How Do You Manage Anxiety?

I remember the first time I had a panic attack. I was 34 years old and had just been dropped off at LAX after an extended trip with friends. I began to walk towards the automatic doors to enter the airport, when I saw the massive crowd that gathered inside. Suddenly this extreme and suffocating sense of panic came over me. It felt as though my world was caving in from all directions. I backed up away from the door, and quickly found the nearest bench to catch me as my body dropped with an intense sensation of terrifying fear. In a snap, I went from being warm in the California sun to feeling bone-chilling cold and uncontrollably shaking. I couldn’t breathe, I could barely move, and there was no way in hell I was going into that airport. I was alone in LA and I had no idea what was happening to me. All I could do was cry. I felt like a “crazy person” in every sense of the stereotype that one thinks of when labeling another person crazy. All rationality went out the window. I couldn’t think. Everyone was looking at me. I was going to be stuck here, alone in Los Angeles forever. I would never get back home to my family. This was the end.

Seriously, WTF?

I called my husband, and after a good thirty-minutes or so of patiently talking me off the ledge, he somehow managed to convince me to walk inside. And then my sweet, baby angel of a savior talked / walked me through every step of the entire airport, from the front door to my seat on the plane, with only a brief intermission to send my phone through security. Once we reached my terminal, I was feeling much calmer. There was a bar next to my gate and he suggested I order a mimosa to help me unwind, which I thought to be a brilliant idea. One empty champagne glass later with another on its way and all was restored in the world. I was completely normal, and very confused. This would mark the beginning of my new journey with extreme anxiety. And, this would be the first of several panic attacks for years to come.

I know that anxiety and panic attacks are two very different things. Many people experience bouts of anxiety throughout their lives without ever experiencing something as traumatic as a panic attack. But often times they coexist. I have most definitely experienced different forms of anxiety in my life, though I called it nerves, worry, or butterflies. As a kid, it was most often present when starting a new school (my mother moved a lot; I went to 13 different schools), and I have experienced it most commonly when meeting new people or in large crowds as an adult. While, I don’t fully understand why the sudden and massive shift in my anxiety, I do have some insight into what triggers it for myself — high stress being the number one. Over time, I’ve learned how to tame it pretty well for the most part. I have this handy dandy little breathing exercise that I do where I breathe in for four counts, breathe out for four counts, and while I am doing so I form a box with my breathes. So up…two…three…four, left…two…three…four, down…two…three…four, right…two…three…four, and so on. It works for me most of the time. Naps also work wonders. I have thankfully had only a handful of extreme panic experiences like I had that day at LAX. Those are definitely a different beast and are harder to calm, but I have learned to recognize when that feeling of panic starts creeping in. Most of the time I can stop it in its tracks.

In my experience, besides napping and breathing, the change that has made a MASSIVE impact was removing myself from stressful and toxic situations and relationships — BOOM, CLAP, BUH-BYE! Easier said than done, of course, and this process of elimination can take a very long time (it did for me), but that was the big one. Maybe I’ll write more about that process in a later essay, but since making these crutial changes, my anxiety has lessened greatly and is much more manageable.

I think anxiety is relatively universal and its story varies from person to person. I would love to know: how do you manage anxiety? Join the conversation.

 

Written by: James Kicinski-McCoy

James Kicinski-McCoy is the 40-something Founder and Editor-In-Chief of The Bleu. She likes tequila, picks fights with her husband so she can have the bed to herself, and is trying to figure out that work / life balance.

20 Comments

  1. Emily

    April 29, 2019 at 11:36 am

    I’ve recently starting taking CBD oil. I think it has helped a little but still TBD.

    Reply
    • kate

      April 29, 2019 at 3:07 pm

      what cbd oil have you been using? i’m trying to find a good one, but i’m having a hard time!

