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Waking Up With an Anxiety Attack

By Angel Shadow

How many times have you drifted off to sleep, only to be jolted awake a short time later in the grip of an anxiety attack? Experiencing an attack during the day is bad enough, but to wake out of a sound sleep with one can mean a night of physical illness and emotional upheaval. The jolt you experience brings dizziness, nausea, and an overwhelming tingling of your entire nervous system. At this point, you feel like you have no choice but to get up and move. Lying in bed usually isn't an option, so don't try to force yourself to go back to sleep. Most likely, it won't work, and even if it does, you'll only awaken a short time later until your body is completely calmed down. Get up if you have to. Nothing says you have to lay in bed, waiting for the attack to pass.

Waking up with an attack can be handled similarly to out of the blue attacks. However, because they occur at night, there are some options that may not be available during the day or when you're away from home.

Here are some tips for waking up with an attack:

  1. If you're at home, remind yourself you're perfectly safe, and in the comfort of your own home. Most anxiety sufferers feel better in their own environment. Stay calm and breathe.
  2. If you're not at home, still remind yourself you're safe. Just because you're away from home doesn't mean you're in any danger. Again, stay calm and breathe.
  3. If you're experiencing an upset stomach, drink some peppermint tea. Chamomile tea is good as well. Valerian Root naturally calms the nervous system, so tea with this herb is also a good choice.
  4. Watch something low-key on television. This is a good distraction technique.
  5. Reading is another useful distraction, but it usually won't work until your body is calmed down. Once it is, it's a good way to keep from re-spiking.
  6. Keep your thoughts positive. Don't feed the attack with more fear and negativity. This will only make it worse.
  7. Slowly start relaxing all the muscles in your body. With each breath, release the muscle tension you're experiencing. If you remain calm, you'll start to feel a difference within a few minutes. On each exhale, literally imagine the word, "calm," floating through your entire body, from head to toe. Imagine every nerve being bathed in this word. Keep breathing and stay calm. You'll be amazed how well this works. I've used it many times myself.
  8. Listen to a meditation/relaxation CD. iAwake is a good source for this type of material.
  9. If the thought of going back to bed is creating a trigger, don't sleep in your bed that night. If you've been relaxing on the couch, and feel like staying there for the night, do so. Just try not to let your bed become an anxiety trigger. If you're stressed about going to sleep because you're afraid an attack will hit sometime in the night, you're setting yourself up for a restless night sleep. This could include waking numerous times, nighttime anxiety attacks, nightmares, etc. So don't feel guilty about "couching" it if necessary.
  10. For women, PMS and menopause can cause anxiety and insomnia. The above tips will help with this as well.
Waking up with an attack means your nervous system was overwhelmed when you went to sleep. Accept that it may take some time to come down. Fighting the process will make it worse. Always remember....stay calm and breathe. Your nervous system simply needs some down time, and if you don't follow it's lead, it will bring you to your knees. Sometimes, this is the only way your body can get your attention.

If you're prone to nighttime attacks, try to keep your evenings low-key, and avoid unnecessary stimulation. Recognize when you're feeling overwhelmed, and consciously bring yourself down before attempting to go to bed. Take control of the way you handle your mind/body connection. You truly are in control.

This is the 4th of a 5 part series on stress/anxiety (Part 1 - 2 -3)

Copyright © 2007 Angel Shadow, All rights reserved.
My ancestry is Irish and Cherokee Indian and I have a gypsy spirit that refuses to be fenced in. I am definitely not a conformist. Much of my life was spent under the control of others. My childhood was full of abuse and neglect, which lead me to my volunteer abuse work. It also lead to anxiety and panic attacks, which I suffered from for years, so I'm dedicated to helping others in that area as well. I have now found my own personal freedom, based on my own personal truth and nothing could be more liberating.

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