I had my first panic attack when I was seventeen years old at a concert. Soon after, I started getting more intense and frequent panic attacks towards the end of high school and in college. It go so bad at one point I didn’t want to leave the house.

Basically, when we are in full-blown panic mode, our sympathetic nervous system is activated- digestion slows down and your heart rate and blood pressure increase. I saw several psychologists on/off for years, up until several years ago. I can comfortably say that I did not necessarily “grow out” of panic attacks, but  I just developed strategies to deal with them and have been working on shifting my mindset. I am still susceptible to a panic attack of course- however, they are far and few now due to several techniques I’ve been implementing over the years that have turned sheer overwhelm to more of a “You got it!” attitude. Here’s how I do it:

Practice mindfulness

I sit down for 10 minutes every morning before my day starts and I close my eyes. I don’t try to stop thinking, I just aim to be aware of all the sounds around me, how my body is positioned in the chair, my breathing. I will count my breathes and draw my focus inwards. I use the Headspace app for a guided and short meditation. I find that this has added tremendous value in my life. Instead of reacting to everything that happens to me, I take some time to set my day off right, take some deep breaths,  and soothe not only my brain but my soul.

Practice gratitude

Along with my guided meditations, I take time afterward for an extra few minutes to think about all that I’m grateful for. I’ve added this at the end of my meditation everyday because I feel like all too often, we get caught up in wishing/wanting for things to be different in our lives. I truly feel that I am much happier and fulfilled when I do take the time to realize all that I’m thankful for and I stop thinking so much about what I don’t have yet.

Take a break

Take a walk, go to a private place and take some deep breaths- remove yourself from the stressful situation if you can.  There is evidence to suggest even taking a quick walk outside can boost your emotional, physical, and mental state.  Getting that new perspective even just from a walk can do wonders. You’ll likely find that you can accomplish more in less time and with less frustration once you’ve allowed yourself a break.

Make a plan

I find that I can go to sleep much better if I write down everything I need to do in my planner before I go to bed. Having this piece of mind  does so much for me because I take everything out of my head and put it onto paper, where it can no longer bother me during sleep. I have also realized planning too much in advance for certain things increases my anxiety, so I take it one day at a time for the little stuff. For the major stuff, it’s necessary to plan things out as needed.

Change your mindset

Going from drowning and panic mode to a mode of empowerment and a “I got this” attitude while implementing the tools I mentioned above is so powerful. I find myself in small bouts of overwhelm everyday (I’m not immune to it!) but I can definitely say I can handle it much better. These simple strategies will help you calm the physical and mental responses you have to overwhelm so you can turn overwhelm into opportunity.

xx, Erika

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