I first started to suffer from anxiety and panic attacks in 2013 - my final year of uni. And I'm not going to lie, it was scary as hell. Even being around my family and friends made me anxious. I hid myself away in my room or the library, immersing myself in uni work, trying to ignore the niggling feeling in my chest. When I had my first panic attack, I honestly thought I was having a heart attack. It started with a pain in my chest so strong it was hard to breathe. I felt like everything was closing in on me, and I couldn't breathe. I started shaking and my muscles locked. I was at home at the time, and I collapsed to the floor with exhaustion.
Panic attacks are not something to take lightly. They are scary, and leave you feeling like you have just ran a marathon. I have had quite a few panic attacks over the past few years, and I hate them. Anxiety impacts every part of your life, even meeting my friends makes me anxious.
When you worry about every single thing, it takes the joy out of the things you used to love. Even writing this post is making me anxious, as I'm worried about how people are going to react to it, and how they are going to see me as a person. This is a very personal post for me to write, and it scares me. To be honest, writing my blog is both an outlet for me and a source of anxiety. But, the thing about anxiety is you can't let it win. If you let it control you, it becomes a dark cloud hanging over your head 24/7. Yes, it never truly goes away, but there are ways to help keep it at bay and control it.
As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the ways I keep it at bay is by reading. Baking is also a huge help for me, as I can take my worries and stresses out on the dough. And the great thing about baking is that if it goes wrong, it's not the end of the world, you can start again.
Using breathing techniques can also help when you feel a panic attack coming on. Focusing on your breathing, taking slow, deep breathes helps not only calm your racing pulse, but also gives you something to focus on rather than the feeling of panic. Stepping outside into the fresh air also helps, especially if you are in a crowded room. Sometimes a change of scenery really helps, as it gives your brain new information to process, from the new sights and sounds, to the change in temperature. This helps ease the sense of panic, as your focusing your energy on something else. Talking to someone also helps, or having them talk to you about random things.
When I had my last panic attack, a friend sat and talked to me about her work and where she was planning on going out that night. By focusing on her and what she was saying, it helped me to calm down. I am lucky in that aspect, as I have friends and family who know what to do when I take an attack.
This is the most valuable piece of advice I can give you: Talk to someone about how you are feeling. It can be a close friend, a family member, your doctor, or even me. Don't bottle your feelings of anxiety up and try and hide it. I know from experience that this does not help at all. In fact, it can often increase those feelings of anxiety.
Remember, anxiety is something that many people face daily. You are not alone.