      Reply
      • Jennifer

        April 29, 2019 at 11:56 pm

        Charlotte’s Web original strength is amazing. Expensive but so worth the quality. My husband and kids greatly appreciate when I’m consistent with it 😌

        Reply
      • Emily Littleton

        May 3, 2019 at 2:10 am

        City & Sea Trading’s Euphoria

        Reply
  2. Elizabeth

    April 29, 2019 at 11:47 am

    Aside from medicine/removing myself from a situation, I listen to the song Weightless by Marconi Union. (If i’m in a place where I am able to listen to music, of course.) It’s proven to reduce anxiety! Square breathing helps too!

    Reply
  3. Bonnie

    April 29, 2019 at 11:49 am

    Zoloft, walks in nature, sitting in sunshine with my eyes closed, driving and screaming at the top of my lungs about everything that is pissing me off at that moment, crying into a pillow, manual labor, smoking pot.

    To name a few.

    Reply
  4. Melissa

    April 29, 2019 at 11:55 am

    Exercise. I don’t even go for weight loss. The sole purpose is managing my anxiety or depression.

    Reply
  5. Calli Alford

    April 29, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    My first anxiety attack was almost 3 years ago, lasted 5 excruciating days and ended with a trip to the ER because I was convinced I had blood clots or a neurological disorder- what else could explain the numbness in my arms and fingers, the tingling in my tongue, the feeling that my head was about to pop off if I didn’t have my hand pressing on it at all times and the overall sensations of dread & that any second I was going to lose control of my mental functions? I was 26 and had just closed on my house earlier that morning. In terms of managing it since then, sleep does help a lot. But I couldn’t do it alone. I was able to “re-set” my fight or flight response with Trazodone – one of the first anti-depressants on the scene that is now also prescribed in lower doses as a sleep aid. It’s non-habit forming and I take it on as-needed basis. Also, like Melissa said, exercise. Not even hard cardio, just getting outside and going on a leisurely walk does wonders for my overall sense of well-being. The thing that has helped the most though is recognizing that I have it in the first place- which greatly diminished its control over me. When it manifested itself physically I was convinced I was physically ill, it’s that powerful, and anyone who has experienced it knows how terrifying that feeling is. So, forums like this one- that help normalize it, and where people can talk about it and bring it out of the dark and into the light, help significantly. I do want to note that at the end of my lengthy ER trip, after getting probed and tested for hours – blood work, sonogram, MRI, etc., they referred me to a neurological doctor in case the symptoms persisted. Only at the very end did they address the fact that my symptoms were most likely caused by anxiety. I was prescribed Lorazepam and a nice lady doctor advised that when I’m feeling stressed I should inhale deeply and act like I’m blowing out candles. All this to say, the lack of acknowledgement of real, debilitating anxiety/panic attacks is shocking. It’s no wonder most people feel alone in their struggle with it.

    Reply
  6. LM

    April 29, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    I have always been a little anxious, but a stressful time and some health problems diagnosed at the end of 2017 triggered what has been pretty debilitating Health Anxiety. I’ve been seeing a psychologist for a few months who promotes mindfulness to help but I had my first major panic attack just last week. It was terrifying. Like you, James, my husband talked me down over the phone from his work. I am now signed off work for a couple of weeks while I adjust to medication I was prescribed. I hope to overcome it one day because I wouldn’t wish anxiety and panic attacks on anybody.

    Reply
  7. Lindsay

    April 29, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    I either work out or just get busy. Cleaning, doing laundry, going for a walk outside.

    Reply
  8. Melyn

    April 29, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    For starters, cutting gluten out of my diet was life changing. I use to deal with major anxiety. When I was young I was diagnosed with manic depression and recently I was diagnosed thyroid disease, which plays a huge role on hormones/mood. However, I haven’t dealt with depression or incredible anxiety since cutting out gluten. I believe it all comes down to our gut health. Everything, even disease. Hippocrates once said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Mitochondria is made in our gut which is what feeds our brains. Along with no gluten, I supply my body with plenty of vitamims & minerals I was lacking through foods and supplements. I stay clear of sugar and processed foods. I am still learning and still healing. However, I do recommend anyone who suffers from anxiety to test your gut microbiomes. Actually, everyone can benefit to test their gut microbiomes! You can do this from home. Remember, anxiety is just a symptom to something going on deeper. Anxiety is a way your body is telling you to pay attention and clean it up. Giving anxiety a pill, isnt dealing with what is causing the anxiety. I wish I knew then what I know now, perhaps I wouldn’t have a full blown autoimmune thyroid disease. So listen to those signals your body sends you, they can be life changing on so many (cellular) levels. Oh, and I must agree with others, CBD oil is wonderful for calming anxiety and so, so, so much more!

