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The first time I experienced a panic attack I thought I was having a heart attack! It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. It was a very real (and painful) physical symptom of the stress I was experiencing at the time. It was also an eye-opener; I learned a lot that day – about myself and the need to support my own mental health and wellbeing.

After seeking the help I needed, I was able to make changes and learn strategies to help manage my anxiety and triggers, and increase the ‘calm’ in my life. I wanted to let you know – you can too.

The first thing I want to share is; you’re not alone, everyone experiences anxiety from time to time.

Learn the common symptoms of anxiety. As I said, I had no idea what was happening the first time I experienced it, which stressed me out even more! Knowing what to look for helps. Symptoms can be physical and mental, such as changes in your actions, or thoughts and feelings – you can find out more at www.headspace.org.au. It’s important to remember that anxiety is personal, everyone experiences it differently. So, tune in to your body – listen to it and notice when these signs pop up and how they appear for you.

Practice self-care – getting a good night’s sleep, eating well and staying active help. It’s also helpful to learn about stress and ways to manage it. Find what works for you to find your ‘calm’.

Talk about it – your loved ones want to support you. Remember, just like you want to be there for your family and friends, they want to be there for you too.

Take notice of what you’re thinking. Thoughts can influence your anxiety, being aware of what contributes can help you interrupt those unhelpful thinking patterns and learn new ways to respond.

Headspace also says to ‘Be aware of avoidance. It’s normal to want to avoid situations that make you feel anxious. It might work in the short-term, but over time it can make your anxiety worse. This is because you don’t get the opportunity to learn that the thing you fear may not happen or be as bad as you think.’

Headspace also recommends breathing strategies. Slowing your breathing interrupts the cycle of physical sensations associated with anxiety symptoms like a pounding heart, shortness of breath, and butterflies in your stomach. My ability to control my breath, helped me get in control of my anxiety. I know it seems simple, but I promise you – breathing works. www.reachout.com recommends the free app Breathe2Relax.

Reach out – there are so many organisations and people that want to help you manage your anxiety. If you are finding it hard to cope, and your social, work, or school life is being affected, it’s a good idea to seek professional support.

These organisations are here to help:
Headspace: www.headspace.org.au
Kids Helpline: www.kidshelpline.com.au or call 1800 55 1800
ReachOut: www.reachout.com.au
Lifeline: A 24-hour crisis service: www.lifeline.org.au or call 13 11 14

You can also talk to your doctor or you can search for a health service and GP at www.headtohealth.gov.au