I took this in the middle of one of my panic attacks.  Image: Dakster Sulilvan

My Panic Attack Survival Kit

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Superman Quote / Image: Dakster Sullivan
Image: Dakster Sullivan

I suffer daily with anxiety and panic attacks. I’ve tried medication in the past and it just didn’t work for me. So, when I need something to bring me back down to earth, I look to various things to help me. Here’s a list of a few of the things I use to bring me back and get me through the day.

Dark Pug Rises  Image: Chubbs the Wampug
Dark Pug Rises Image: Chubbs the Wampug

Chubbs the Wampug – I don’t have a dog, so I live vicariously through Chubbs the Wampug. Her posts range from birthday wishes to funny captions on her own photos. On more than one bad day, my first thought has been to head over to see what her latest funny picture is. She hasn’t let me down yet.

Ben 10 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – I keep episodes of both on my iPod, so when I’m at work and have to get away, they are just a click away. My favorite episode so far has been Ben 10 – Generator Rex: Heroes United and TMNT episodes Metal Head and Turtle Temper. Each episode is full of laughs and easily distracts me from whatever is bugging me.

Music – I have a playlist that I listen to when my anxiety reaches different levels. My favorite playlist I named “Strength In Myself.”  My playlist has a mix of fast songs and slow ones. The fast ones are there to help me dance while the slow ones have really nice meanings to them. There’s one song that doesn’t show up on my online playlist and it’s my favorite. The song is “Hold On” by Bewitched and it’s from the Princess Diaries soundtrack. The chorus is my favorite part and really speaks to me when I’m down.

“Hold on, But don’t hold on too tight. Let go, It’s gonna be all right. Don’t run away from what your heart is saying. Be strong, Face what you’re afraid of. Come on, Show ’em what you’re made of. I know it’s hard when your hope is gone, But you gotta keep holding on.”

Comic Books – Comic books are a great way to escape reality and dive into someone else’s world. I currently read a wide range of series, but my favorites to pick up when I’m down are Wonder Woman: League of One, Superman: Birthright, Wonder Woman: Odyssey (Vol. 1 and 2), Huntress: Crossbow at the Crossroad, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. They all have happy endings and that’s what makes them perfect for me to read when I’m down.

Meditation – There’s no denying that meditation helps lower stress and anxiety levels. For me, when I’m anxious, it’s one of the hardest things to do. When I’m able to pull off even just five minutes of meditation, my anxiety levels drop considerably.

Cleaning – Just doing something as simple as putting up my clothes or throwing in a load of towels helps take my mind off the buzzing in my brain. There’s been many times I’ve cleaned my son’s room for the sole purpose of overcoming a panic attack (he’s yet to complain). It also gives me something logical to think about and forces me to focus on something other than the feelings running around inside of me.

Mr Bear and Bruce  Image: Dakster Sullivan
Mr Bear and Bruce Image: Dakster Sullivan

Taking a walk – This is one of things that works, but I have to be forced into. A slow walk around the block with no electronics (cellphone included) can be very relaxing. If you have a lot on your mind, take someone you can vent to and get it all out on the walk.

Bruce and Mr. Bear – I have two stuffed animals at home that are near and dear to me. Mr. Bear has holes in every side, but I’ve had him since I visited Old McDonald’s farm when I was three years old. Bruce is a Build-A-Bear dog that I dressed in a little Batman shirt (hence the name). When I feel like curling up and just letting it all out, these two are close by to give me cuddles. At work I have a small AT-AT plush from ThinkGeek on my desk and a giant Minion from Despicable Me that help me through the day at work.

My Jacket – I live in Florida, but I’m never without a jacket of some kind. My favorite jackets are grey and are made from sweatshirt material. Most are just one-size to big, so I can hide my hands and have extra material to play with when I get a little out of my element. The surrounding and close feeling I get while wearing them makes me feel safe and secure.

Sunglasses – One of my “things” when dealing with social anxiety is what I call the Care Bear syndrome. Do you remember in the Care Bear show how the bears would cover their eyes and they would disappear? The same effect works for me. If I can hide my eyes, it makes me feel a little more at ease about being in big groups.

You never know how much a little reply could mean to someone  Image: Dakster Sullivan
You never know how much a little reply could mean to someone Image: Dakster Sullivan

Headphones – Listening to music at low levels in big groups, gives me an easy way to keep my anxiety levels in check by focusing my mind on the music instead of the crowd. I have a Bluetooth headset I’m never without, so it’s not obvious what I’m doing.

