We are currently facing an unprecedented pandemic that’s shaken the very structure of society. Recovery Unplugged understands that many of us are experiencing an overwhelming amount of anxiety, which can lead to panic attacks if unchecked. That’s why we wanted to gather together some helpful, holistic tips and tricks to help you with anxiety and panic attacks.
Many of us likely haven’t experienced this much anxiety in our lives prior to the pandemic. Anxiety can make our situations feel worse than they are, and can be hard to manage if you’ve never encountered it before.
It’s normal to feel fragile in the face of such a stressful shift in the way that we’re living. Even with the internet and the help of unifiers like music, it can be difficult to feel connected to those we love.
Anxiety and panic attacks can be especially frightening for those in recovery or who struggle with substance abuse. Anxiety, coupled with the loneliness many of us might be feeling, can be a recipe for relapse and disaster.
If you’ve been struggling to reign in your anxiety and mounting panic, you’re not the only one. Check out these tips to help ground yourself and cope with your stress in healthy, holistic ways.
Keeping Yourself Mentally in Check
It’s all too easy to forget that mental health is just as significant as physical health. Right now all of us are experiencing collective trauma, and we’re struggling to cope in different ways. Some people are taking this better than others, and if you’re struggling it doesn’t mean that you’re less than.
Keeping yourself in the present and being kind to yourself can go a long way. Small actions of self-care can go a long way, even if it’s something as simple as listening to your favorite album or a soothing playlist on Spotify.
By making sure you have proper coping mechanisms in place, you can prevent and ease any future anxiety or panic attacks.
Recognize That You’re Having a Panic Attack
If you’ve never experienced a panic attack, it can be hard to understand what your body is going through. Sometimes your heart will race so hard you feel like you’re having a heart attack. Other times it can feel like you can’t enough air in your lungs.
Ask yourself, was there a trigger? Am I in pain, or am I just feeling overwhelmed by my anxiety or fear? Thinking logically may be hard when you’re having an attack, but doing so can help ease you out of it.
When experiencing that much anxiety and panic, it’s significant to remind yourself that the attack won’t last forever. Reminding yourself that it will end can keep the attack from worsening.
Have Someone You Can Call
Everyone in recovery has their sober support system there for when they feel tempted to use. Why shouldn’t it be the same when we’re experiencing stress or anxiety?
Having a friend or loved one ready and available can make you feel less lonely or isolated if you feel an attack coming on. Even if we’ve been telling ourselves the same thing, having a friend tell us that this will pass can feel more impactful.
It’s like the Beatles said– we can get by “with a little help from my friends.”
Practice Mindfulness and Grounding
This can present itself in multiple ways, all of which are intended to help ground you in reality and not get carried away by panic. Some people find it best to list five things in their immediate area and to try to take in every detail about them. This could be as simple as looking at a pen on your desk and studying it.
Other ways you can practice mindfulness is questioning where the panic and fear are coming from. When you ask yourself “why,” you begin to acknowledge that feelings are constantly changing.
Just because you feel like the world is ending doesn’t mean that it is because feelings aren’t facts. Reminding yourself that as long as you’re okay in the present can help ease anxieties about the future.
Repeat a Mantra
Counting down from ten or repeating a phrase can help keep you focused during a panic attack. If there’s a song lyric that speaks to you, repeating it or singing to yourself can help keep you present and preoccupied while the worst of the attack passes.
It doesn’t necessarily matter if you sing the chorus to your favorite song or decide to do mental multiplication. Just make sure you fixate your concentration on something until the panic subsides.
Physical Tips to Prevent and Stop Panic Attacks
Our bodies and minds are intimately connected in a number of ways. The state of our bodies constantly impacts our moods and overall mental health.
It’s important to keep this in mind when dealing with extreme anxiety or panic attacks, There are preventative measures we all can take to keep anxiety at bay, like yoga, tai chi, or meditation. However, there are also a few things you can do during a panic attack to lessen the fear and panic at the moment.
In more ways than we can count, music can help us focus on both the mental and physical aspects of destressing. By incorporating aspects of music, whether it be lyrics, songs, or soothing instrumentals, you can catalyze your mental wellbeing.
Focus on Your Breathing
Most people have heard that slowing your breathing can help ease the body out of a panic attack. Because panic attacks often cause hyperventilation, consciously slowing your breathing can have an immediate effect on your state of mind.
When doing so, remember to exhale longer than you inhale. This can trigger your nervous system’s calming responses and ease your panic. If it helps, close your eyes as you breathe so that you can focus on the feeling of inhaling and exhaling.
If it helps, imagine that you’re breathing in time with a metronome. Allowing yourself to sink into a natural rhythm can soothe you the same way a mother’s heartbeat soothes a baby.
Relax Your Muscles
When experiencing stress or anxiety, the body can tense up involuntarily. If possible, put on relaxing music and begin tensing and releasing the muscles in your body. Listening to meditative music while you do so can help you sink easier into releasing the tension.
You can start by working the muscles in your hands and feet and moving forward from there. In doing so, you not only take your mind away from the panic but physically release the tension caused by it.
Use Essential Oils
One of our most powerful senses is the sense of smell, and it can help ease anxiety. If there’s a specific scent you’ve associated with calming down, make sure you have it at hand. Lavender oil is known for easing anxiety and can help ground you in the present during an attack.
Surrounding yourself with soothing scents and sounds can help ground you in the present. By keeping your favorite scent and songs nearby, you might be able to stop a panic attack before it even comes.
Do Light Exercise Afterwards
After the attack has subsided and you feel well enough, try engaging in a very light workout. Putting your headphones on, playing your favorite artist, and going for a short walk for a breath of air can make a huge difference.
You’ll not only be taking care of your body and giving yourself mental space, but you’ll also be flooding your brain with endorphins. Listening to music can also release a wave of endorphins. As a result, combining a light workout with your favorite songs can help you recover from a panic attack.
Healing and Helping Your Mental Health With Music
If you’re in recovery and have been struggling with anxiety or panic attacks, the Recovery Unplugged community is here for you. We understand that it’s all too easy to feel isolated with COVID-19 keeping us all indoors.
That’s why we’ve been doing our best to keep you connected to a community of music-loving individuals in recovery. If you’re looking for ways to unwind with the help of music while feeling connected, check out our Sober Streams! We go live every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and we’d love to have you there.
If you’re afraid that your mental health is deteriorating and that you might relapse as a result, we’re here for you. Our dual-diagnosis program addresses the relationship between mental illnesses and substance abuse with the healing help of music.
Reach out to our admissions team today to get the help that you need. Music is our medicine, and we want it to be yours too. Call us today to see how music makes the difference.