Have you ever experienced an anxiety attack? If not, it feels like you’re going to die. And I’m not being dramatic. Ten years ago, I suffered from anxiety. I popped Valium, drank endless cups of chamomile tea, I tried everything but nothing seemed to cure it.
The monster would creep up on me at the most unsuspecting times — usually when I was out with friends or in public. Noises would become louder and so irritating, little things would start to annoy me. My palms would become sweaty, my heart would race, my chest would burn, breathing became a chore, and my body would continually shake like a leaf. I’d get all hot and sweaty and no matter how much I tried to stop thinking about it, it felt as if my whole body was literally going to explode or something terrible was about to happen to me. There was nothing I could do until it eventually consumed me. I would either pass out from not breathing properly or ride its wave for the next hour, huddled over in a corner or on someone’s lounge literally picking the clothes off my body because they were irritating my skin.
“PANIC ATTACKS ARE SURPRISINGLY COMMON. UP TO 40 PER CENT OF THE POPULATION WILL EXPERIENCE A PANIC ATTACK AT SOME TIME IN THEIR LIFE,” STATES BEYOND BLUE.
It wasn’t until my employer at the time sent me to see a counselor that I started to get it sorted. I’d been having way too many sick days and honestly, I think they were fed up with it. Nevertheless, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. It turned out, it was all linked to my thinking and my diet.
I’ll admit, I myself considered my diet as more on the sugary side. But who doesn’t have a sweet tooth? Since I was a large consumer of healthy salads and fruits, along with chocolate, lollies and many double shot coffees, I didn’t know my diet could have such an impact on my health. My sugar and caffeine levels were spiking, which not only caused my body to react, but this reaction was what was causing my anxiety attacks.
In the Australian Psychological Society’s Stress & Wellbeing Survey 2015, ‘personal financial issues’, ‘health issues’, and ‘family issues’ were the top causes of stress for Australians. Interestingly, since 2012 when it was introduced as an item, the fourth most common cause of stress has been ‘issues relating to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.’
So how did I find relief from my anxiety? Green apples and breathing techniques.
For therapy, my counselor made me eat one whole green apple before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That’s a lot of apples I know, but it worked believe it or not! His theory was that it would stop my sugar cravings—which led to a reduced about of anxiety spikes during the day.
Secondly, he introduced me to a breathing technique that I now know as the yogic Ujjayi breath. When I felt an attack coming on, I was to immediately find somewhere quiet, close my eyes and focus on inhaling for seven seconds through my nose and throat, and exhaling for seven seconds the same way. Whilst I was focusing on this type of breath work I imagined that I was floating in a warm crystal blue ocean with white sands, just looking up at the sky. I tried to feel the water sensations on my skin and the sun rays dancing on my face. Sometimes the anxiety monster would fight to come through to my ocean thoughts, but I’d shut him out as much as I could. Eventually, my breathing would slow down, my senses would come back and my shaking would stop.
This new technique went on for a few months. I’ll admit it was hard at first to not give in to anxiety when it tried to crash down my door, but when it entered, the only thought I was, “what’s the worst thing that could happen to me if it consumed me again? I’m not going to die, yeah I might feel like crap but I’m not going to die.”
Now ten years on, I’ve encountered only one anxiety attack. When I consider where I was to where I am now, I’m so thankful I sought help for something I was so embarrassed to have. I took pills to try and mask the problem, but it was getting to the root of it where I found the answer. If you’re suffering, don’t blanket anxiety with pills, why not try looking into yourself to fix it.