Riding the Wave: How to Manage Acute Anxiety
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?