Last week I had an anxiety attack. My job has gotten incredibly stressful between my Director firing everyone under the sun and us getting into the busiest season for my industry as an understaffed and under-trained team. It’s just been too much pressure.
I’m sure everyone feels like this at work sometimes and we all have our triggers. So I spent last Thursday and Friday off trying to unwind and not let my work take over my life. Then on Thursday, I felt so negative and restless. I was thinking about all these work problems. Like OMG I’m going to have to train all these new people, I’m not getting recognition, and this sucks. I started kinda feeling sweaty, upset with a pit in my stomach that just wouldn’t go away. It was physically uncomfortable and I didn’t know why I was feeling like this. I wanted to feel like my normal calm self. I thought, I shouldn’t feel this way on my day off. But the discomfort and negative feeling wasn’t going away.
I was having an anxiety attack.
Anxiety is basically when you worry, feel negative or feel stress to the point where you are inducing your fight or flight instincts. This causes a negative physical reactions like increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, restlessness, sense of impending doom, stomach or chest pains etc.
I tend to also get moody during these intense attacks. I was texting my husband just trying to get over it. And thankfully I did, years of anxiety have helped me manage it much better so at least so I’m not taking it out on someone else.
Here’s what’s helped me:
1. Recognize Your Anxiety
It seems so obvious but a lot times I didn’t realize I was going through an anxiety attack until it was over. My negative thoughts seemed so real to me. They aren’t even logical or rational half the time, but in the moment they are very real. So recognizing what is happening during an attack can be hard and confusing. What helps me to realize I am having anxiety is just to say what I am feeling out loud. “I feel upset” or “I feel anxious.” Just saying that helps me feel in control of what is happening. Ill usually follow with “Why?”
2. Figuring out your triggers:
Not understanding what causes anxiety is like being on a boat without a paddle. You’ll never understand why it’s happening and you’ll just feel helpless and anxious for the next attack. If you get attacks frequently, keep a diary of what you were doing and what you were thinking prior to the attack. Keep a log of the thoughts you had during the attack and how long the attack lasted. (Do this after the attack is over). I used to watch a lot of reality TV in college and was glued to my social media. I started having attacks and lashing out towards my (now) husband. Over time I realized that I was lashing out because the reality TV shows were making me feel bad about myself and I was always comparing my life to this and that on TV and thinking how boring and uneventful my life was; these thought were causing my anxiety. Right now I’m having anxiety from work so I can’t change my situation…
3. Confront VS Avoid
Is it better to confront or avoid you triggers? It depends. In the situation where I was getting anxiety from social media and reality TV, it made sense to avoid. I don’t NEED to have that in my life. On the other I NEED to work so I can’t just avoid going to work. In the situation with work I’m going to have to learn how to deal and confront that anxiety head on. My advice for confronting your anxiety you can’t avoid is just to immerse yourself in it.
I used to also get a lot of social anxiety where I would feel nervous if I had to socialize in a large group. I would nitpick conversations in my head and beat myself up if a conversation didn’t go my way. To overcome this, I became a real estate agent so I can meet many different people without feeling to much pressure to be perfect. And it worked! I’ve met hundreds of new people and now striking up conversation is not unusual or difficult. Over time I became a smooth socializer, and am no longer anxious about what other people are thinking about me or if I said something wrong. In certain situations, confronting what is making you feel anxious, especially like an every day occurrence like socializing, can absolutely help you cope and overcome that worry.
4. Take A Different Perspective:
I was still feeling really anxious that day and just wasn’t feeling good in my own skin. I knew I was being anxious and irrational so I just sat down and began writing my own thoughts out. I made a list of what I was thankful for, what I wanted to change in my life and brainstormed how I could make those changes. As soon as I was done I felt better. Like I had control over my life. Switching your frame of thought can absolutely help you overcome anxiety attacks. It takes practice because your problems in the moment feel so real and insurmountable. But all problems come with solutions, even if it takes a long time to see results. Thinking about all the great things in my life helped me minimize my worries and realize my problems weren’t as large as I thought.
5. See A Therapist:
if you have persistent negative thoughts, worries and anxiety I would recommend seeing a therapist. I haven’t been to a therapist but I think we should all evaluate where our self depreciating thoughts and anxious worries are coming from and a therapist can do just that. There no shame in it and you can always test out different therapists if you feel like one isn’t the right fit for you.
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