(I wrote this up on Friday, but I’m only just getting around to posting. Sorry about that! Hopefully next week’s Fab Friday will be on time.) Happy Fab Friday, friends! I’m writing this from the front seat of my car outside my in-laws’ house. Why? Because I just had a panic attack.
I haven’t had a panic attack in over a year, and this one came completely out of the blue. I was sitting at the family dinner table, passing the veggie platter and dishing up food for my son when all of a sudden the lights got too bright, and everyone’s voices got too loud and too sharp, and my heart started to race. I calmly turned to my husband and said, “I think I’m having a panic attack, so I’m going to go to the other room.”
I cried, put in some earplugs, and practiced square breathing, but everything was still too loud and too bright, so I went to the car. It’s nice and quiet and dark out here. My heartbeat is nice and slow, but my arms and legs don’t feel like they belong to me yet. My husband came out and brought me a lemon La Croix (bless him), and the rest of the family is leaving me gloriously alone. Thank God for a family who understands mental illness!
So while I’m stuck here in depersonalization-land, I’m putting together a moodboard of all the little things that help me recover from panic attacks. (Your mileage may vary on the specifics, but most people find the general categories helpful.) For those who have never experienced a panic attack, the attack itself is terrible, but the after-effects can also leave you feeling like you have a really terrible hangover. It’s the hangover part I want to try to help with today. So here’s your Anxiety and Panic Attack Recovery Care Starter Kit:
Two notes: 1) I am not a doctor and am not qualified to offer medical or mental health advice. The information below is solely for informational purposes. These are things that personally help me begin to feel more like myself again after a panic attack. For information and help with anxiety, panic attacks, or other mental health conditions, please speak with a doctor or trained counselor. 2) This post contains affiliate links. You can read my complete disclosure here.
I’m going to go with this herbal tea because I definitely don’t need caffeine right now, and this sounds warm and comforting. Sometimes when I’ve had an attack, cold juice is the only thing that sounds good. Try to figure out what sounds palatable to you. Getting some liquid in first thing is important, though, so don’t skip this step.
There are times where the thought of food after an attack makes me nauseated, but usually that goes away as soon as I force myself to eat something. Right now I want Doritos, original nacho cheese flavor. They sound amazing. The food doesn’t have to be nutritious—just get something in your tummy to help you feel a little more grounded and to help get your blood sugar up.
3. Comfy clothes.
As soon as I get home, I plan to put on my pjs. It’s not cold here in LA right now, but I’m still going to put on my flannel pajamas. They’re soft and warm, and they don’t cut in on my waist or hips.
4. Face wash.
I’ve been crying, and my face doesn’t feel real right now, so I’m going to wash my face when I get home. I love this cream cleanser, which I’ve used for several years.
5. Something soothing.
A hot bath sounds really good right now (with a bath bomb), but I would need to clean out my bathtub first (our cats like to hang out in there), so that’s a no-go. Instead, I’m going to apply some essential oils. I’m a semi-skeptic when it comes to oils, but I have them, and they smell nice, so I’m going to use them. The inexpensive starter set I got on Amazon has a blend in it called Stress Relief that I might try. If that doesn’t smell good to me in the moment, I’m going to mix up some lavender, frankincense, and sweet orange in some coconut oil and apply it over my heart and anywhere that feels tense.
6. Mindless entertainment.
I usually need a couple hours to just let my brain and body veg after an attack, so after my son goes to sleep, I’m going to put something on the TV that requires little attention from me. I recommend a movie or TV show you’re super familiar with already. For me that’d be You’ve Got Mail or Boy Meets World. Just try to steer clear of anything that might make you feel more anxious or sad.
7. Something to hug.
Do you have a cat or a dog or a human that likes to cuddle? Awesome. Sometimes that’s a great thing to do when you’re recovering from an attack. Sometimes you need to be alone. If you don’t have a cuddle buddy or if you need to be alone but your heart still has that achy feel, I highly recommend hugging a pillow or blanket or stuffed animal if you have one. Babies love gentle pressure in the form of swaddling or lightly weighted blankets because it makes them feel safe, and I don’t think that instinctive preference really goes away as we age. Hugs are kind of weird when you think about them, but they make more sense when you think of them as coming from a desire for safety, security, and acceptance. Even hugging an inanimate object like a pillow can help release residual tension. Physical pressure, even mechanical physical pressure, has been shown to reduce tension and anxiety in some cases, so hug away!
That’s a wrap! I hope these tips are helpful to my fellow anxiety/panic attack sufferers out there. If I’ve missed anything helpful, tell me about it in the comments, and don’t forget to share this post if you found it helpful!
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