Today is Kickboxing. Teach class at 5am, work-out/take class at 6:10am. No problem. Class starts on time, I give instruction. I can’t breathe. I keep going and start breathing heavily. While students are at work on an exercise I move the mic away from my mouth and take a few deep breaths. Back on track, class is going well, students are working up a sweat. I can’t breathe. Again, move the mic and take a few deep breaths. No problem, I just need to bring it down a level, don’t be so intense physically while teaching/talking at the same time. No problem. Class is over.
Next class starts at 6:10am. I worked up a sweat, but didn’t get a great work-out so it’s my turn. During the warm-up, I have to bring down my intensity so I can catch my breath. That’s unusual. Well, I did just teach an energetic hour-long class. I’m sure that’s it, I say to myself. No problem. Keep going. My physical intensity is much lower than normal and my form is lacking in today’s class. This is not good, I’m a coach I should be doing well and setting a good example. But…I just can’t catch my breath. I forgot my water bottle, maybe I’m just dehydrated. During the break, I’ll make sure and get a good long drink of water. Ok, I feel better. Just keep breathing. Work-out over.
Time to get ready for work. I jumped in the shower at the gym. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe, what the hell, I can’t breathe. What is happening? I brace myself against the wall and sip on my protein shake. Deep breaths, deep breaths. I’m out and dressed and I can’t breathe again. Now, I’m getting pissed. I have had panic/anxiety attacks before and the key to not passing out is staying calm. If you get upset and really panic, your breathe will get shorter and shorter causing you to eventually pass out. Bad idea. I forego drying my hair and jump in the car and head to work. Before I start driving, I take a few slow deep breaths and send up a prayer. I feel…alright.
It’s a little chilly out so the heater is on in the car. I can’t breathe. My next feels tight and I’m getting closterphobic. I flip the heater off and roll the window all the way down, breathing in the cool crisp morning air. Ahhhh..that’s better. Wet hair + cool crisp air = not recommended. But in this case, it was necessary. More deep breaths. I’m fine.
Here are a couple key points to surviving an anxiety attack:
1) Keep your eyes open.
Often times during a work-out or high-stress moments, it’s common to lower your head and close your eyes to refocuse. However, I strongly suggest you DON’T do this. The reason being is that if you are short of breath (for instance, during intense exercise or during a ansiety/panic attack) oxygen to the brain is already limited. Then if you close your eyes, you will typically become disoriented and risk tripping or losing your balance. If your head is bowed down to the floor, you’re rushing blood to your head. Blood-rushing to head + Losing your balance = disaster. Keep your eyes open and look up. It is wise to shorter your diaphragm to decrease stress on it and regain your breath, so bending over to do this is fine…just don’t close your eyes. 🙂
2) Stay Calm.
This is a difficult request, I understand. Obviously, your body is currently spasming out of control. The key here is to keep your mind calm. Talk yourself through it as if you are watching someone else have an attack. What would you say to them? Breathe. Deep, consistent breaths (prevents from breaths speeding up and becoming short). Breathe. Count down from 10, slowly. Now slow your breath. Keep your mind calm. If you start going to the worst conclusion and thinking, I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! Help meeeee!! Your body will follow your mind and freak out even more. This is bad. The mind is a very powerful weapon and tool, use it to your advantage. If you have children, how do you calm them down? Use the same tactics on yourself in these stressful moments.
3) Have a “key phrase” or something on ‘stand-by’ or start praying.
Whichever tactic you prefer, find what works for you. Most people have mantras or something they recite to themselves for motivation purposes, resisting cravings, reminders of goals, etc. You can do this same thing with stressful moments. It’s been about 6-7 years since my last anxiety/panic attack, so I didn’t exactly have something prepared. I went on a mission this morning to find some mantras that would work in stressful situations. Here’s what I came up with:
– Worry Less, Smile More (force yourself to smile when approaching an attack and then breathe deep)
– You Got This, Don’t Worry
– Look Up, The Sky is Not Falling
And my favorite
-You are a fighter and tougher than this. Deep Breathe In, strong breathe out.