Anxiety symptoms differ from person to person, but may include a racing mind, a pounding heart, dizziness, an all-over feeling of "being just not right" and what one friend describes as a "jitteriness." Maybe it's because we live in an era where we're totally connected 24/7 via our cell phones and the Internet and it's hard to disconnect from the overall zaniness of life. Maybe it's because as women we're trying to fit a mold society expects of us (dream careers, dream husband, dream kids) while also trying to remain true to ourselves. In any case, anxiety attacks can be scary.
To calm myself down, I use a method I learned from a renowned therapist a few years ago. It really works to sloooooooooooooow my thoughts, my heart and my breathing:
- First, come up with what the therapist refers to as "a safe place." This is where you will go within your mind (I know it sounds hokey, and a bit New Age-y but bear with me). It should be an actual place you've been that you associate with calmness and peacefulness.
It may be you lying on a beach as the surf rolls in and out, or it could be you bundled up in a blanket on a deck overlooking a mountain range. For me, my safe place is scene I actually witnessed years ago -- poolside at the fitness spa Rancho La Puerta, wrapped in a towel and lying in a chair as a woman does laps in the pool.
- Sit upright in a chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground, hands palms down, one on each leg.
- Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths.
- Go to your "safe place" in your head. Imagine you are physically there. Feel as your body relaxes.
- Pat your thighs with your hands in a rhythmic way as if you were the percussive section of an orchestra and it's up to you to keep the beat. You want to do 20 pats. (I know this also sounds hokey, but the rhythm is important for regulating your breaths, your thoughts and your hearbeat).
- Take a couple more deep breaths. Slowly open your eyes.
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