DIY: Stop a Panic Attack.

Everyone (from my Starbucks barista to my family) knows that I am the queen of anxiety. I started having panic attacks in nursing school, but my overzealous brain told me that it was something physical. My brain interpreted these strange moments of adrenaline to be a deviating physical aliment such as a rupturing aortic aneurysm or a heart attack. It was a combination of knowing too much about the medical field and deep dark dives into google that led me to believe my pounding heart was the end. Fortunately, nursing school also exposed me to this concept called anxiety (typically common among the wealthy suburbanites that do not have real things to worry about). I kid, I kid. Fast forward a few years and a few hundred dollars in therapy and I arrive at the present day…with an arsenal to defend against the dreaded anxiety attack. I am humbled by many late nights spent surfing Amazon for self-help books and streaming TED talks on Youtube. I have developed a few successful tips that can help you get through a panic attack after years of self-study.

  • Engage your 5 senses.
    • what do you see? Name 2 items you see.
    • what do you hear? Name 2 times you hear.
    • what do you feel? Name 2 items you feel.
    • what do you smell? Name 2 items you smell.
  • Belly Breathe
    • the core of calm lives in our bellies
    • inhale for 1-2-3-4, hold it 1-2-3-4, exhale 1-2-3-4
    • when you inhale, feel your belly pushing out as if you were preparing to sing a high note in chorus (shout out to middle school chorus and the awkward pubescent moments of doom and acne)
  • pick your manta
    • “I’ve been through this before and I survived/thrived”
    • “Let it go”
    • “I am calm and compassionate”
  • Seek gratitude
    • in the midst of panic, finding something you are grateful for is a challenge, but it makes all the difference
    • say one thing in your mind that you are grateful for
    • the shift from fear/panic to gratitude is a powerful and beautiful moment

Panic used to make me feel spaced out and strange. I would feel dizzy and disconnected. By focusing on my senses, I would feel grounded and connected to the earth. Sometimes, I would smell peppermint oil to really jolt me back in the present moment. Mantras work well for me also because it stops the continuous negative thought pattered and replaces it with something positive. Our brain has this miraculous area called the limbic system. It has allowed us to survive for thousands of years and outrun tigers /prevent us from burning our houses down etc. It is a bad ass emergency system. Unfortunately, we live in a state that has the limbic system switched to “on” most of the time, resulting in hypervigilance. This explains why you might be in line at Target and the next thing you know, you are sweating and feel a desire to run out of the store. Thanks, sympathetic nervous system. By utilizing the techniques listed above, we can counteract this overstimulated response system and begin to engage our parasympathetic nervous system. I fondly refer to it as the chill the f*** out system. Our brain is phenomenal, but we can still manipulate it to halt panic and allow space for a more calming energy. You have the power to trick your brain with your body.

You are a warrior goddess/defender of the good/captain fantastic/super human….just if you needed a reminder.

Love and light.

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Hybrid.

Modern medicine tends to fixate on diagnosis and treatment, whereas a wellness lifestyle focuses on education, self-awareness, and prevention. Instead of merely treating disease, the wellness lifestyle addresses its causes-what lies beneath the disease and its symptoms.

-The Essential Life

In 5 short months, I will be a family nurse practitioner. My journey in medicine started a decade ago when I began volunteering at a local hospital. At the ripe age of 16, I learned about getting my hands dirty. I mean that metaphorically and literally. Seeing patients in the hospital fascinated me. During a lunch break, I ate my stale bagel and reflected on my experience.

Why did she wait so long to get a check up? Why did he give up on his health? Why doesn’t she seem to care about what is happening to her body?

My thoughts were, perhaps, non-traditional lunch break thoughts. However, I was truly curious why people waited until the brink of death to seek help. I grew up going to the doctor for annual check-ups and learning that preventative health was important. I understood that physical fitness and healthy foods were important. I have carried those core values into my professional life.

