Rising Waters

When I experience anxiety attacks, it feels like claustrophobia. My breathing becomes rapid and shallow and I feel like the walls are closing in.  The other analogy is that the water is rising and I’m struggling to keep my head above the water.  I don’t experience panic and anxiety like this as a general part of my life, unlike others.  I do experience it a lot when I’m stressed and overwhelmed.  Which is why these attacks have become a nearly daily experience in the recent weeks.  I’m unemployed.  I have three other people dependent on my ability to earn.  I worry about health insurance and the mortgage and feel bad that we weren’t able to get the eldest a cheap car to drive to college classes that will start soon. Though this load is not mine alone to carry – I have a partner – I have been the sole earner for over 8 years now.  My partner is anxious about getting a job after so long away from the workforce.  We are both watching spending like hawks.

Among other things racing through my head in moments of panic are thoughts about my value as a partner and parent when I can’t do the one thing I’ve taken responsibility for all these years.  I worry about something big happening, something expensive.  I worry about a lot of things and I know my wife worries and I know we aren’t expressing all of the worry we have to each other.

Someone said, “Hey, since you have time, you can do a lot of writing!”  It was meant to be helpful and hopeful, an optimistic take on my current situation.  And of course, I would love to take advantage of the hours I have now that I will surely be wishing for once I get back to the daily work grind.  The problem is, it’s not that easy.  I have plenty of projects to work on and plenty of incentive to do the work.  I have great ideas and great characters.  I also have stress and anxiety dogging my every step.  It’s hard to focus on creative projects when a growing chorus of voices in my head are nagging me about the job search. I want to escape into my writing and creating but those nagging voices follow me like a mother nagging the kids about their homework.

Yesterday, after yet another anxiety attack, I decided that having plans and tangible goals would be a good thing and help combat the sense of flailing and drifting I’ve had lately.  Today, I’m going to record my Patreon video and a reading of the story ‘Firm’ which will get me to the point where I can launch my Patreon page. I’m hoping that by giving myself assignments that are attainable, it will help me combat the feeling of helplessness I have with regard to all the unknowns and lack of power I have over my employment situation.

Back to anxiety attacks for the moment.  This is what I am doing to help get through them and come out the other side:

Belly breathing – taking deep slow breaths that inflate my belly; inhaling through my nose and exhaling through my mouth.  This helps ground me in my body and interrupts the panic response of shallow breathing which can in turn lead to more panic.

Taking walks – even if it’s just out to my yard, getting up and moving helps to interrupt the negative talk and gives me the opportunity to introduce positive thoughts and images.  Standing up and stretching are also helpful.

Drinking water/combating dehydration – though I haven’t cut back on my caffeine intake via coffee, I’ve upped my water intake and dropped my alcohol intake.

What do you do to combat or get through anxiety and panic attacks?  Do you mind sharing?

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