“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” Charles Spurgeon
Roughly 40 million people live with some kind of anxiety disorder in the United States. While the condition is certainly not chronic for me it has happened to me over the years but the occurrences are luckily few and far between.
Last week I was vacationing in Turks and Caicos with my friend Karen. On our second night there, I had what is known as an anxiety dream. These are unpleasant dreams which cause feelings of distress or fear in the dreamer upon waking. I couldn’t begin to tell you what the dream was about. I only know it wasn’t a pleasant one.
I woke up at around 3:30 a.m. with my heart racing feeling like I wanted to jump out of my skin and I had no idea why. As I struggled to catch my breath, it took me a few seconds to realize that I was away from home in a hotel room which only made me feel worse.
Anxiety is typically caused by rampant thoughts that spin out of control. There are steps we can take, therefore, to regain control of our thoughts and hence calm down.
- Just Breathe: Take long deep breaths. This is the fastest way to help your body calm down.
- Recognize Your Anxiety: As you breathe in an out, recognize that you are having a panic attack. Tell yourself that everything is alright.
- Move and Release: Get up and move around. Go for a walk, for example, or go to a different room. Since my friend was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake her, I went to the bathroom and splashed water on my face.
- Change Your Focus: Concentrate on something positive or familiar. In my case being over 1,000 miles away from home did not help but knowing my friend was there with me helped to calm me down.
- Talk to Someone: Whenever possible, reach out to someone for support. It is important to understand that you are not alone.
- Get Some Fresh Air: These panic attacks are often accompanied by feelings of suffocation and claustrophobia. Walk outside, open the windows, and get some fresh air.
- Stay in the Moment: Don’t jump ahead worrying about things in the future. Remind yourself of where you are try to stay in the moment and recognize how irrational your thoughts are.
- Relax and Think Positive Thoughts: Recognize your thinking pattern and replace them with calming, positive thoughts.
There are many things that can trigger anxiety and panic attacks. Among them are stress, fatigue, worry, diet, caffeine and alcohol. Anxiety can also be brought on by trauma or pain. For females, hormonal changes during perimenopause and menopause can also lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.
My experience last week marked the first time I had ever had an anxiety dream. Truthfully, I have no idea what triggered my panic attack that night nor do I know if and when it will happen again. But as Wayne Dyer once said, “You can’t always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.”
I am stronger than my fears and so are you.