I had my first ever anxiety attack in 2007 and I can remember it so clearly. I was working for a famous jet boating company in New Zealand. It was on the pier on a very sunny day. I was taking photos of families getting ready to go on the boat. All of a sudden, out of nowhere my mind started playing tricks on me. I started overthinking where I was, who I was and I became very afraid. My heart started to beat fast. It was like my mindhad taken over and my legs went to complete jelly. I had the full on fear. I had to get away from the situation and fast. I was not in control. Thankfully it passed after about 10 minutes.
That night I got chatting to one of the fellow backpackers who I was living with at the time and he told me I had ‘burnt myself out’. I had been partying constantly until all hours in the morning and then I would be up after a quick nap to get to work. Slowly this lifestyle was eating away at me. I was drinking a lot of VERY nice wine (New Zealand vineyards are fantastic). I was loving life – carefree with no responsibilities. I thought I was invincible. I underestimated the power of the booze and lack of sleep.
This panic attack was a wake up call for me. My body needed a rest. After a year of backpacking I flew back home. I got a full time job and joined a gym. I started getting fit and healthy and my mind was calm.
My job involved various meetings throughout the day with clients. I couldn’t understand it but I started feeling edgy again. What was wrong with me? I spoke to my Mum about it and the wise owl asked how strong the coffee in the hotels I worked was. Nail on the head – all those double expresso shots were buzzing me out. So I limited myself to one or two cups a day and I felt much better. Who would have thought coffee would have such an impact?
I have spoken to people who are the same with sugar. It is addictive and it is powerful. We need to find a healthy balance with it. The Mental Health Foundation encourage us to have a healthy relationship with alcohol, caffeine and our food. Too much of one thing is bad for our mental health. I get it, it makes perfect sense. Everything in moderation so they say. I love my coffee and wine. I love Edinburgh gin, cocktails, bubbly. There is nothing wrong with enjoying all that stuff. The question is – can we control it or does it control us? Are we becoming too dependent on it? Personally I know if I have pushed my body too far if my mind starts to feel anxious. I know that it’s time to nurture it with all the stuff that is good for us. Healthy food, exercise, good sleep and good company. These things help to keep us feeling calm and grounded. As can enjoying caffeine, booze and sugar with family and friends.
We have all experienced some form of panic. From the moment we come into the world we are screaming in shock. A full blown anxiety atttack is intense. If you have had one you will understand just how terrifying it can be. The mind is precious and when we feel out of control it can be all too overwhelming. An attack includes a combination of the following signs and symptoms:
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- Heart palpitations or a racing heart
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Trembling or shaking
- Choking feeling
- Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Hot or cold flashes
- Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy
Feeling out of control is nothing to be embarrassed about. Sometimes we just need to know the warning signs and have a think about how we can cut back on things that trigger anxiety. That doesn’t necessarily mean going cold turkey on all the stuff we enjoy. That would be way too extreme for me – I just love getting my party on and twirking like there is no tomorrow.
It’s about finding a balance that works for you.
Here are my top tips for anxious prone people like me –
Take time to breath – go to a yoga class and unwind. Ideally one with a meditation session at the end.
Get plenty of sleep – 8 hours when you can (tricky with small kids but get an early night).
Exercise – keeping active produces all natural feel-good endorphin’s.
Laugh – be with people who make you laugh and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Balance – enjoy things you love but too much of a good thing can be toxic – balance it.
Gratitude – be thankful for something every day.
Follow your gut – are you feeling burnt out or on edge? Kick back a bit, know when you need to take a break.