May is Mental Health Awareness month and being someone who conquers anxiety on a regular basis, I felt it was finally time to share ways to help me if I’m having an anxiety attack. I got this idea from Kelsey Darragh, a Buzzfeed superstar, when she posted a list she had made for her boyfriend, who desperately wanted understand and help when she was experiencing an anxiety attack.
I have panic & anxiety disorder. My boyfriend does not… but wants to understand it so he can help me. SO I made him this list! Feel free to share w ur loved ones that need guidance! pic.twitter.com/k8pcCfzMcj
— kelsey darragh (@kelseydarragh) May 11, 2018
Everyone has different ways to get through their attacks and I wanted to share my own. While some of my list parallels Kelsey’s, there are still variations and differences between the two.
1. Help me get fresh air
This usually brings me back down to Earth and way outside of my head.
2. Get me away from crowds of people
The more people who can potentially see me having my anxiety attack, the worse the attack gets. Find a quiet place if we’re out at a bar or concert.
3. Gently rub my back
I was once having an anxiety attack and my friends Amelia and Amber were gently rubbing my back and not saying anything. They just sat there with me and by rubbing my back let me know they were there for me. It was the kindest reminder.
4. Don’t ask me why I’m anxious
Usually in the moment I can’t pinpoint why I’m having an attack. When I have a clear head I can look back and understand why it could have happened. Trying to understand during makes me feel pressured and more anxious.
5. Bring me water or something to hold
Keeps me grounded and allows me to stay outside of my head.
6. Remind me to breathe
Seriously, I forget.
7. Allow the attack to happen
Don’t try to speed the process along, some attacks last five minutes, others last the rest of the night until I finally fall asleep. It’s such a varying spectrum.
8. Don’t make a scene
If you panic, I panic more. Trying to rush the bill at our dinner table or quickly grab whoever we’re with, makes me feel terrible for having an anxiety attack. Allow life to happen as it usually does, I’m just going to be significantly more quiet and to myself.
9. Don’t hug me unless I initiate it (probably a good rule for any occurrence)
I was once having a panic attack and when someone I knew found out, she quickly tried to hug me and grab my face to tell me everything was going to be okay. Her heart was in a good place, but it made it 10x worse and I had to ask another friend to ask her to leave.
10. Stay positive for me in a mild way
I mean “in a mild way” as in, don’t overwhelm me with positivity. I don’t feel very positive, but I also don’t want someone making me feel worse for not being on their level. So just be gentle in how you present your positive energy — because I do still appreciate it.
11. If we’re at home, offer to make me tea or some kind of food
I had a roommate do this for me in college and I honestly never knew I needed it. It was my last semester and I was having more anxiety attacks than ever before and one night I was in the middle of one and I hear a quiet knock on my door and there was Carly with a warm cup of tea, sharing the news she put a pizza in the oven. I’ve never felt so loved and understood and it really helped me get past the anxiety.
12. Turn on a funny show like Parks and Rec or The Office and ask if I want to watch
I may not want to, but having the distraction of something light-hearted and funny is one of the best ways to calm me down.
13. Please don’t ask me “how can I help?”
That’s why I made this list, it’s not fair to ask you to know exactly what to do when I’m having an attack, however in the moment, I can’t make a decision. My brain is working at a million miles an hour and the last thing I could do is tell you what I need from you.
14. Not with me? Send a text reminding me of why you love me.
Most of my anxiety attacks happen when I’m alone, so if I actually reach out to you, just talk me through it or send me a text reminding me why you love me. I tend to forget about my good qualities when I’m anxious.
It’s so important to talk about mental health and how each person individually handles whatever they may be conquering. For some people, like myself, we may never reach out to you if we’re having an attack, while for others, it’s necessary to reach out. No matter what end of the spectrum you fall on, I’m here for you. Never feel like you’re burdening someone with what you’re struggling with. I always feel like I’m weighing other people down, but it’s so important to know people want to help you. People care for you. We’re all in this together.
Whether you have a mental health condition or your loved one does, I hope this list helps you start your own or possibly understand a loved one better.
Stay strong, stay courageous, and most importantly, stay you.
P.S. Did you know 1 in 5 American adults have a mental health condition? That’s over 43 million people! You’re not alone in this. To get more facts, statistics, and information visit Mental Health America.