woman holding her head

Yikes! Am I Having An Anxiety Attack?! Learn How To Stop It In Minutes

It’s November, 2020 and with the highly intensified US election results looming, I’m hearing the big box stores are jam packed, toilet paper is flying off the shelves and people are once again hoarding… prepping… hoardng… whatever…

Well, when this happened in March, something very unusual and unexpected happened to me… I had a couple of minor anxiety or panic attacks.

I keep noticing others mentioning feeling so anxious and stressed for various reasons related to the election, covid, shutdowns and everything going on in 2020. So I decided to get really personal with you in my message this week, share my story and offer some of the ways I find relief.

While most people are saying 2020 is the worst year ever, my family and I had some pretty sad stuff to deal with in 2019.. In other ways, 2019 was also amazing. Such a dichotemy!

I had manifested a part-time job with an ideal schedule… three 10’s mid-week… giving me time for weekend trips, family and my business. I was able to meet up with my niece and great nephew (he’s three now, so frickin’ adorable) several times throughout the year… mostly summer camping trips, which I love. I did brave the snow once.. which I totally don’t just do for just anyone… even though I’m from Wisconsin, I don’t do snow! Mother Nature must have gotten the memo because she went easy on me. The weather was pretty nice for February in Park City, UT.

That’s a big part of the good.

Now for the sad. Near the end of 2018, I found out my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. My dad was in Vietnam when I was born, so while it’s not official in his specific circumstances, I believe agent orange is responsible and so did he. Not long before his cancer diagnosis, he had been battling PTSD. He once told me he wouldn’t wish that on his worst enemy.

I saw my dad three times that last year. The first time, he came to Vegas one last time. The second time, I went to see him in Wisconsin and the crazy thing… I wound up in the hospital for the first time since I was born (funny, since I was visiting my hometown, it was actually the hospital I was born in). Anyway, he’s getting chemo and visiting ME in the hospital… ironic, right.

Well, the details of the hospital visit are another story. They couldn’t quite figure out what was going on and I felt like I was in a real life episode of House. Spoiler, I’m fine now… at least we think so.

More sadness… My family also experienced several deaths, including my grandmother and her sister, who had lived good long lives. Others were taken before their time, including my dad… Fortunately I was able to be with him as he took his last breath. That was the third time I saw him that year.

Losing a parent is the deepest sadness I have ever known, up to this point in my life. It feels like there’s a hole in the world where that person was and has forever changed the world as I know it. I have the deepest sympathy for anyone who lost someone and was not able to be there with them. Not everyone wants to be there, however I could not imagine if I wasn’t.

Shortly after I returned I found out my job with the sweet schedule was basically going away. That’s ok, another opportunity was already on the table.

Fast forward a bit…

January / February, we were seeing YouTube videos from China… There’s a new virus spreading like crazy in China. Their government is locking them down, welding people into their homes. Some of the Chinese people were coming on the videos saying, ‘help us, they’re snatching people off the streets… someone next to me in the hospital was put into a body bag and they weren’t even dead.’ These videos were supposedly Chinese people saying this is happening right now, that they were risking everything to put this video out there so the world knows. In hindsight, who knows, was it real, was it not real. At the time, it was pretty freaky. I know China doesn’t have human rights like we do in America and other countries. The government could be doing anything.

I’ve always been someone who questions the meaning of life, with existential thinking, where did we come from, what’s our purpose? That had kind of been escalating for many, many months, probably over a year. Sometimes I would get this underlying sense of dread. Granted, my guy watches lost of news and some of the dark conspiracy theory type stuff… I listen to alternative news, maybe some people would consider fringe to get a more broad perspective on what’s going on in the world.

By the way, conspiracy theory doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean it’s all false. Sure, some of the stuff is pretty far fetched and very unlikely. Then there’s other stuff that decades ago was conspiracy theory and now it’s just common knowledge because at least parts of it were real. I’m sure having any news on constantly would contribute to a sense of dread.

