Riding the Wave: How to Manage Acute Anxiety

Mags - October 8, 2014

Abs and I often tell other anxiety sisters that it is important not to fight their anxiety — especially during a panic attack.  We use the analogy of being pulled out by a riptide in the ocean. Any experienced swimmer will tell you to swim with the current rather against it toward the shore. Here’s why: no matter how strong you are, the current is going to be stronger. Fighting it will only deplete your energy and pull you further out to sea. Likewise, during an anxiety attack, it’s important not to try to fight the panic, but rather “swim with it” until it releases you and allows you to go back to shore. Which it will. It doesn’t seem like it during the throes, but it always eventually lets you go.

So what exactly does “swim with it” entail? It means figuring out ahead of time things to do to help you get through the episode. Yes, we believe in planning for panic. We recommend TLC (talk to yourself, loosen constraints, cool down), but, you can use any method that works for you. You can check out our Soother of the Month section for ideas (and please share them with us so other sisters can benefit).

Several anxiety sisters have commented that not fighting anxiety is easier said than done. No doubt! Anyone who has suffered through an anxiety attack knows how awful that experience is—the symptoms are so overpowering and frightening they often feel life threatening. It makes sense that, in that circumstance, we are desperate to get relief. One anxiety sister put it nicely: “when the panic is bad, I would give up my savings, my children, even my limbs to stop it.” But here’s the thing to remember: fighting panic makes it stronger.

At one time, I too used to try to stop my anxiety attacks and found that they only became more entrenched. I didn’t want to accept that there was nothing I could do to stop the physical symptoms, but, when I had tried everything else, I had no choice but to trust that the attacks come and go in their own time. I realized I couldn’t stop the dizziness and nausea (by trying I would only make it worse), but I could go for a walk and talk myself through it. I didn’t really buy that talking to myself could help, but I was desperate enough to try it. Saying “I am okay” over and over did make a difference. In fact, after a few walk-and-talks, I started experiencing shorter and more tolerable attacks.

Has anyone else tried letting go and accepting the panic rather than trying to cut it off?

 

6 thoughts on “Riding the Wave: How to Manage Acute Anxiety

  1. I am new to all of this. Trying to understand why I am now experiencing panic attacks. I had never experienced them before. But for the last 2 years they have gotten a lot worse. So bad that I lost my job of 4 years, my home and hope.

    Thank you for sharing your advice and experiences.

    1. There are so many causes of acute anxiety, it may be hard to pinpoint exactly why your panic suddenly showed up. Often hormones are the culprit with sudden onset–puberty, pregnancy and menopause are 3 common times for anxiety to develop. But there are so many possibilities. As long as you have ruled out physical illness, we wouldn’t worry too much about the “why” and focus instead on how to manage. We have lots of information on this in our blogs, soothers, ask the anxiety sisters, and resources sections of our website. Our latest podcast (episode 4) is all about how to manage panic attacks. (It too is on our website and on iTunes.) If you have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to ask…

      We know how scary panic attacks are–we’ve had hundreds of them and they have all sucked. But please know you are not alone. With your permission, we’d like to send you our ebook as a gift. Let us know if that is ok.

      Your willingness to share your experience with us shows that you have not lost your hope.

      Please stay in touch,
      Abs & Mags

    2. I learned to do just that, ride the wave after I attempted everything else I could. I thought I was dying at one point about 10’years ago when I first started experiencing panic attacks. I believe mine were brought on after the traumatic childbirth of my daughter. I do “coach” myself through attacks, go to my room and lay down with relaxing music in the background, or walk around the house. I want to just share also that the main way I learned to cope with my anxiety is by becoming informed. I read books and articles on anxiety and panic attacks. Once I knew that all my symptoms were “normal” for anxiety sufferers it was so much easier to coach myself through it and go with the flow until it was gone. I strongly recommend the book Anxiety for Dummies. That was my lifesaver! I don’t take medication. I have learned to manage my anxiety by listening to my body and follow the advice.

      1. Thanks Jackie,
        Your advice is really awesome. We love the idea of coaching yourself through an attack….we are firm believers in talking to yourself and soothing yourself (music is a great soother). Please keep sharing your management techniques.
        Mags and Abs

  2. I always tell myself over and over its gonna be ok .it’s really hard some times . And i have my anxiety a name and tell it to go away. Get out of here and i use the breathing too

    1. Loretta–
      You are using great techniques! Naming anxiety is a wonderful strategy–we have a cartoonist who drew “Panic” for us so we can visualize it when we tell it to get lost!

      Thank you for sharing,
      Abs & Mags

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