What does an anxiety attack feel like? Have you ever wondered if you were having an anxiety attack? If you have never had one, it can be really hard to relate to what someone is going through who might be experiencing one. As a parent, I have witnessed anxiety in many forms – all made me feel helpful in witnessed the actual angst being felt. Worse yet, none were easy for me to fully understand enough to be as helpful as I might have been, had I been more informed. And, honestly, nothing hurts more than being a helpless mom when a loved one is having an all-out panic attack and needs you most!
For us, it was thunderstorms. The sound of thunder alone would be enough to make my son visibly shake from anxiety. I’m not talking loud, powerful roars of house-shaking thunder, either. Any thunder – even a light rumble, would send him into pure panic mode, and there was little I could do to reassure him of his safety. It didn’t stop there, though. Then it was the sound of fire alarms. Yes, the ones that must be tested each month while the kids are in school – those fire alarms. Even though they were just a “test” – and he knew they were – the loud sounds would set him off. It wasn’t the fear of possible fire, either. It was the fear of that loud alarm that would go straight through his spine and cause his entire body to shake, break out in a cold sweat, and result in an upset stomach and sometimes even a headache. How could this poor child learn with these kinds of distractions thrown at him at any given moment, throughout each day? How could he focus on anything at all – let alone school? As his mom, I had to figure it out, and learn more about ways I could help him through it all. I researched, bought and read a ton of books, talked to the school counselors and teachers, psychologists, and then researched some more. His constant worry and anxiety needed to be acknowledged, and together we needed to work through it.
What I learned was that my son wasn’t alone, and that anxiety disorder was much more common that I realized. I also learned that it affected adults and kids alike, and that many of the strategies offered for adults, also worked on kids (and vice versa). I instinctively (and thankfully) was compassionate to know that everyone’s feelings are “real”, no matter how much we do or do not understand them. Feelings are just that – how you FEEL. Nobody has the right to tell you that your feelings are WRONG. So, all I knew to do was to hug and hold my son in his times of need. And of course, that helped some – but what about the times I wasn’t there? The times he was at school, and would have to figure it out without me?
I worked hard explore ways that would specifically help him out. More importantly, I need to find ways to help him help himself, so that he would be able to self-comfort when I wasn’t around! I found some really great articles with sound and simple advice on how to help my son – and others, overcome anxiety. Over time, I realized that my son’s anxiety transcended other areas – beyond just loud noise. They would occur in social situations, too. While most of what I learned was applicable to any panic-laden situation, social anxiety was something that you could actually prepare for in advance, and an area I have blogged about before. Panic can come in other areas, too. Chaotic environments or areas of disorganization can cause anxiety. Areas of overwhelm often stem from a lack of organization or structure, so putting simple structures in place can really help prevent stress and anxiety in the first place. Even doing something as simple as theming your days can help you get organized, create more focus and prevent an otherwise would-be panic attack.
In summary, anxiety attacks are very real, and very much occur in everyday life, at any time, and at any age. Recognizing them, validating the fact that the person experiencing them isn’t “broken”, and doing what you can to help comfort them during their time of crisis is crucial. Once you’re aware of the potential for anxiety attacks, it’s important to prepare and explore preventative measures, such as being socially prepared BEFORE any social situation occurs, or being organized to prevent chaos and overwhelm before it even happens!
If you know anyone that might benefit from this information, please share this information. Why? Because you can’t apply knowledge that you don’t otherwise have!