I’m a firm believer in the fact that, the more people talk about mental health — as ugly and painful as their struggles may be — the more it will relieve the stigma that shouldn’t even be there in the first place. As someone who has coped with depression, mood swings, and panic attacks since my early teens, I found it particularly heartening to come across someone like yogi Jessica Olie talking about anxiety attacks on Instagram to her hundreds of thousands of followers.
While Olie’s posts most commonly illustrate her yoga practice in beautiful, peaceful environments, her recent posts have been getting very real about debilitating panic attacks and the dark states of mind with which she has recently been contending. While these posts may not necessarily embody the sunny, uplifting, and motivational tone her followers may have come to expect, Olie wrote that it’s important for her to be honest about the realities of her emotional and mental health, and she’s fully aware some people just won’t want to hear it.
She candidly shared on Instagram,
Yesterday I didn’t leave my bed until 5 p.m. I didn’t open the curtains or check my emails. I didn’t change my clothes.
My day was spent trying to breathe through anxiety attacks and quiet my mind that had found itself in a dark place.
The yogi also explained that these issues have specifically been related to some recent health concerns with her father:
This is not me but it’s a part of me, a side of me that I’ve had to confront a lot over the last few months since my dad got diagnosed and every day, every hour, every minute is so different.
Olie also discussed the importance of allowing herself to stay still and stay in bed some days.
She recognized the need to let herself do a little bit of nothing every now and then, for the sake of her mental well-being. Then, on other days, she explained she encourages herself to go through her daily routines, despite how difficult it might feel. Olie, not surprisingly, uses yoga as a method of coping and keeping herself in touch with her well-being on all levels.
According to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “a panic attack is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort.” Symptoms can include, for example, heart pounding or palpitations, shaking or sweating, sensations of shortness of breath or smothering or tingling, feelings of disassociation, and even fear of dying.
Panic attacks can be a symptom of anxiety disorder, but they can also be situational.
They can come about as a result of particularly difficult experiences, or even just simple life changes. And, yeah, the name says it all — they can be pretty scary when you start to experience them. A few in-the-moment coping mechanisms, impossible as they may seem, can include soothing self-talk (“I am actually OK”), speaking out about them as they happen, deep breathing, and a focus on relaxing your muscles (aka yoga — Olie totally has the right idea here).
More long-term treatments can include professional therapeutic and medical guidance, proper nutrition, and regular exercise. Also, limiting stimulants like caffeine and watching your use of substances like alcohol and pot can help with anxiety and panic attacks in the long run. And yes, mindful practices like yoga and meditation have been shown to help, too.
It can be particularly difficult to remember you aren’t alone in your head when you feel these symptoms come on.
But trust me, you can, and you will, survive them.