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Coping with panic attacks while moving

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Let’s begin this month’s blog by making a very succinct, direct point: No one likes moving. In fact, people hate moving more than almost every other thing on Planet Earth. Just how much do people hate moving?

Well, a for-fun poll was done by Pew in 2015 that attempted to uncover the things we hate the most in this world and the only thing that beat moving was public speaking.

That means your average person hates politics, bugs, third world poverty, reality television, cable news, the Dallas Cowboys and Nickelback less than they hate moving. That is pretty powerful stuff.

All kidding aside however, there is good reason for all the hate. Moving stresses people out, as they don’t have the time or mental resources to maintain their usual state of being. The experience of moving is even worse for those who are coping with behavioral health challenges, particularly those who are victims of anxiety and panic attacks. Change/loss is a core panic attack trigger. Relocation often times prompts feeling of separation from significant relationships.

Unfortunately, no matter how much we hate moving- it is by its very nature about chaos and change. It also leaves people who are especially uncomfortable with change wide open for a panic attack; as these people find themselves perpetually trying to drag themselves back to where things are certain, familiar and safe. There is the rapid dismantling of carefully ordered spaces, exhausting, physical labor, a new, unfamiliar environment and an ongoing demand for you to make very important decisions several times in a confined period of time.

Unfortunately, we’ll all have to move at some point – and with that comes a certain resignation to our situation. There’s nothing you can do about it. But rather than trying to eliminate the symptoms of your panic attacks and anxiety, there are ways to help you better manage them and prepare yourself as best as you can for the big day.

Planning is essential

The key to any panic attack treatment is to be prepared. It starts with understanding what your triggers and symptoms are and then planning ahead and learning to destroy panic attacks before they start. Moving is really no different.

Having a plan that’s flexible and that doesn’t involve biting off more than you can chew is incredibly important. Having a sense of control over the situation and a plan of attack makes it much easier to see the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It distracts you from the details of what could go wrong and will keep you busy and more focused. You’ll also feel a sense of accomplishment and progress as you check things off the ‘to-do’ list.

Just as important – is to make sure you don’t confuse ‘planning’ with ‘scheduling’. Don’t fall into traps like having to have certain rooms packed and moved out by a certain time. Take your time, take breaks and give yourself the time you need to do things well. You don’t have to do everything on a schedule. Pack a room at a time. Pack a space at a time. Move it when you’re ready.

Also plan time for you. Do you have things that you enjoy doing to take the edge off? What helps you relax? Find those – and literally make time for them in your move. Planning time for you and your behavioral health is an essential part of any move.

Manage expectations

Most great undertakings don’t happen overnight and it’s important to understand that your move is going to take time and that not everything will go as you have planned. Whether it’s packing, unpacking or the physical move itself, moving can throw us an unlimited number of curveballs.

There is an old saying that ‘understanding the nature of process allows you to stay ahead of it’ and for those who cope with panic attacks and anxiety, there have never been truer words spoken. Adopt a take control training stance to nip panic attacks in the bud. Be symptom ready…ready to feel the heart pounding as a harmless bodily sensation no different than exercise. Be symptom tough…don’t blink, don’t shrink, don’t pull back one inch. Stare the symptoms down! Be symptom friendly. Heart pounding is the same feeling I have when I run up a flight of stairs.

Lastly, take a lot breaks! There is no shame in taking a moment to yourself or carving out time to go grab a quick bite to eat and collect yourself. There is no reason you should feel that you have to go full tilt for hours on end.

Get a buddy

If you have a friend or person you implicitly trust, lean on them throughout the process and see if they’re willing to help you move. There’s something to be said to having someone around who is helpful, thoughtful and whose presence is naturally soothing. Sometimes friends can be the best treatment for any stressful situation.

This person can help keep you stay focused and calm and there’s no better soup for the soul than a well-timed joke or hug. It’s also helpful to have a person with you who is familiar with your anxiety or what triggers your panic attacks. They serve as a look-out in this way and will make sure that you adopt the take control training stance when panic strikes.

The most important part of the buddy system is the idea of having the right people to surround yourself with. Having support around you is invaluable – especially in times of great transition such as a move.

 

Make no mistake about it – moving isn’t very much fun. But throughout it all – it’s important to stay positive and remember why you made this decision to begin with. Focus on the bigger space, the larger yard, the spacious kitchen, the extra space or simply just take pride in a decision that you made that you know will be good for you and how worth it this will all be when it’s over and done with. Staying excited for the future can help keep you calm when you’re putting your present into a box and carrying it onto a truck.

Today might be stressful, but tomorrow? Tomorrow is going to be great.

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