For the past few years I’ve been in college, got my B.S. and now just finished my last semester getting my M.S. Although I had more “free” time in graduate school than I did as an undergraduate, my mind has been more cluttered than ever. In the two year’s time where I’ve been in graduate school I have had more panic attacks than the past 24 years combined. Actually, when I really think about it, I have had more panic attacks from December of 2015 to May 2016 than all the years of my life combined. In this time I have been working on my thesis. It has not only caused me stress, but has worsened my anxiety issues. Not surprisingly, I have had only a handful of panic attacks since I finished my last class about two weeks ago. So the number of panic attacks has decreased tenfold since my classes ended. I’m sure that it was my anxiety that made my stress levels go through the roof. It made me so on edge in every area of my life. I’ve never had so many arguments with loved ones in my life than I did the past few months. I had this “free” time during the day where it could appear as if I’m not doing anything. But int hat time I would prepare for the class I taught, work on my thesis, plan out my days, and mentally exhaust myself by all of my anxieties and worries for the future. I say “free” because my time was not free. Even when I wasn’t busy doing work and trying to focus or trying to look for jobs my mind was going nonstop.
Going back to therapy (with a new therapist) seemed like the appropriate thing to do, so I have been going the past few weeks. I think it is helping a little bit. I learned some tools to try to calm myself down and suppress the emotional side of my brain so I could access the rational part of my brain in times where I want to snap. I’m not perfect and don’t claim to be, so changing this habit will and has taken time. Getting back to daily (or almost daily) meditation should also help me to try to stop myself before I react and actually filter my words through the rational part of my brain before I spew out the word vomit of hurtful things that I have been known to do so many times.
I didn’t even realize it was an anxiety problem at first. I thought I was depressed and just unhappy with where I was in my life. But, I have come to the realization that my main problem that has been leaking into every arena in my life is my anxiety. Anxiety is the root of the problem so I need to address that first, and I have been. I also didn’t realize that I didn’t have a perma-depressed disposition. I didn’t realize I was stressed about certain aspects in my life. Walking through life thinking that you will be sad and depressed until you’re six feet under is and was a horrible existence. Sometimes I get down and see the world as a horrible place, but then someone will hold a door open for me or show me a smile or…
I realize I can’t control the future, people, or much of the outcome of my efforts. How will I be received by the world? How will the world receive what I bring to the table? Where will I end up? What will I be doing? In time I will figure it out, but in the space between I am just trying to focus on the present moment and trying to control my emotional leakage.
If you are struggling with constant sadness and feeling depressed, worthless, useless…seek out some professional help. It is nice to have loved ones listen to your issues, but professional help is the way to go.
What is helping me and what I need to do more of is quieting my mind through meditation. First try sitting in silence for 3 minutes. Don’t think about anything. If a thought comes to your mind, picture it on a chalkboard and then wipe it away. Another tactic is to place the thought on a leaf and then put the leaf in a river so that your thought or worry floats away. I also like to put my thoughts in a bag and throw them. Then try looking up guided 20-minute meditations on YouTube, that always helps me. Also try syncopating your breathing to your heartbeat when you feel anxious or if a panic attack is about to ensue. What this means is breathing in deeply, breathing in for a count of one..two..three..four..five, hold it for one..two.. then release for an eight-count. This will slow down your heart rate and stop the panic attack. Focus on each breath. You can change up the breathing count to match your needs. Make sure your belly goes out when breathing in and belly sinks in when breathing out. Fill those lungs and feed the oxygen to your rational brain center.
Hope this helps you.