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Over the course of nearly two decades, I have tried a handful of prescriptions including Xanax for immediate relief of my panic attacks. I ordered a DVD/CD program on how to overcome panic. I’ve seen four counselors. I downloaded the most tranquil of meditation apps to my phone. I experimented with my diet, starting exercising, have taken supplements, and locked myself away becoming midline agoraphobic. I have cried, screamed, and trembled.
Figuring Out What Works
I began to notice certain methods took the edge off, some more than others. It didn’t take me long to learn that I’m a lightweight when it comes to medicine. If there was a side effect than I would have it. At the time my anxiety started, I was trying to navigate motherhood for the first time with a toddler. I wasn’t at liberty to stay in bed all day waiting for the side effects to pass.
One particular prescription I took for a few months made me extremely aggressive and agitated. Lots of them added to the disorienting feeling of my anxiety. Most SSRI’s made me tired or lose my personality completely. After a couple of years of that, I was done being a walking human experiment.
I’ve learned that anxiety treatment is not a one size fits all solution. I am not the norm. While I’m surrounded by friends and family that have no issues taking prescriptions to ease their anxiety symptoms, I’m the odd man out here just white-knuckling it.
Why I White Knuckle It
Anxiety medication is not right for everyone. Some, most, find one that works and are fine with it. Over the years I’ve found that my body is super sensitive to medication of any kind. I can’t take Benadryl, or any pain pill ending in “cet”, along with a whole plethora of other medications.
Is it all in my head? Well, I personally don’t think so. It is easy for others to think that. After all, anxiety is extremely irrational! It seems impossible for people who don’t have panic attacks to understand. I definitely recognize changes to my body very easily. Critics call it hypochondria, I like to call it being in tune with my body. My counselors like to call it hypervigilance.
Doing What Works For Me
But luckily, being sensitive to medication has a plus side too. I’ve found that I’m sensitive to other methods as well. I have come to learn simple techniques to manage my anxiety.
Through exercise, prayer, keeping my sugar balanced, quiet time, and… saying NO (more on that in a minute) have made a huge difference for me.
Not handling prescription medication very well, I have made it a priority to get to know the roots of my anxiety and take control over it. After 15 years of anxiety, you learn the ins and outs of it. What makes it worse, plus what you have survived through, gives you leverage over panic attacks in the future.
Being dependent on anxiety medication gave me anxiety. Like an anchor that I would have to stay chained to the rest of my life to be able to cope in this world. It made me feel even more out of control.
To me, it was the equivalent to sticking a band-aid on it and calling it a day. For those that do benefit from taking meds don’t take this the wrong way. If they work for your anxiety, then you should most certainly do that.
Everyone GETS to decide for themselves what they can or can’t do and how they want to manage it. We all have choices and have to do what is right for ourselves. Recognizing my limitations and needs as well as lots of counseling has allowed me to be able to overcome a great deal of it.
Understand What Anxiety Is
Anxiety manifests because there was or is something in our lives that has not been dealt with. There are patterns that need to be broken. Trauma that needs to be healed. Support from the outside needs to be obtained. When I realized that I did many things I wasn’t comfortable with, it was a game-changer.
As a person that does not like to make waves, I tried to do things that I thought everyone else was doing. Then I would heavily ostracize myself when I didn’t enjoy it. I put a ton of pressure on myself all the time. I didn’t know how to heal from my past or where to go from that point. Worst of all I felt I had no support. I didn’t know where to find any and felt I was on my own.
Finding Your Voice
As cliché as it sounds, you have to embrace your individuality. Once I started living a life that worked for me, I saw the panic slowly release its grip on me. I said NO to things I didn’t want to do like not engaging in huge social activities because that’s not an environment I thrive in. Then also saying NO to the things I didn’t want in my body.
I wanted to go all-natural and get to know what the original me felt like. I stopped smoking, never really drank, quit any and all stimulants, got off all my medication, and filled myself with good stuff.
My Proven Methods
Exercising released a lot of good endorphins. I got to the point that I could drastically notice a difference in my mood before and after a workout.
I know it seems like common sense, but what you eat plays a huge role in how you feel. For me, balancing my blood sugar with whole foods made a tremendous difference.
The Bible, and its persistence in the phrases “do not worry, be anxious for nothing, trust God” were starting to soak in. Quiet time alone to meditate, pray, or listen to soothing music were lifesavers for many panic episodes. Of course, counseling for healing, trauma, and changing the way I think was vital to my healing.
All of this was new territory for me. There was no one in my family that did any of these things. Maybe because they didn’t need to. Maybe they didn’t know how to break old habits and invest in being mentally healthy. As I walked uncharted land, I had no examples of anyone to follow. I had to lay the groundwork, and honestly, it was making me stronger.
Just Stop Fighting It and Know You’re Not Alone
One of the best ways to know if your anxiety is leading your thinking is how your viewpoint changes. My viewpoint can vary like night and day depending on if my mind is ridiculed with panic.
When your anxiety is activated EVERYTHING seems terrifying, hard, and unattainable.
When you have a day with zero anxiety, you’ll notice that you feel much more capable of taking on the exact same tasks or situations that were overwhelming you before.
So, stop and check yourself on that. Know your triggers. Not so that you can avoid them completely but so you can acknowledge why you may feel uncomfortable. “I feel uncomfortable because this is something that I don’t like to do, I feel out of control, etc.” You can remind yourself that once you get through the said triggering event that you will feel better but also stronger.
What I’ve Learned
I’m here to tell you, it is completely possible to manage anxiety without medication. I know the world and the doctors tell you that this is a one-way street, but it’s really not!
When your brain is telling you to flee and you are doing everything in your power to avoid a full-blown panic attack, it is making it worse. Instead of fleeing, grab it by the hand, and embrace it (give it a blanket and a hug). Investigate what is making you anxious, and give it the attention that it demands. Doing this will prevent it from ruling over you during the next encounter.
It is a continuous process every single day living with anxiety. I’ve stated before that sometimes it seems it is in remission. There will be dry spells, sometimes for years. For instance, when life is going smooth and your body is more nutritionally balanced than other times when you feel mentally stronger, you’ll feel like anxiety is a thing of the past. You may get blindsided. That’s what anxiety does, it seems to come out of nowhere. But each “next” time you can be more prepared.
Overcoming panic attacks and anxiety on your own terms, while dealing with your trauma head-on is liberating, and makes you so unbelievably strong.
It just takes a lot of work, work that I think is worth it.
Tell me, how do you deal with anxiety and panic attacks? I would love to know and open dialogue on what works for you. Is it a certain medicine? A certain method?
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I’m just here to tell you there are options besides medicine. If you are looking for an alternative to prescription medication for relief from panic attacks, believe in yourself. Trust the process. There are so many methods to try. Put the work into healing. You know yourself better than anyone. You can do this. And although I encourage you to find solutions other than medication, please use your own discretion when dealing with your diagnosis. ALWAYS heed the advice recommended by your healthcare/mental healthcare provider when dealing with any mental illness disorder. Medication has its place. And I recognize that shall my issues with anxiety ever persist without relief, I would certainly not rule out the use of medication.