So, the question of the hour is this…can you achieve wellness by practicing both complementary and traditional medicine? Is there a market for the nurse practitioner who will prescribe:

  • increased physical exercise
  • essential oil diffusion for stress management
  • antibiotics for strep throat

The hybrid of preventative medicine, wellness, and disease management is possible. I’m just not sure how to achieve it. I see the value in both practice styles. The benefits of holistic, complementary medicine:

  • patient autonomy
  • inexpensive interventions
  • 1,000s of years of anecdotal experience
  • natural
  • less extreme side effects

Let’s play devils advocate and discuss benefits of traditional medicine:

  • societal support
  • greater amount of evidence based practice
  • variety of double-blind research studies
  • mainstream education through medical school
  • quick support/treatment of a variety of illnesses

Healthcare is broken in this country. Again, that is a post for a later time. Could a hybrid of eastern/western medicine be the answer to change our health? As Americans, we are some of the most unhealthy people in the world. Participating in a culture of prevention, rather than treatment, will augment longevity. In a perfect utopia, this is how I want to practice medicine:

55 year old patient presents to the clinic with an acute upper respiratory infection. The patient is very physically active, eats a balanced diet, and denies smoking/drinking. My plan for this patient would be to diffuse Doterra On guard+Breathe at night and prescribe traditional pharmacology (inhalers, steroids.)

Is it possible to create this crossbreed of medicine? If any incredibly rich people want to fund my research, do not hesitate to reach out 🙂

My greatest wish is to see people take care of mind, body, and spirit. Treat yourself kindly and create a body that is strong and healthy. When you do get sick, I am here for you…but take the first steps towards prevention and wellness!

Anticipatory anxiety.

Why does the unknown scare us? Why does the future cause us unrest? Why do we use anxiety as a mental placeholder while we wait for something to happen?

Well, the answer is simple: anticipatory anxiety.

Humans like control. We like to know what is happening, who is doing it, what it will feel like, and when it is supposed to happen. I am speaking for the vast majority of people. I will exclude the true wanderlust hippies who live blissfully in the NOW. Hopefully, the rest of us lay people can join you one day.

Scene: You have a presentation for work at 4:00pm. You wake up that morning, feeling a blend of nausea and excitement. You can’t focus at work and you feel like your brain has taken residence in a cloud high above the office. You might feel foggy, unfocused, on edge. Your brain recognizes the importance of the presentation and (rather unfortunately) decides it is a really BIG SCARY TERRIFYING THING. That is the deal with an anxious brain. It is overstimulated and angry with adrenaline. You might feel your heart rate increase, another sign that the sympathetic nervous system is pre-gaming this event. Why do the hours leading up to something stressful also have to be stressful? Hey Universe, that is not fair.

So, how do you challenge the anticipatory anxiety. I will let you in on a secret. The event is never as scary as you pictured it. You didn’t barf, pass out, or cry. Or maybe you did…but most people are genuine humans and would be empathetic to your struggle. It is never that bad, that scary, that daunting. Your mind and your adrenal glands have been primed to give exaggerated reactions to stress. Let’s talk about how to calm that response system down in the hours leading up to a stressful event.

  • Be mindful of the present
    • focus on what you are doing right now
    • what do you smell, hear, taste, feel, see?
  • Challenge the catastrophic thoughts
    • what is the worst thing that could happen? (thanks to my mom for instilling that great trick, love you!)
  • Make a positive thought for every negative thought?
    • “Ugh, why am I so anxious right now?!”
    • Counter with “I can harness this feeling to give a creative, energetic presentation”
  • Breathe
    • utilize Pranayama breathing techniques to engage that lovely parasympathetic nervous system and slow the mind/body down

Anxiety blows. Why wait precious hours getting anxious about possibly being anxious?  It is a cyclic thought nightmare. Just say stop. Literally, yell the word stop. Embrace the present moment, focus on your breathe, and save your beautiful brain power for something more productive.

I challenge you to try some of these techniques the next time you find yourself ruminating before a stressful event. Your life is beautiful and worthy. You don’t deserve to waste time with worry.

Love and Light.

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Slowing down before a presentation with a 5 minute meditation and some Doterra aromatherapy.

Yogalicous.

What is yoga?

To me, it is this quirky bond between your mind and your body. This bond allows for you to cultivate light, love, and energy in a (sometimes) crappy world. I had an exam today for my Family Nurse Practitioner program. It is an online exam, so I have the freedom to take it whenever I feel ready. Today, I decided to incorporate a pre-exam pump-up routine. It was quite rad.

Picture this:

Sun Salutation/Surya Namaskar mini yoga session. I recently participated in a winter solstice 108 sun salutation yoga adventure at my local studio. It was epic. It was sweaty. It was thrilling. I have found that a few sun salutations on my mat during times of stress really sync my mind and body. You have to stay focused on the breath, but also engaged in the movement. After about 5 minutes of this sequence, I felt energized and focused.