Nap Time – No matter how old you get, naps are still a good idea. This is usually reserved for the worst of the worst of my panic attacks. Most of the time it happens because I’ve worn myself out crying or I’m at a point I feel like I just can’t move.

Water – Drinking water instead of soda on days I feel anxious is a big help. The colder the water, the better. I try to keep at least one bottle in my little mini fridge on my desk so I have easy access to it when I need it. I also keep one open bottle on my desk to remind me to drink up.

Anxiety Social Net – I just recently discovered Anxiety Social Net on Facebook and the uplifting and supportive posts have helped me a few times. They have a great Facebook page as well as a website that’s a social networking site for those with anxiety. Think of it as a Facebook full of people who understand what you go through.

Sometimes, all you need is a big wookiee hug!  Image: Dakster Sullivan
Sometimes, all you need is a big wookiee hug! Image: Dakster Sullivan

Wonder Twins! – Okay, so it’s not so much the Wonder Twins, but a friend who came up with the nickname for us. There’s been a few times without even having to text him that he knows I need a wookiee hug and sends them my way. Having at least one person in my personal life and one in my work life that I can talk to helps when I need a human to bring me back down to plant earth. I’m fortunate enough to have several friends who are there for me and without them, some days would be unbearable.

Hot Shower – Taking a hot shower with the lights off is one of my favorite stress relievers. I usually get a towel and roll it up to make a pillow and I sit in the tub and just let the water hit me. My hot water only lasts about 15 minutes, but I slip into a meditative state, so it’s still nice.

Favorite messages / uplifting comments from readers, friends, and Twitter followers – I have a folder in my email specifically for my favorite comments, tweets, and messages I receive. I have everything from the email that DC Comics is following me on Twitter, to Yuri Lowenthal’s response to a tweet I sent him, to a friend’s Facebook message telling me how much I mean to them. I also have a few emails from readers who emailed me to tell me how much a post I wrote meant to them and their personal story they didn’t want to share on the site. When I need a reminder that I mean something to someone, I turn to this folder. It reminds me that I am not only loved, but I matter.

Honorable Mentions – Something else I like to do is put on my favorite pair of PJs (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and pop in my favorite Fred Astaire musical (currently The Bandwagon). My husband and son are also a huge help to me when I need hugs and someone to tell me it will be okay. Sometimes when I come home and my husband knows I’ve had a rough day, he closes the blinds and gets my PJs ready for me. On my really bad days, he picks me up some cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory (the Hershey’s cheesecake is my favorite).

I hope that with this list, you see the various things that might work and give a few of them a try. Everyone is different, so what works for me, might not work for you. I know a couple of them sound weird, but none are harmful, so what have you got to lose by giving even the weird ones a try?

Is there something you do to calm your stress or anxiety levels? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear about what you do and maybe I’ll give it shot too.

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8 thoughts on “My Panic Attack Survival Kit

  1. Great list. I think allowing ourselves to enjoy the simplest things, even if others consider them odd, is comforting and empowering. My current list includes: anime, Korean pop music, visiting the sunshine, and most anything foodie related.

  2. It is a great list! I read and sometimes watch favourite television shows when needing to calm down. Embroidering helps a lot, too. Hugging my favourite stuffed animal is up there too. Hugging my daughter and husband helps a great deal too. 🙂

  3. What I really like about this list is that it shows how well you understand yourself and how empowered you feel to take care of yourself. That’s a great message.

  4. Music is HUGE when it comes to anxiety, I find. p.s. Love Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, LOL. I thought I was the only adult on earth who did.

  5. This list is amazing. I suffer from severe panic disorder but I think having a few of these in place so when I feel an attack approaching, I just need to push a button. I usually become incapacitated very quickly but I think even I can press a button. My biggest issue is reaching out to people. When I am in anxiety or panic mode, I find it impossible to reach out to others. Thank you for these ideas! You may end up being responsible for saving my life someday.

    1. Anne, you have made my day. I’m glad to see that you are thinking of using a few of these ideas to help you. I know how hard reaching out is and over the years, I’ve decided to be as open as I can about what I deal with so that others that might not be able to reach out for help, will see that they are not alone.

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