Beep. Beep. Beep.
The annoyingly upbeat sound of a brand new day.
Wrapped in the safety of darkness, I try and ignore the emerging feeling of dread as I battle through sleep dust and yesterday’s forgotten mascara to open my eyes.
Coffee first. Maybe tea? Then food.
All the while pretending I can’t feel the tightness increasing around my chest or the quickening flutter in my stomach.
Push it away. Distract.
I carry on, act as if I’m fine, but there’s a hazziness seeping through my mind, disguising everything under an almost muted mist. I desperately try to focus, I force myself to ignore, but everything is just out of reach.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The leaky tap in the bathroom, taunting me with its obnoxious dribbles.
Overly sensitive to light and sound, I feel like a creature of the night. The smallest of noises wriggle their way under my skin and grate on my bones making everything unbearable.
They call it fight or flight, well I’ve tried for hours to fight this battle inside of me but it just doesn’t seem worth it any more.
Claws wrap around my lungs, forcing them up into my throat. My mouth becomes dry, my hands become numb and I. Just. Can’t. Catch. My. Breath.
Sifting through my brain, trying to find a trigger, a reason to explain why this is happening. Sometimes it’s seemingly nothing, on other days it’s everything.
So how do you calm a racing heart?
How do you free yourself from the crippling fear?
How do you rid yourself of the talons that hold your breath hostage?
My anxiety is hidden within the slates of my rib cage, curled up in hibernation until it feels the need to make itself heard. Crawling slowly at first, dipping it’s toes into the cold pool of fear and then all at once, surging through my blood. My shoulders tense up, my words muted, trapped in it’s clammy grip.
How do I escape?
Cue ‘Lucy’s ways of dealing with anxiety’
Grounding yourself. This can be done in a number of ways. What I like to do is go through this list:
- Rate the anxiety on a scale of 1-10
- Sit up straight, put my feet firmly on the floor and relax my shoulders
- Breathe slowly and deeply into my belly rather than short shallow breaths that don’t travel very far
- Focus on 5 things I can see
- Focus on 4 things I can feel/touch
- Focus on 3 things I can hear
- Focus on 2 things I can smell
- Focus on 1 thing I can taste
- If my mind is too jumbled to focus on those things I just focus on breathing until it’s a little easier to bring that attention back
- Reassess my anxiety level and repeat steps 1-10 until calm
Remind yourself that:
- you are safe
- This will pass
- It is a natural response
- You’re not in danger
- You are getting enough air
- You will start to relax
- You will feel calmer
- You will be okay
After a period of anxiety or an anxiety attack, I encourage you to rest, to eat and to recover. I don’t think it’s fully understood how exhausting it can be. So grab yourself a cup of tea and a blanket and indulge in some self care.
If you are dealing with anxiety or are having symptoms that relate to anxiety, please open up to a loved one or pop down to your GP.
Secondly, these strategies are ones I use and I know they work for me, they may not work for others. If you take medication for your diagnosis then please carry on taking it, remember that there’s no shame in reaching out.