Anyway, the President wanted to shut down travel from China. I’m like yes, yes, lock it down and don’t let that deadly virus into our country. It sounds horrible, like it could wipe us all out.

We all know what happened after that. They locked stuff down somewhat, evacuated US citizens from China and trusted them to quarantine on the honor system, which to me, for a deadly virus, is pretty ridiculous… and obviously went wrong somewhere because we ended up with cases here too.

Other countries started locking down.

People started hoarding toilet paper and water… Why not food? Weird.

Oh wait, maybe they were…

One day I was at a big box store and thought I’d pick up one of those big bags of rice and one of dried beans, just so we have some kind of emergency food. We already had a couple weeks worth of water in case water got turned off. I also have a great “prepper” water filter (Big Berkey gravity fed), so as long as there’s a water source I can make it drinkable.

Toilet paper! I was like, why are people hoarding toilet paper? That doesn’t make any sense.

I’ll be honest, I did get a little freaked out when I saw how empty the shelves were because it surprised me. I also witnessed people running with their carts and mobbing the employee bringing out bottled water to restock.

I got out of there and went to a smaller store. They were pretty much stocked normally.

I figured if people were going to be buying everything up in a frenzy it would be a good idea to stock up a little extra.

The situation seemed to be escalating, with a ton of uncertainty. And one day, it got to me.

I was doing my best to work out a plan. At this point, we weren’t sure if things were going to shut down, if travel (even within town) would be restricted, if military would be in the streets keeping us from coming out of our homes… Would we have communications? Would there be violence or break-ins by those who weren’t prepared? So many questions!

We lived in the middle of the city and my parents live more near the outskirts. I thought it might be safer to go stay there if something happens. I’d also prefer us all to be together in case we weren’t able to communicate. On top of that, my SO was out of town frequently. So I was going back and forth about how to pack all our supplies up, how to have it stored in a way that if we needed to just grab stuff fast, we would be able to get what we need. Should I go to my parent’s now? What if I wait too long and am not able to get there?

I’m contemplating all these different variables and starting to feel quite overwhelmed. I was standing in my kitchen, with the food pantry closet open, food all around me, with a variety of bags and boxes, trying to figure out the best way to pack things up for every possible situation…

All these thoughts and questions swirling through my head, I felt a rush of dread and panic, I started feeling like my head was spinning, with a weird tunnel vision kind of fog and my breathing got weird, like I was hyperventilating or drowning, I’m not even sure.

I’ve never felt that way and I suddenly thought, Am I having a panic attack? I think I might be. I stopped and took a couple slow deep breaths and started to clear my thoughts.

Fortunately, I’ve done lots of meditation and know some tools to use. I cleared my head of all these thoughts rushing at me and was able to calm myself down pretty quickly, considering.

I wanted to share this story because I’m sure others are experiencing similar feelings, especially if you’re prone to it under normal circumstances. I’ve noticed many people expressing how anxious they are feeling with all the uncertainty.

Several years ago, I was teaching stress management workshops and I realize so many of the tools I use are helpful with stopping and preventing these feelings, so I want to share them. I’m also a researcher.. Here are a few tips I’ve found to stop an anxiety attack in it’s tracks.

  • Pretty much any breathing technique.
  • Close your eyes, especially if there is a lot of visual stimuli in your environment.
  • Recall a peaceful memory and immerse your thoughts in the details.
  • Focus on something in your environment, with tunnel vision and notice every detail you can.
  • Practice a relaxation technique.

BONUS: Here’s a quick Q/A you might be wondering about… I was.

What’s the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack?

This is likely an oversimplification, however here’s what I found. Apparently, psychology considers anxiety ongoing and panic acute (or for a short period).

If you are experiencing any kind of anxiety or stress or feeling down and out or you want to be proactive and help prevent feeling this way, join our free community (Wild Savvy Self Love Squad). There are also a few exercises in the group you can use right away. When you request to join, you will be asked a couple questions and once you answer them, you’ll get right in.