A moment that terrified me.
A moment that could have gone really bad for me if I had not recognized my symptoms and had the knowledge and experience to be able to nip it in the bud before disaster struck!
Shopping centers...one of my worst nightmares, especially on the weekend during the day, but it was unavoidable and Hendrik and I had to go and return a purchased product that we weren't happy with.
Things were fine at first, we returned what we needed to, but then had to go and buy a few odds and ends, and pretty soon I started to feel funny.
I started to make fists with my hands, clenching them and unclenching them. My breathing started to get heavy, and the crowds started to make my mind foggy. Hendrik took hold of my hand and reassured me that it was okay.
But then people that were all around me suddenly changed into threats. It was as if they were different to me, almost like ants that were chasing after a piece of candy. Even though they were not ganging up on me personally, I cannot remember the last time I felt so claustrophobic. Every place, every corner that I looked was just more and more people.
I started to feel panic stricken and told Hendrik to quickly pay for the things that we needed as I was really anxious to get out the mall and back into the safety of the car.
I have not had a panic attack since 2008, and I didn't want to break my record!
When looking at this scenario, this could've gone very badly for me. I could've had a panic attack, I could've fainted or I could've started running towards something that I deemed a safety blanket or just merely running away from the crowd, all which would have caused me huge embarrassment, and all things that I have done before caused from extreme anxiety!
So how did I handle it?
In these types of situations, it's very important to recognize your symptoms, to be very much in touch with your feelings and emotions. Symptoms are the result of hormones being released from the adrenal glands when our bodies go through the flight or fight reaction.
First and foremost.....try to stay calm....very easy to say and quite cliqued, but this is very important, and because of 14 years experience, I have just learnt to nip the panic in the bud before it happens.
It's hard to explain, but I see it as having two sides to my mind:
- One is the irrational side, the side who is all panic stricken.
- And then the rational side, the side that keeps me calm and able to control my anxiety.
What did I do?
- The first thing I did was tell Hendrik, who then took my hand and reassured me.
- The second thing I did was apply the anti hyperventilation breath
- The third thing I did was put my head phones on and listened to a guided meditation that I have stored on my phone. I carried on doing this even while we were driving home and I put my sunglasses on. This helped me to feel wrapped up in my own cocoon. Kind of like if I can't see or hear the outside world, then you can't see or hear me 'type of thing.'
After about ten minutes of listening to the meditation, I felt better, still on edge, but out of that panic stricken danger zone.
MEL'S HANDY TIPS: People who suffer with Social Anxiety/Phobia need to preferably not be on their own when they go to crowded places. If this is unavoidable though, I recommend, going to shopping malls or other busy places early in the morning or late at night when they will be quieter.
Plugging your phone in and listening to music or a meditation through your earphones REALLY helps! It helps to make you feel detached from the other people. Putting some sunglasses on also helps me a lot. It also creates that detached feeling.
SIDE NOTE: If you are driving, please don't listen to any meditations...rather opt for some calming or classical music.