As I’m writing this, I’m in the midst of an 18-hour panic attack. Yes, me: An educated, experienced, trained, supported, well-adjusted, well-resourced mental health clinician. If it can happen to me, it’s probably happening to tons of people who are trapped in 2020 by a looming threat. No, not the 2020 United States Presidential Election. The threat I’m referencing is COVID-19 and the various waves of the pandemic.
The good news is that I’ve learned more about myself in the last 18 hours than I have in a really long time. I’m going to detail for you how I dealt with this most recent occurrence of panic. A panic attack is an intense fear that presents as an abrupt feeling in your body. Whether an acute panic attack or anxiety (generalized anxiety disorder), the most important thing to do is find a safe place where you can process your emotions (aka freak out).
Know Your Body.
How would you know if something was not quite right with your body? My first sign that something wasn’t right was a tightness in my shoulders that felt like a balloon was being inflated under my skin. This is not normal, so I knew something was off. Some common symptoms that I’ve heard mentioned by persons in this profession include:
- Tingling in extremities
- Feeling your heart in your throat
- Tight or hardened muscles
- A glazed over look in eyes (dissociation)
- Inability to process information
- Lack of understanding of basic questions
Know The Music That Relaxes Your Spirit.
The music that makes me rest well is sappy R&B songs. It’s their beats that can just lull me to sleep. Some clients have referenced how they use apps that help them calm down or meditate or relax. Make of list of the music genre or music artists that could be helpful to you if you find yourself in a mental health crisis or emergency.
Know Which Loved One To Call Or Not.
Yes, I am the person who will awaken someone at an early hour because I need help. Why? Because I need help! Also, because I would expect them to do the same for me. Healthy relationships are vital, so calling a loved one who meets the following criteria could be helpful:
- Good listener
- Appropriately humorous
- An overcomer
Know How To Contact Your Providers
I see my providers regularly, so when I need them, I message them. I sent my doctor a message, and he messaged me back with a response that calmed me down. He reminded me that panic is normal during extraordinarily difficult times. He suggested that I connect with my own therapist. Yes, I’m a therapist who has a therapist. I’m not sure if I’d be able to do this work without having an impartial person to listen to my frustrations. My therapist called me and offered to meet with me if I needed support. I then reached out to my body worker and scheduled an appointment for a massage. Relaxing your muscles to relieve tension is a great way to decrease panic and anxiety.
I recognize that not everyone has a productive relationship with medical, mental health, or body worker providers. The key is to have a team of people with whom you can schedule appointments to get answers to your questions. Make lists of questions in advance if that’s helpful. The relationships that you have with your providers are vital. Please find professionals with whom you can communicate. If you cannot share openly, please consider this reluctance when deciding on when or if to schedule your health appointments. If you need help with therapeutic services, A Fresh Start Therapy is here. Contact our health and wellness center at 844.957.3794 today.