Ask Kendra is a monthly(ish) feature where I will answer reader submitted questions about mental health, motherhood, creativity and more! (*please keep in mind I am not a doctor or medically trained professional). Have a question you want answered? Click here to submit.
“My doctor wants me to take Xanax for my panic attacks. But I am afraid of becoming addicted. What ways can I help control my panic attacks without taking medication?“
Thank you for this question, I love it because it’s something I have personally struggled with.
About a year and a half ago, my doctor suggested Xanax and I did not want it. I didn’t want to become addicted and I didn’t want the effects of it. I was scared, as you were. And that’s okay, it’s okay to not want medication but it’s also okay to accept it if you need it.
Since you (and others like you) are looking for ways to control panic attacks without medication, here are my tips:
Find Your Triggers
If you just keep treating the symptom (the panic attack) you never actually heal the cause (the trigger). Finding a trigger can be hard and often, stressful.
But knowing what sets you off into panic mode can help you avoid those situations. Or it can help you realize a panic attack might happen and so you can work through acceptance, affirmations or even try to change the situation or event to be less stressful.
How do you find your triggers? I wrote a whole post about it but here’s a quick version:
Start at the end and work backwards if you need to, or take a moment and think about what was happening when the panic (or other symptom began). Here are two real examples of my own triggers.
Depending on the severity of your panic attacks, acceptance can be an amazing tool. When I was having weekly or every other week panic attacks, I started working with mindfulness and acceptance and now I have maybe 1 panic attack a month, usually less.
Acceptance is hard hard hard. It’s learning to say, “I feel crappy, but it’s okay.” This is a great tool when you are starting to feel a little anxious and you are not in full blown panic mode yet. Try not to think of your panic or anxiety (or depression) as “bad” and feeling happy or content as “good”. They just are. All emotions are part of you and part of life. Anger, sadness, frustration, happiness, and anxiety.
Find a Creative Outlet
When I make sure I take time each day for my creativity, my mental health is so much better. I am more grounded and don’t panic as often.
Take up painting, or drawing, or art journaling.
Try writing, pottery.
Even cooking or knitting.
Do something with your hands and your mind that nourishes your soul.
I know it’s scary to have panic attacks all the time. Anxiety is a beast of a mental illness, it’s lonely and scary and we often feel so out of control. Unfortunately, there’s no way to control a panic attack once it’s started, at least in my own experience. There’s no way to control your emotions and feelings.
Recovery is about acceptance and learning the tools to cope through the pain and panic. There’s never 1 right way to manage panic attacks (or any mental illness/symptom) but I hope these tips are a helpful start.
Lastly, don’t feel ashamed to take medication. Be open with your doctors about your fears and worries.