Where We Are Now – First Thing To Remember
The first thing to do is to be kind to yourself and acknowledge that this situation is not normal. Most of us have never experienced anything like this in our lifetime. Not only are we in an unprecedented situation, we are also in a place where the world has turned upside down in a matter of days. The fact that this has all happened so quickly has left us feeling scared, unsure and vulnerable. We are in shock although we may be too busy trying to handle things to realise it yet.
As type A women and mothers in business we have been raised to “get things done”, we will “handle it”, get the Plan B’s in place, get everything working as best we can.
The problem is even with the best mental stamina and planning in the world you cannot plan for your body’s own inherent knowing and by extension reaction. Equally, you cannot control it.
In my case all public buildings, schools and creches were closed down on Thursday. I spent Thursday evening like everyone else stockpiling food and checking on loved ones and Friday lunch hour stockpiling meds. For various reasons my work place did not close down until Friday evening, I am a lawyer and so spent a surreal day teleconning with other lawyers who were already working from home often from the same kitchen table where they were trying to home school their kids as we tried to prepare for court appearances we were waiting to be cancelled.
With all the bravado and the light hearted banter on at least three occasions yesterday I could not breathe. I would sit at my desk and literally could not breathe and could not remember where I was and what I had been doing. It was like my brain was melting and I couldn’t get a grip. When I would come back to normal I would be quietly tearful, not just out of fear but because I was angry at myself at not being able to handle the situation better.
I would look at my friends who were self-confessed neurotics and would go into week long melt downs about arguments over opening windows in the office or the latest gossip or why the maintenance man kept the office temperatures so high. Suddenly they were all zen and calm – as one of them put it, I’m not good with day to day dramas but I come into my own in a crisis. And they were right. For the rest of us though it appears that we just have to accept there are some things we cannot fix with a check list and this situation is one of them.
Panic Attacks – What Are They
A panic attack is a feeling of sudden and intense anxiety. Symptoms can include feeling disorientated, sick, an erratic heartbeat, breathlessness, sweating, dizziness and dry mouth.
How To Handle A Panic Attack
There are two things to remember straight off the bat:
- Panic attacks can be very scary but they are not life threatening. You may feel like you are having a heart attack or that you are going to collapse. You are not, you won’t, you will be fine.
- Panic attacks pass relatively quickly – although it may feel like a lifetime at the time, they usually last from 5 minutes to half an hour.
If and when it happens sit with it. Find somewhere quiet if you can and just sit with it. Just give yourself time to let the anxiety pass. Know that it will pass.
Carry out the breathing exercise below. This is particularly helpful if you are frightened because you feel like you can’t breathe.
Panic Attack Breathing Exercise
- Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
- Breathe in as slowly through your nose as deeply and gently as you can, through your nose. If it helps count to 6 on the in breath.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth as deeply and gently as you can. If it helps count to 6 on the out breath.
- Continue concentrating on your breath as set out above until the panic subsides.
How To Prevent Panic Attacks
- Try and incorporate some breathing exercises or pranayama every day – just look on You Tube and find a pranayama meditation that works for you. There are many short and sweet versions that you can incorporate into your day. Find a favourite and make it part of your daily routine.
- Even if you are working from home, perhaps having to home school or child mind and therefore away from a regular lunch routine, try to eat regular, nourishing meals to stabilise your blood sugar levels. Even a hearty soup at lunch time will help.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking if at all possible. Have your daily coffee / tea if that’s your thing but after that try swapping out your caffeinated teas and coffees for herbal teas. Sipping chamomile throughout the day or your herbal tea of choice can be soothing. Teas like ginger and lemon can also be great for cold/flu busting.
- Keep some lavender essential within easy reach – even smelling it when you are feeling panicked will help you calm down. Sweet orange is also amazing when you are feeling angry or frustrated, it is the ultimate uplifting oil.
- Even if you cannot carve out a lot of time for meditation, at least try and get a little time each day for yourself just in total silence and stillness. Not easy with children home from school and partners also home working, however even if you have to disappear to the laundry room for a few minutes peace, it will make all the difference. Also try a mantra, even “this too shall pass” or whatever works for you. You can find soothing meditations that are less than 10 minutes and calming mantras on You Tube. Try to make this time for yourself a non-negotiable part of your daily routine.
- Remember it is ok to be upset, it is ok to be tearful, it is ok to be angry, it is ok to be scared. If you need to cry, cry. This is not a war, we are not in this situation indefinitely, while the present circumstances may be prolonged we know there is a finish line. If nothing else when things do return to normality we will certainly appreciate our lives more and have a better idea of what is important.