Sunday, March 19, 2017

Panic Attacks and Anxiety: Ways to Cope while Working

I've written a lot about anxiety on this blog. Even though I have Bipolar Disorder, it's usually the anxiety that most affects my day-to-day life.

The past few weeks have been especially hard, so I thought I'd write about some tips that I've been trying to help myself push through this anxiety while still managing to go to work.

Here's what I wrote in my journal:

I didn't end up going to work today. While I was driving on my way to work, I started having a panic attack so I pulled over into a neighborhood, and tried to calm down. I didn't feel safe driving though. So I ended up driving back home and then took a GABA and watched Age of Adaline and just tried to relax.

That was just the beginning of what would go on for 3 weeks. After about a week and a half I called my psychiatrist and saw her that Monday. She had to increase my medication gradually, and within about a week and a half I started feeling like myself again.

I was able to only miss three days of work in those 3 weeks though, so I consider it very successful.

How did I manage, you might ask?

It wasn't easy, it took a lot of support from those around me, and a lot of pushing myself to go to work when every part of my body and mind was telling me to stay home.

I forced myself to go outside, and get some sun (strangely enough Michigan was having 60 degree weather in February when all of this was happening. This helped a lot. Not just the exercise, but to get rid of some of that nervous energy. My therapist recommended that I try doing some sort of stretching or exercise before work. This way, I'd sort of tire myself out before driving to work, again, getting rid of the nervous energy so I wouldn't panic while driving to work.

I would also either take some GABA or some other meds that my doctor prescribed me for anxiety a few hours before going to work, to prevent myself from panicking before or even during work.

I also had myself do "practice runs." For example one day when I was especially nervous about driving to work, I got up early and practiced driving places. I went to CVS in the morning and sort of walked around, and then practiced interacting with people by making small talk with the cashier.

Perhaps the hardest part about this period of anxiety was near the end of it I was waking up at around 3 in the morning and having panic attacks. This is extremely unpleasant. I hadn't felt that bad in a long time. My boyfriend was very supportive and helpful, comforting me and listening to my fears until I felt calm enough to fall back asleep. My mother was also helpful by letting me call her whenever I needed to talk. My sister and I would text sometimes during the day and it helped to talk about random things with her to distract myself from the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety.

It helped that I was able to be pretty honest about what was going on with work. They were very understanding and did not make me feel like I was somehow failing or disappointing them on days that I was unable to go into work. This took off the pressure and actually made it easier to go into work more than I normally would have been able to.

I have since had a follow up with my psychiatrist and she is very happy with my improved mental health.

What are some of the ways you cope with anxiety while working?

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