How to deal with my anxiety related to my break up.

I am having a panic attack almost every day and having difficulty dealing with my loss. I can't stop thinking about my ex.
Asked by Phoebe

Hello Phoebe! Thank you for you message and your question. Anxiety can be terribly uncomfortable and experiencing a loss on top of the anxiety can make it feel so much worse. No one wants to experience a loss of any kind. Unfortunately most of us cannot avoid it at some point in our lives. Here are things you can do for yourself that can help.

1. Learning how to calm down your nervous system is one thing you can do for yourself. Your nervous system gets activated by cues in the environment and this is what results in those uncomfortable anxious and panicky sensations. Learning some basic mindfulness skills such as deep breathing, nature walking, the 54321 technique, enjoying the aroma of your favorite candle, yoga, meditation, enjoying a warm shower or a bubble bath, listening to music you like, and also playing with your dog or cat if you have one. These are all techniques that help people calm their nervous systems. You could also Google the words "Dialectical Behavior Therapy" or "Mindfulness" and look for some material or even YouTube videos that demonstrate some skills that will help you to calm your nervous system. These skills do not have to take a lot of time and they are not difficult. They just require a little bit of practice so you can apply them when you need them.

2. Self-Compassion. So you have experienced a loss and this is a time to show yourself self compassion and not beat yourself up over what may or may not have happened. This is a good time to perhaps write about your feelings about your break-up. Writing things on paper helps to get those thoughts out of your head which helps to reduce the intensity of the feelings. Try not to judge the fact that you have anxiety and panic -- or for that matter any feelings. Feelings are completely normal. Although they can be uncomfortable, they are perfectly normal. They will pass -- but usually not on our time table! We would like them to go away faster. This is the reason to practice the skills from number 1 -- to help you tolerate those feelings a little better. So writing in a journal or a notebook, or just talking to a friend will help you tolerate those feelings a little better.

3. Another technique is called Radical Acceptance. You could Google that as well. It simply means that you acknowledge the facts of what has happened without judgment. You acknowledge the feelings associated with what has happened without judgment. And then you resist the urge to add what we call a "narrative" which is typically a story about what has happened and generally is based on our perception of what has happened and not necessarily the facts. So the narrative frequently sounds like, "This is awful." "I can't stand this." "This was awful and so unfair." "I don't know what I ever did to deserve this." So essentially it is our spin on what has happened even if there really is no basis in fact for our spin. The narrative tends to make us feel much worse. The idea is to be willing to simply acknowledge that this thing has happened and we are not happy about it. At the same time, we know that we will get through this and we then turn our attention to our values and we align our behavior in the moment to our values. So in spite of how we feel, we are still willing to act according and in line with our values. Not suggesting that this is easy. You can find some videos about radical acceptance on YouTube. While it can be hard to do, it is also a very helpful tool when dealing with something very unpleasant. When we are able and willing to utilize radical acceptance, it is like lifting a weight from our shoulders.

4. Another path that many people do to help themselves get through a difficult time is volunteering. Sometimes the best way to feel better is to help someone else. It could be as simple as walking your neighbor's dog for them, or volunteering at a homeless shelter, or going to the grocery store for someone who is sick. You might not feel like you have the energy to help someone else but a lot of times if you just try to do something small, it will help improve your mood.

I hope you are able to apply some of these ideas to help yourself. Maybe just pick one or two of the techniques and practice them. 

Thank you for reading my response and I hope things improve for you soon.