During this time of year, panic attacks start trending up, and according to some psychologists, especially this wild election year.
Panic attacks are most often caused by stress and overwhelm and feeling like we have no control. Situations are coming into focus now that make even the most grounded individuals feel increased anxiety and angst.
Breakups and Divorce
If you are experiencing relationship insecurity, a breakup or especially divorce, you feel even more unsteady and unsure. You wonder whether you can keep yourself together with everything else that is making you worry now like financial insecurity, kid-sharing and low self esteem.
During a breakup or divorce, personal supports and traditions are ripped away, and you often find yourself in a great big ocean of loss, pain and loneliness — all triggers that contribute to the likelihood of full-blown panic attacks.
Add to that, the seasonal lump in your gut about the upcoming holidays. Before Halloween is over, the stores have put up winter holiday decorations. Then that horrible holiday of New Year’s Eve is staring us in the face, and we wonder if we’ll even survive the New Year, much less feel like celebrating it! Everything is moving too fast.
In an article in The Atlantic last year, Stephen Holland, a clinical psychologist in the Washington, DC area says, “ … ⅔ to ¾ of patients mention feelings about the election in session…” He also says he’s never seen an election like this one. “This year, people from both parties are anxious and worried.”
Regardless of party, a majority of Americans feel like the country is moving in the wrong direction. Neither party’s candidate is a clear choice for what we want in a leader. Again, we often feel like we have little or no control about what happens in Washington, regardless of who is elected.
The Future in General
We are worried about not just the future in general, but our own personal future in particular. Many people are feeling less sure of anything these days. And that’s disturbing.
So, What Can We Do?
I work with women going through midlife divorce, and here are some helpful tips I recommend during that time of increased stress and anxiety. These are appropriate for anyone needing tools to regain their emotional balance.
1. Take Care of Yourself
Do good things for yourself every day. If you can’t face a full meal, eat healthy snacks. Keep easy-to-prepare food handy. Drink plenty of water and healthy juices. Set up a reasonable sleep plan. Surround yourself with supportive people, and limit your exposure to stress-producing people and situations.
2. Do Something Physical
Work up a sweat, preferably outside. If nothing else, walk around the block. Stride! Don’t shuffle along full of worry. Repeat a positive mantra as you walk. Pray, if that’s something that empowers you and keeps you focused. If you’re walking with a co-worker or a friend, keep negative or stress-inducing conversation to a minimum.
3. Take a Concrete, Positive Action
Our sense of helplessness and hopelessness is reduced dramatically if we take any positive action that gives us a feeling of control. Organize your desk. Clean out your closet. Meditate. Fix yourself some tea and balance your checkbook. Be content with small steps forward in any direction.
4. Let Go of Things You Cannot Control or Cannot Change
We waste precious time fretting about things that we absolutely cannot control or cannot change. That is not productive activity. The more we hang-out in those places, the less time we have to find a solution to what’s bothering us. Start a Wallow-Prevention List.
5. Practice Positive Self-Talk
Our mind is constantly cranking out self-talk… positive or negative. Make your self-talk positive. St Paul, gave this wise advice: “ … Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God about…” Good advice, especially today.
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