The anxiety attack that changed my life

In the middle of working an afternoon shift, making sandwiches and salads, a co-worker came up to me and said, “if you worked with Jenny you should get tested because she was positive for COVID.”

At that moment, it felt like in the movies, where everything around the main character just goes completely muffled.

With sudden lightheadedness and being unable to breathe correctly, I immediately felt my heart race out of my chest. I ran into the walk-in freezer and crouched down, telling myself that I had never come in contact with Jenny.

As I kept repeating that same sentence to myself over and over, everything slowly began to go back to normal.

Questions of uncertainty then came rushing into my head even though I never felt any COVID-19 related symptoms and one week had passed since I worked with her.

Should I even go home? Do I just sleep in my car for the next few days? What if I infected my parents already?

The constant feeling of being unable to breathe continued.

Once I got tested and the negative results came back, most would generally feel better, be at ease and go back to how things were before.

When I got my negative results, that didn’t happen.

That same feeling of being unable to breathe, sudden nausea and lightheadedness never went away.

After having multiple medical tests done, no abnormalities were found in my body nor positive results.

It wasn’t until my family practitioner Dr. Christine Soliman told me that what I was feeling this whole time wasn’t sickness or any symptoms of COVID-19, but anxiety.

According to Mental Health of America, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of mental health awareness for all and serving those with existing mental illnesses said “more than half a million people have reported signs of anxiety and/or depression, with Sept. reporting the highest rate of severity since the start of the pandemic. Anxiety health screenings were up by 634% from January and depression screens were up 873%.”

While living in the midst of a pandemic that seems relentless with no end, anxiety levels have risen.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization with emphasis on non-partisan information on national health issues said “more than one in three adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic.”

People are currently living in a pandemic where there is currently no real sign of it going away. We have to continue to live day to day while still taking precautions by staying indoors and only going outside only when needed, instead of going out every day with friends and family to have fun.

There are still times where I’m suddenly out of breath, my heart rate wavers while working or where one is supposed to feel the most relaxed, at home.

I’ve noticed that little by little the fear of going outside to stores or hanging out with friends has grown more.

Life doesn’t stop for anything. People have to continue living their lives while dealing with their anxiety.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ” During this time of national crisis, we must manage two things simultaneously: 1) Protect ourselves from the Coronavirus, and 2) Protect ourselves from anxiety.”

In quarantine, I have found ways to keep myself busy, both physically and mentally.

Something as simple as reading a book can help one’s mind stay busy. Since your focus is on the story your mind can’t think about anything else, including some situations that may trigger panic attacks.

Another way that has helped my anxiety calm down was exercising every day. What I have been personally doing is running around my block while trying to focus on my breathing.

While I find myself in these moments, I looked for tips and tricks on how to stop those feelings of anxiety, even going on Twitter to see if people had any recommendations.

In addition, I have been using a video game called Ring Fit Adventure, an exercising video game published by Nintendo. The game is a workout program where you have to exercise to progress the story.

The game has helped me with clear my mind and keep me from just sitting all day due to having to focus on the exercises being done and the forms of the exercises being correct to continue.

Anxiety has increased in many since the pandemic started, some even discovered their own anxiety due to the pandemic.

Even though the pandemic continues to go on, life doesn’t stop. I still work at a restaurant where one has a higher chance to be infected.

After researching techniques on how to calm myself and considering Dr. Soliman’s words, breathing techniques are used daily to help me focus on my job and to move forward.

“The main thing you have to take from this is the fact that COVID isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, you can’t let that stop you from living your life,” Dr. Soliman said.

In the end, people will continue living their lives, even with the pandemic happening. There will be times where that sudden anxiety comes up, but as long as you find ways to help yourself, it can be avoided from time to time.

Author’s Note:

El Camino College offers psychological services for students and faculty where they can make an appointment to talk to a therapist.

To set up an appointment with a licensed psychologist click here.

After Hours Emotional Crisis Line: 310-660-3377

“Understanding & Coping with Depression & Anxiety”: Dr. Maria Nazarian from EC’s Student Health Services provides students with a weekly wellness workshop on ways to practice healthy habits to cope with and understand depression and anxiety. For more information click here.