find a more peaceful spot. Sitting in a quiet place will create some mental space, and it will make it easier to focus on breathing and other coping strategies.
5. Focus on an object
When a person becomes overwhelmed with distressing thoughts, feelings, or memories, concentrating on something physical in the environment can help them feel grounded.
Focusing on one stimulus can reduce other stimuli. As the person looks at the item, they may want to think about how it feels, who made it, and what shape it is. This technique can help reduce the symptoms of a panic attack.
6. The 5-4-3-2-1 method
Panic attacks can make a person feel detached from reality. This is because the intensity of the anxiety can overtake other senses. The 5-4-3-2-1 method is a type of grounding technique and a type of mindfulness. It helps direct the person’s focus away from sources of stress. To use this method, the person should complete each of the following steps slowly and thoroughly:
· Look at 5 separate objects. Think about each one for a short while.
· Listen for 4 distinct sounds. Think about where they came from and what sets them apart.
· Touch 3 objects. Consider their texture, temperature, and what their uses are.
· Identify 2 different smells. This could be the smell of your coffee, your soap, or the laundry detergent on your clothes.
· Name 1 thing you can taste. Notice whatever taste is in your mouth, or try tasting a piece of candy.
7. Repeat a mantra
A mantra is a word, phrase, or sound that helps with focus and provides strength. Internally repeating a mantra can help a person come out of a panic attack.
The mantra can take the form of reassurance and may be as simple as, “This too shall pass.” For some, it may have a more spiritual meaning. As the person focuses on gently repeating a mantra, their physical responses will slow, allowing them to regulate their breathing and relax their muscles.
8. Walk or do some light exercise
Walking can remove a person from a stressful environment, and the rhythm of walking may also help them regulate their breathing. Moving around releases hormones called endorphins that relax the body and improve mood. Taking up regular exercise can help reduce anxiety over time, which may lead to a reduction in the number or severity of panic attacks.
9. Try muscle relaxation techniques
Another symptom of panic attacks is muscle tension. Practicing muscle relaxation techniques may help limit an attack. This is because if the mind senses that the body is relaxing, other symptoms — such as rapid breathing — may also diminish. This involves tensing up and then relaxing various muscles in turn. To do this:
1. Hold the tension for 5 seconds.
2. Say “relax” as you release the muscle.
3. Let the muscle relax for 10 seconds before moving on to the next muscle.
10. Picture your happy place
A person’s happy place should be somewhere they would feel most relaxed. The specific place will be different for everybody. It will be somewhere they feel relaxed, safe, and calm. When an attack begins, it can help to close the eyes and imagine being in this place. Think of how calm it is there. People can also imagine their bare feet touching the cool soil, hot sand, or soft rugs.
I hope to continue moving forward in helping my sons, but also get back to writing and enjoying a few simple things.
Cindy A. Christiansen
Clean & Wholesome Action/Adventure Romance