Doterra Lavender in the diffuser. I’ve recently jumped on the Doterra bandwagon. I am so glad that I did! The lavender oil calms me down so quickly. It is blissful.

Binaural Beats playing in the background. If you don’t know what this style of music is…I would compare it to meditation crack. I’m not sure if crack and meditation have ever been used together in a sentence. TIME TO COPYRIGHT THAT PHRASE. Anyway, it is a style of music that can alter your brainwaves into a more meditative state. It can thrust you into Buddha-esque/enlightenment after a few minutes. Actually, I have no idea if it works at all, but I like the sound and I can dig the placebo effect.

During the exam, I did a small mindfulness exercise to check in with my body. I was sitting cross-legged, slumped over, and breathing shallow breaths. This posture is not exactly conducive to a sharp mind. I readjusted, finding a grounding position. I focused on taking deep, belly breaths. The haze cleared and I finished the test with ease.

How do you incorporate yoga into your everyday stress? Do you stop-drop-and yoga during crisis? Do you only do yoga during relaxation? I still feel like a fledgling in yogi world, but I am enjoying the journey towards a synergistic mind and body.

Love and light.

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Dig deep, find your inner light, and share it with the world.

Mellow out with mindfulness.

Our society craves speed, instant gratification, and intensity. You wake up early, get dressed, hop in the car, and roll into the rat race. My (old) typical morning before a shift looks a little something like this:

  • wake up suddenly to a loud alarm at 4:30am
  • jump out of bed in a panicked and frazzled state
  • hop in the shower
  • throw on some mascara/hair in a pony tail
  • scramble to find clean scrubs
  • chow down on breakfast, normally in 2-3 minutes
  • make coffee and chug it as I’m headed out the door
  • get in the car and immediately turn on the radio
  • start/stop through traffic
  • arrive at 6am
  • rush to my unit and throw my bag down
  • get report

Ok. Whoa. I’m stressed just reading that and reflecting back on how I used to greet the day. It felt more like a fall into the chaos of the day, rather than gently greet it. I’m assuming a lot of you wake up with a similar routine. Rush, rush, rush. It creates a hectic energy and starts the day with a heavy mind.

I read a book on mindfulness. It was a 10 week course that teaches you how to incorporate a mindful practice in every part of life. It was a process, but I started to integrate the strategies into my daily routine. This is what my morning looks like now:

  • wake up to a waterfall themed alarm at 4:15 am
  • take 3 deep belly breaths before I sit up
  • feel my feet hit the floor and embrace the blessing of waking up
  • take a hot shower, feeling the water trickle down my skin
  • use dim light to finish getting dressed
  • make a cup of loose leaf tea and breakfast, enjoying the taste of each bite for 15 minutes
    • I’ve made my breakfast a meditative experience
  • sit for 5 minutes, setting my intention for the day
  • 10 sun salutations to bring heat and energy into my body
  • walk to the car and drive to work
  • listen to an insightful/funny podcast to learn something on my commute
  • arrive at work
  • use aromatherapy (peppermint oil) to energize and a short meditation to clear the mind before the shift

You have 24 hours in a day. You choose to make them chaotic or calm. Things will happen that shift your experience, but YOU control how you feel.

Slow down. Be mindful. Be present. Do all things with love. IMG_8249

Back from the dark side.

This is not a Star Wars pun, but rather an honest confession. I pulled away from writing blog posts because I felt like all this anxiety chit chat was actually stirring up my panic. Oh, the irony.

I felt an adrenaline surge over the past few weeks and I was trying to discover the culprit. I think I was becoming too engrossed with thoughts of anxiety, panic, stress, etc. I thought that starting a blog would be cathartic. Instead, my brain interpreted it as, “let’s bring up this cerebral sludge to the surface and let it freak you out again!”

My mind has been moving at a faster pace and I attributed that to spending a lot of time writing these posts and reading about other bloggers with similar journeys. I think there is a way to gain the benefit of this creative outlet and to not let it stir up murky emotional waters. I’m going to be more mindful and purposeful in my blogging adventures.

During lunch with a beloved friend today, she challenged my thought process. I verbalized how I felt like blogging about anxiety was making me more anxious and she countered with, “but you’ve still come incredibly far and people can learn from you.” That tugged on my caregiver heartstrings.

