Anxiety can be a terrible thing. It can hijack a life. In grief, our anxiety baseline naturally rises. Panic attacks can come out of the blue.
From the Grieving Heart:
I woke up afraid and panicky this morning. It was probably the result of a dream, but I don't remember one.
I’m on edge. I’m nervous and on high alert. I’m waiting for the next brick to fall out of the sky on me or someone I care about. I've noticed that my hands tremble sometimes.
I worry more. In fact, I worry about almost everything. I keep people important to me as close as possible. I'm checking on people more. I seem to be anxious most of the time.
I had an anxiety attack yesterday. I was walking along minding my own business when fear and panic descended out of nowhere. I got light-headed. My heart began to race. I couldn't get enough air. I felt like I was going to pass out.
I found a place to sit until it passed. It was terrifying. Now I know why they call them panic attacks.
What in the world is happening to me? Am I going crazy? Is this all about you and the huge hole in my heart that I can’t seem to fill?
I hate this.
Anxiety is common in grief
When we feel out of control, most of us experience anxiety. When loss invades, our capacity for handling additional stress becomes more limited. Our world has changed. Someone we love is missing. Our hearts are struggling to deal with all the unwanted changes that have been suddenly thrust upon us.
We're more nervous than usual. We become hypersensitive to certain things. Our baseline anxiety level rises. Over time, this anxiety can build until our systems are maxed out and can't store anymore. At some point, the dam cracks, and the pent-up emotion begins to spill out.
Anxiety is common in grief. Many have episodes of intense anxiety or panic. For those who have never experienced an anxiety attack, this can be terrifying. Panic attacks can be horrific.
Breathing becomes crucial at these times. This naturally calms the system, slowing down the mind and lowering anxiety. If we're willing to practice breathing deeply - slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth – at least once a day, we'll be far more likely to do so when anxiety or panic strikes.
Anxiety can derail our sense of well-being. Learning to breathe deeply can be a formidable skill to help us ride the grief roller-coaster better.
When anxiety strikes, I'll breathe deeply and remind myself that it will pass.
Adapted from the newly released book, Comfort for Grieving Hearts: Hope and Encouragement for Times of Loss. To watch a brief video about the book, click here.