I knew that some people out there are struggling with anxiety problem. Every time someone told me they or someone they knew have this problem, I always more than happy to share my own experience. I thought I might write in here so other people who read it could also benefited from it somehow. So here it goes.
It all started a couple of years ago when I had a sore throat and mild fever. I went to a doctor and he prescribed me an antibiotic. You know, the usual drill. Next thing I know, I woke up in a middle of the night, my heart beating up really fast, hands were shaking and I was breathless. I asked my mom and my brother to take me to a hospital, got an oxygen mask on, and the doctor said I had an allergy with that antibiotic. It was such a scary experience because for the first time I felt like I had no control and clueless over my own physical being, and I literally thought I was going to die.
Ever since that episode, sometimes I find myself battling with my own scary thoughts and in constant need to reassure myself that everything is okay (read: that I’m not in a grave danger). Every time I feel abnormality inside my body, I’d instantly back to that moment in the emergency room and the allergy attack. I’d suddenly feel anxious; my heart would beat rapidly, having trouble breathing and all I wanted to do is to go to a hospital immediately because I feel like my body isn’t functioning properly. These feelings usually last for 10 minutes, but it was the longest 10 minutes in my life every time it hits me.
Back then, every time I went to some place, I’d be scouting for the nearest hospital around that area so I could jumped there if I need to. I spent millions for doctor consultations and medical check-ups to see whether I actually have a health problem or not. I’d be worry at night and couldn’t sleep because I was so afraid that I might have a sudden heart attack.
Typically, in Indonesia, when things like this happen to you or your friends, people would say “oh you should pray harder… go back to the religion ways!” or sometimes even worse “snap out of it! Get over and move on with your life, you’re not being grateful!”. Well, I guess it happens because most people don’t have the proper knowledge about it.
It sucks, and I did pray harder though, but it didn’t work for me.
It took me almost a year to finally admit that I was having a problem. My then boyfriend insisted that I should seek professional help and I did. She was one of the counselors at my university who deal with students who’s having problem. The truth is, I’m so grateful that I decided to meet her.
My appointments with her truly help me coping with this panic attack issues. She helped me to understand that panic disorder is actually more common than most people think. She taught me about the science of panic. Panic is derived from fear, and fear is in fact one of our basic natural surviving mechanism. For example, if there is some dangerous animal approach us, our body would automatically react (heart pumping, breathing heavily, sweating) in response to that dangerous situation. This alarm designed to ensure that we either run or defend ourselves. Imagine if we do not equipped with fear, we would be dead. Panic disorder happens when we response to unrealistic danger.
She gave me the following tips to deal with panic disorder.
Do not skip breakfast
Healthy mind comes from a healthy body. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so it is crucial to always have your breakfast. A toast, fruit, granola would do the trick.
Sleep at least 7 hours a day
People tends to get funny when they don’t have enough sleep, we get easily agitated and less focused throughout the day. To have a quality sleep, she advised me to not take any gadget, book or computer whatsoever to the bed. She said “bed is only for 2 activities that start with s“.
Exercising is scientifically proven to improve happiness because it releases good hormones. Google it!
Learn the breathing technique
She encourages me to learn breathing techniques to calm myself whenever I’m feeling anxious. It is difficult to be calm when I was panic, but forcing myself to focus on counting my breath helps a lot.
Wait it out
She said, every time I had a panic attack, I should just wait it out instead of going to the hospital for another medical check-ups. I should remind myself that this is just another episode and it will be over in 5-10 minutes. This tips is actually what I think the most helpful.
Study the materials
Finally, she sent me this link and asked me to study the materials. The materials contains modules to cope with panic attacks. I really encourage people to read this materials because it is not only easy to read, but they also contains exercise notes and questionnaire. By answering the questionnaire (what did you think when it happens, what did you see, what did you notice), it really help us identify the core of our fear and teach us how to deal with it.
Hope this helps ya!