If There is One Thing I Know a Lot About, It Is Anxiety.
I have a pretty extensive family history of anxiety and depression. I have been fortunate enough not to suffer too much from depression myself, however, anxiety is another story. I have had a lifelong phobic anxiety disorder (emetophobia) which revolves around germs, so I am very familiar with dealing with anxiety on a daily basis for myself. To add to my experiences with anxiety, my autistic son suffers from the beast better known as Panic Disorder. And what a monster that is. If you want to know more about those anxiety disorders, feel free to click the link and learn more. I am not here to teach about those today, only to let you know that I am very familiar with anxiety.
The Wacky Inflatable Dude
I picture my anxiety like one of those wacky giant inflatable guys you see in front of car dealerships. Always moving around like crazy, in your face, waving his hands at you. I hate that they never stop, just like it seems sometimes anxiety will never quit. I just want to unplug those things or better yet pop them so they can never wave at me again. Well, at least that's the way I think of them in terms of my anxiety. And, rest assured, I would never really pop someone's wacky inflatable dude. It is just an analogy.
The Way We Deal
Each person has their own ways of dealing with anxiety. One really common (not-so-healthy) method of coping is avoidance. This is my field of expertise right here. If there is one thing I do well, it is avoiding situations that exasperate my anxiety. This likely just reinforces unhealthy thoughts and attitudes about my anxiety. There are many other more effective coping mechanisms we can use ourselves or to help our children deal with anxiety and panic attacks in a healthy manner. Here are a few:
Implement grounding techniques
Limit alcohol and caffeine
Take a break
Yoga, art, and other relaxing activities
Get sufficient sleep
Talk to a professional and possibly explore anti-anxiety medications with their help
And The Winner Is...
These are all very effective strategies for lessening the intensity of anxiety and panic attacks. However, for me and my son, the best thing I have learned is to remember that intense feelings of anxiety are only temporary. This can seem like an impossible task at times. When someone is in the thick of an anxiety or panic attack it absolutely feels neverending. But reminding ourselves and especially our children that honestly... this will feel better at some point is such a valuable tool. Sure these feelings may come back someday, but if and when they do, again, they will only be temporary. Being able to tap into the logical side of our brains even for just a second to realize this truth can make all the difference in overcoming the overwhelming feelings of anxiety. It can also make all the difference in the way we parent our children and help them cope.