    Reply
    • Bonnie

      April 29, 2019 at 7:07 pm

      For some of us, a pill is necessary.

      Reply
    • Bee

      April 29, 2019 at 9:35 pm

      Melyn- Yes! Nutrition has been crucial for me in helping to move past panic attacks. Mine started after giving birth, I figured out that pregnancy had seriously depleted me, after a life of mostly eating vegetarian and vegan.
      Resetting with anti depressants helped, too.
      And quitting caffeine!
      And heavy metal detox!

      It’s a whole thing.

      Reply
  9. Erin

    April 29, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    I call my panic attacks epis’s, short for episodes. They’re lesser, in both frequency and duration, than in previous years. However, now my mind will try to convince myself that I’m on the brink of a major disease, mass shooting or other calamity. So it’s just stress and fear manifesting in a slightly diff way.

    Reply
  10. Megan

    April 29, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    Cannabis & CBD!

    Reply
  11. Holly

    April 29, 2019 at 11:24 pm

    Zoloft is amazing. For years I managed with therapy and exercise, but once my second child was born my anxiety and depression was on another level. It was like a black cloud came rolling in every morning, I couldn’t control it. Even though I knew exactly what it was, and even though I was so happy with my newborn, it didn’t matter. 4 weeks after starting Zoloft I felt a huge weight lift.

    Reply
  12. Dani

    May 1, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    I had a baby.
    A month shy of my 30th bday & I’ve had nervous stomach since some of my first memories. I am just a sensitive, empathetic & extroverted introvert mixed with hereditary depression/anxiety/obsession & other mental health disorders.
    I don’t think you can tell from the outside, I am a positive & energetic person, but I’ve realized over the past few years, openly speaking about my anxiety has helped myself & others I talked to. I am actually writing this with a bit of reflection because it is currently dormit.
    Hope & Help for your nerves by Claire Weekes. My mom gave me her book from the 70’s & she is amazing. She is dead now, but one of those people who I’d love to have lunch with if they were still living. She talks about nervous manifesting into the physical form, and I can relate to that all too well. I can’t eat when I am in a bad state.
    My baby is 9 months old now & while I have had anxious outbursts over certain situations, I think my fluctuation if hormones & this ‘Mama Bear’ instinct has helped change my outlook on my fears & triggers.
    I also did see a cognitive behavioral therapist 3x when my daughter was 10 weeks old & it was the best thing I could have done for myself. I did not want my fears to be passed down to her & working through them I have overcome (not fully) many that I have been prisoner to for many, many years.
    Summertime & the outdoors is one of the biggest physical remedies. So conservatories in the winter.

    Reply
  13. Chantal

    May 3, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    Group therapy has done wonders for my anxiety management. We were taught lots of different techniques and to get out of the head and into the body. Breathing, the bumble bee sound HMMMmmmmmmm or OHhmmmmmm (the sound of the universe), taping points along the body, lots of movement. Shaking out the trauma we carry in our body tissue was mind blowing for me.

    Reply
  14. JD

    May 4, 2019 at 9:42 am

    17 years of Lexapro dependency that no doctor bothered to warn about, exercise, putting on a brave face, curling up in bed whenever not required to appear normal, avoiding human contact, cat cuddling, lots of tears.

    Reply
  15. Paras

    May 10, 2019 at 5:48 am

    Nice post, Thanks for sharing your experience with the readers, For me mindfulness exercises always work to reduce the anxiety. I would like to read more about your experience.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want more Bleu?

© 2007-2019 Bleubird, LLC. All rights reserved. Bleu, Cult Bleu, and Shop The Bleu are trademarks of Bleubird, LLC.