A.W.A.R.E. – Attempting to Apply Tools During High Anxiety

So I’m on a trip visiting my wife’s parents. I’ve made this trip before and although it isn’t exactly a fun trip, it isn’t usually anxiety provoking.  This time, sadly, is different. It started with a wave of anxiety at the hotel where we stopped overnight on the way here. Gee that’s not a good sign. I would have hoped my recent work on anxiety and panic would enable me to ease out of the mindset before it got out of hand. But, anxiety is a bitch. And if there is any kernel of realistic worry involved, it’s even worse. So here I am… periodically being hit with panicky thoughts, hot flashes with profuse sweating, then freezing to death when the hot goes away. I’ve lost my appetite, and I’m more than 24 hours since that first flash of anxiety.

I’ve been doing extremely well with my panic attacks for the past few months. It seems like I go through cycles. I’ll do so well that it’s almost difficult for me to comprehend just how intense and awful the feelings & symptoms are when I have them. Then when it happens, it’s like a cyclone hits. Then, for a time, I’m primed for anxiety & it comes over and over both with and without warning. It makes me feel like I’ll never be normal again.

Since I discovered the Panic Attacks Workbook, I’ve been carrying it around in my backpack. I refer to it when I feel little flares of anxiety. I’ve not read the entire book yet, but each time a little flare happens I read a little more. That might seem odd to others, but when I’m not in a panic cycle it seems so foreign, so distant, that I don’t absorb the information as well. Also, I don’t have the same drive to read it. So when I need it, I sip on it like medicine until I make it through to the other side.

FYI, I’m now writing the next day. In the evening, we went to the bedroom and it wasn’t comfortable to keep working on my laptop. I’m feeling much better this afternoon – but anxiety is a deceptive bastard. I know it could come back. I hardly slept all night – which has been the case the last 2 nights. I fell asleep quickly, and slept about an hour. Then I was awake until 4 am when I finally took some Xanax. I just couldn’t fall asleep and I had periodic flashes of anxiety, which compounded the problem.

So what I tried focusing on through this is the A.W.A.R.E. steps to resolving panic attacks. It’s something you have to practice, but eventually it helps to defuse the panic cycle.

A – Acknowledge the sensations, fears, thoughts etc. Be aware of them. Don’t deny them, don’t try to stop them from coming. Don’t try to distract yourself so you ignore them. Be in the moment, and be ok with it.

W – Wait. Don’t react. Feel the moment. Breath. Don’t leave the situation. If necessary W also stands for Work. If you are in a situation where you must continue to function, like driving, continue what you are doing and work through the sensations.

A – Act. Do what will help the situation be more comfortable for you. Breathing exercises or complete a panic log entry about the situation.

R – Repeat. Repeat the above steps if the sensations of anxiety are still present.

E – End. Panic attacks always end.

I have no idea why this weekend has been so difficult, other than I know stress makes anxiety more likely. But, there’s no point in trying to figure out “why” because the “why” is irrelevant and often illogical. Anxiety happens to me. Logic doesn’t necessarily apply (in fact it usually doesn’t). For now, I’m going to appreciate not feeling anxious and if it comes back, I’ll return to using the AWARE steps.

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