This blog might be difficult for me sometimes, but it might also give someone a breath of fresh air. It might sting to relive some vulnerable moments, but it might teach someone a new coping strategy. Also, I’m learning that anxiety is a part of my core being. I have been blessed with a lot of energy, a quick thought process, and an intensity that allows me to be successful. So, maybe the purpose of my blog will evolve from trying to “fix” my anxiety to simply embracing it.

The healing side of me outweighs the cautious side of me. With that being said, I’m back.

Love and Light to you on the New Year’s Eve

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A snuggly NYE celebration with my pretty diffuser.

Gratitude

I’m grateful for panic.

I understand that gratitude is an odd emotion to coincide with anxiety. However, I believe healing is about perspective. Anxiety often feels like a huge dark cloud that permeates through my life. It feels like the biggest struggle and it only happens to me. It’s a very isolating process. I feel anxious and I think, “no one else probably feels so weird/scared/panicky.” I have learned throughout this journey that changing my perspective towards anxiety helps me heal. I have panic attacks. I have mind numbing repetitive thoughts. I have a catastrophic thinking pattern. But…I also have a phenomenal man, great family, loving friends, and a rewarding job.

I am a nurse and I work with a patient population of people that have suffered traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries. My perspective on life has changed dramatically since I started working with these patients. My “problems” seem a lot smaller when I reflect on the fact that I can walk, talk, laugh, eat, drive, hug, kiss, smile, and breathe on my own. Anxiety feels so small when I look at the positive aspects of my life and for that, I’m grateful.

I am grateful to have panic attacks. WHAT? I know, right. Sounds odd? I feel gratitude when I panic because my body is allowing my mind to practice a new relaxation technique. My body is trying to tell me something when I panic. It’s an alarm that I need to practice loving self care. My post-panic attack routine often consists of a cup of tea, meditation, and aromatherapy. It’s a period of forced relaxation and for that, I’m grateful.

Anxiety has taught me about the delicate interweaving of the human psyche. I did not have a mind-body connection before I developed anxiety. I was in auto-pilot mode and rarely processed my emotions. Anxiety has been the liaison between my soul and mind and for that, I’m grateful.

I can empathize and connect with my patients who deal with anxiety. I have a genuine emotional connection with them when they say they are struggling. As a future Family Nurse Practitioner, I hope to combine my empathy and knowledge to create treatment plans that improve the lives of my clients. I can hold the hand of an anxious patient and say, “I understand.” I will treat the mind, body, and spirit in my future practice and for that, I’m grateful.

What are you grateful for today? Try starting the day with a mantra of “I’m grateful for______.” It will change your perspective!

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I had a mild panic attack this morning. It was a bummer. As I reflect on what my body was telling me, I realized I needed to practice self care. I will enjoy some wine, a good book, and a view of photos from our favorite adventures. I am grateful.

Smell ya later.

 

[Aromatherapy] seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process. — National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy

 

Essential oils are a great way to hit the pause button during a toxic stream of consciousness. I have recently started incorporating them into my healing journey. The limbic system controls a lot of our emotions and aromatherapy has been proven to calm that center of the brain.

I’m currently working with these scents:

  • Lavender
    • It is my favorite “go to” scent to calm my brain when I feel the wave of anxiety ascending
  • Peppermint
    • Nausea is a common side effect of anxiety and I’ve had my fair share of gastrointestinal issues
    • This oil is great to calm the butterflies in the tummy!
  • Eucalyptus
    • I feel my chest expand and my heart open after using this oil
    • Picture a lovely natural version of Vicks vapor rub
  • Panic Button
    • It’s a combination of rose and orange flowers
    • I’ve used this in the height of a panic attack and it is helpful

Other helpful scents:

  • Clary Sage
    • It has antidepressant effects and has been proven to work even better than lavender!
  • Bergamot
    • A study showed that 10 minutes of aromatherapy with this oil decreased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Angelica
    • This fresh scent is very popular in the natural healing world to treat anxiety

How do you use the oils?

  • My skin is used to the oils, so I place a few drops on the inner part of my wrist
  • You can also put drops on your fingertips and rub the oil on your temple/behind your ears
  • A diffuser is a tool that allows you to make an aerosol version of the oil and diffuse the scent around your house, similar to a humidifier
  • Mix the oil with a coconut oil base to create a balm

 

This information has come from my personal experience and also from the source: http://www.naturallivingideas.com/anxiety-and-essential-oils/

These are personal tips for what works for me and is in no way affiliated with any medical advice/brand promotion.

Go forth and breathe yourself to calm.

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Some of my oils with a chakra flag in the back.