I had just experienced my first panic attack. I had never even heard of anxiety. Years later, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and ever since then I’ve been learning to cope. I want to share some of my coping mechanisms that I hope will help you on your journey, too! These days my anxiety is much easier to deal with, because I’ve finally discovered some great ways to deal. Hold on tight! Struggling friends, there is hope. It is a journey- maybe even a lifelong one- but you can find ways to cope with your anxiety, panic attacks, and even depression. I hope my journey encourages you.
1. Identify the triggers.
Maybe you know what causes your panic attacks, and maybe they seem completely random. Pay attention next time you’re struggling. What seems to be a common tie that runs through each attack? Are they all caused by something different? Ask the Lord to make you aware and show you what triggers your anxious thoughts. Anxiety and fear are so intertwined. Are your deepest fears playing a part here? Even watch what you’re eating. For me, too much sugar or caffeine can lead to a panic attack.
2. Have a plan.
A long time ago I made a physical list of things to do when I’m feeling anxious. I still refer to it all the time! What can you do to calm yourself down? Check out a few of the things I do below, and start a list of your own. It should fit you personally!
-Spend time in the Word. FILL YOUR HEAD WITH TRUTH, DEAR SISTER. Psalm 103, Psalm 23, Psalm 4:8, Proverbs 3:24…I find so much peace in the Psalms and in Proverbs. There are tons of passages that help me when I’m anxious, afraid, or just downright depressed.
-Pray. Out loud. Tell the Lord exactly how you feel. He can certainly handle it and He can guide you through it.
-I have a list of “safe” movies & shows to watch…movies & shows that don’t trigger negative emotions.
-I have plenty of coloring pages/books to color. Coloring is somewhat mindless & repetitive, which is calming.
-Anything creative & artsy is extremely therapeutic for me. If you’re an artsy person (or even if you’re not), find something creative to do with your hands. Knit a scarf, watercolor, paint, make a Pinterest craft, or do something else!
-Dim the lights and light some candles. My personal favorite is anything vanilla/sweet scented. I love “Red Velvet Cupcake” from Target. Harsh light can be more stressful, especially when you’re already anxious.
-I love to use Johnson’s Baby Bedtime Lotion when I’m feeling the need to calm down. It’s just a calming, lavender scent. I also use Young Living lavender essential oil either in my diffuser or on my feet & temples. So relaxing.
-Take a bath! Don’t underestimate the power of hot water, candles, and lavender bath salts.
-Pinterest! I love to use Pinterest as a distraction. When you’re panicking, distraction can be good until you are emotionally calm enough to deal with whatever triggered the panic. Check out the humor section!
-Read. I’m a big reader, so getting lost in a book is typically super helpful for me.
-Write about how you’re feeling and what you’re learning through your struggle. Think about what you would tell someone else who was going through the same thing.
-Make a to-do list or a schedule. If my trigger is stress, then it helps me to break it all down and organize it.
-Hot tea…make sure there is no caffeine. I love SleepyTime tea (Celestial Seasonings), Arbonne detox tea, Yogi Soothing Caramel Bedtime Tea, etc.
Your list of things to do might be completely different from mine or it may be pretty similar. Make a list, though! I’m telling you, it helps. Also, I didn’t post my safe movies/shows here, because it’s going to depend on your background. Your idea of safe may be completely different from mine due to the differences in our triggers or pasts. Think about what’s triggering your panic and go from there.
3. Talk to yourself.
Self-talk works well. Tell yourself the Truth…even out loud! Notice that in the Word of God, there are lots of self-talk passages…
“Bless the Lord, O my soul…” (Psalm 103:1)- the Psalmist implores himself to bless the Lord. Implore yourself to believe the truth. Tell yourself what to do. Bless the Lord. Be strong. "March on, my soul; be strong!" (Judges 5:21b- Deborah's song)
4. When the attack is over, EVALUATE. What triggered this attack? How did you cope with it? How long did your attack last? What could you do more effectively next time? Pray over it, and realize that even your panic attacks are important to God. Give them over to him, and thank him for walking you through this one. Ask him to continue to walk with you through them.
Friend, even though it may not feel like it, you can make it through this. There is purpose in it. Know that if you’re reading this right now, I have prayed for you and I believe in God’s ability to carry you. Thank you for reading, sweet friend! May the Lord use the journey in my imperfect life to encourage and inspire yours.