Panic attacks are terrible things... they really are. In the past month or so I seem to have suffered so many as to have lost count, and during this last week especially I've really been suffering. Four in a week, two of those within the same day?? No thank you! I like to think of myself as the type of person who can always draw the good out of any rubbish situation in my life, and so I decided to use these insufferable little, what I like to refer to as 'demon hugs', as a reminder to put more effort into 'me time' and trying to help myself to relax more.
I've really been enjoying exploring and discovering what it is that helps me to unwind, and that what helps to calm me down, both mentally and physically after a panic attack. As always, I would like to highlight that everyone suffers panic attacks for different reasons, at different intensities and the effects can alter greatly from person to person. I'm not at all stating that these tips are a must, or that they will definitely help everyone; but I do hope that they offer at least some inspiration to you if you do find it difficult to calm down after a panic attack, or if you quite simply are looking for some tips on how to unwind after a stressful day!
1. Spend some time with and by yourself. I don't know about anyone else, but I can get quite aggressive if people are near me when I'm having a panic attack or seriously stressed. Just get AWAY from me! Although, even if I were stood at the centre of a field, I think it would probably still prove too isolating; so I always like to go to my room/the loo if I'm out and about, close the door, and take some deep breaths to be in a secure place, with and by myself. No, a public loo isn't the most glamorous place to seek some sanctuary, but at least you can get yourself some much-needed privacy!
2. Figure out the cause. I really hate it when people tell me to leave what just happened behind me, and try to make the rest of the day the best it can be. I'm physically drained, usually in quite a bit of discomfort too seeing as all my muscles just tensed up like a drug dealer's at an airport, and most importantly I'm now more often than not feeling mentally exhausted and pretty upset. I personally find that it helps me a great deal to think back to before it happened, to try and figure out what it was that possibly could have set me off. Usually the cause can be quite obvious, but going back and thinking and visualising it can sometimes prove empowering, and make you feel as though you're in a lot more control now. It did affect you quite severely, but not any more. Recognise that.
3. Congratulate yourself. Yes, odd, I know. But hey! 10 minutes ago you thought you were going to die and get swallowed up by the pavement beneath you, and now you're on the other side. You got through it - and that takes strength and determination. Recognise that, and use it to remind yourself that actually? you don't need to be mega scared that one may happen again, because if you got through it this time, you most definitely will get through it next time.
4. Have a shower, and change into something more comfortable. One of the first productive things I like to do after having a panic attack is to have a shower, and change into something more comfortable (usually something more lose fitting and soft). You're probably feeling sweaty, gross, and still a little trapped beneath the layers of material society forces you to wrap yourself in on a daily basis - so strip that sh** off! Obviously, I wouldn't advice that you do this in public, but if there is anyway you could get home then I'd really recommend it. Having a luke-warm shower can help you feel refreshed, cleaner, and help your muscles to relax a little. Most people can only access a shower in their home too, which will help reaffirm that you're now back in a safe, familiar environment, even if you're still feeling a little on-edge. Change into something you feel comfortable in, and something that you can easily move your body around in and not feel at all trapped or confined wearing.
5. Eat something, drink some water, sit down and read a book or watch some tv. Panic attacks can draw a hell of a lot of energy out of me, usually leaving me feeling so drained and not up for the rest of the day. I like to eat something refreshing like an orange or some watermelon, and drink lots of cold water to help revitalise my senses, my mood and my energy levels. I also like to take this opportunity to distract myself a little by picking up that book I've been meaning to read, or watching a film I haven't seen in a while. I do this to help to remind myself that this is 'me time' now, and I need to start putting my needs and wants at this current moment first, over anything else that I have to do that day. Clearly, a fun and happy film/book is a top choice, as you're probably needing something, anything to lift your mood and remind you that the world is in fact an all right place. I know if I don't, and rather go to bed, I just end up feeling a whole lot worse about the situation because it's almost as though I've let my panic attack win and get the better of me. No. I'm the one in control now, not you.
6. Light a candle, dim the lights, and have a bath. The reason why I don't jump into the bath straight after a panic attack, favouring a shower instead is that it can take me quite a while to wind down to normal speed, and be able to lay still for a prolonged amount of time. Panic attacks give you a huge adrenalin rush, and even though you can feel utterly drained directly after, you're still on edge, and still feeling tense and uncomfortable so I'd never recommend doing something which forcibly makes you lay still in a confined space directly afterwards. I prefer to rather get some food in my belly, do something else to distract my mind, yet keep doing something productive before I even think about getting in the bath. I find that waiting till before I go to bed gives me enough time to work at my own pace, so that when I do get in the bath, I'm ready to chill and hopefully unwind so that I can get a good nights sleep ahead.
7. Make your sleeping environment as comfortable as it can be. Yes, our bed tends to be the most comfy place we all know and love, and can always rely on after we've had a poopy day, but there are ways you can help yourself further relax and most importantly - feel comfortable - as you try to get to sleep. Put some fresh sheets on, plump up your cushions and/or pillows, shake your duvet, and perhaps throw in a fluffy blanket to snuggle up next to. This will all help you feel more safe and confident that you're not going to have another panic attack today, (or, at least, nothing should occur in order to cause one), and prepares you for the deep sleep your body is now begging for after the ordeal it went through earlier on in the day.
& there you have it! As I say, these are just some of the things I find almost fundamental to do after I've have a panic attack in order to unwind and start feeling a little more like myself again. I'm not claiming that everyone who has panic attacks should or ought to follow the above tips, as everyone's different, and what might work for me may not for you. That's ok! I just wanted to share a few of my ideas in case perhaps someone reading this is looking for some inspiration, and hadn't perhaps thought about it in such depth before.
- Hannah x