I’m bummed. Paco took his last road trip yesterday. For those of you who haven’t read my blog before, Paco is my amazing dog…my best bud…my big-hearted warrior…my co-pilot…you know, woman’s best friend.
Now don’t panic, Paco’s fine. It’s just that the last couple of years, I’ve watched him get more anxious in my car. I think there’s a couple of reasons. The SUV I currently drive has a tighter suspension (that’s SUV talk) than my last vehicle, and he feels every change in the road, especially cattle guards. We hate cattle guards with their short vibrational rumble (I’ll bet cows do too). A drive over one leads to his uncontrollable shaking and, once that fight or flight reaction kicks in, his shaking doesn’t stop until the trip is over. Also, I was in a car accident about two years ago. Paco was in the car with me. Neither one of us was hurt (other than my horrible whiplash), but it has had an effect on his comfort and anxiety in the car (as it has for me).
So, we head to Arizona for Christmas. Paco sits on my partner’s lap and stays alert, even after putting on his Thundershirt (doggy anxiety shirt) and taking a prescribed sedative. We come to a complete stop at cattle guards, roll down the window, let him look out, then s-l-o-w-l-y go over. It appears he’s doing better than previous times, but it’s still not great. He’s anxious and scared. I’m bummed. He used to go everywhere with me, and I mean everywhere. To visit clients, to the lake, to Arizona, everywhere. Icky anxiety…
I also have relatively high anxiety.
I also struggle when I’m a passenger in a car. It’s fear and the inability to control my environment. It’s easier when I’m the driver. But many times, when I’m sitting in the passenger seat, I am alert to every car, every bump, everything I can’t control.
My outsides are not in immediate danger…my insides are freaking out. It’s not rational, but tell that to my rapid breathing, my sweaty palms, and my elevated heart-rate. Paco has what I have. He has what my father has. He has what many of us have…we have anxiety.
Many people have this form of anxiety in airplanes. Logically, they know the chances of a plane accident are much lower than a car accident. Logically, they know they will get to their destination as planned.
Unfortunately, anxiety or panic attacks don’t pay attention to logic.
A full-blown panic attack is awful, and the person (or animal) experiencing it feels like they might die. It’s confusing and scary. All logic goes out the window when your insides are trying to flee. The more you try to control it, the worse it gets. After the panic attack is over, the person who had it is afraid of and alert for the next one…which increases anxiety…which keeps them in constant fear…which is a wicked cycle.
There are many websites that address anxiety and panic attacks, but I wanted to pass along a few things that you can use to reduce anxiety without the use of medication. Here goes:
- Bring yourself back to this present moment. Anxiety is always a fear of something that might occur in the future…it’s essentially a fantasy. “I’m afraid I’m going to get into a car accident.” The car accident that I’m fearing hasn’t happened, but the fear of that future car accident that I’m imagining is creating anxiety, fear, and psychological pain.
- Meditate. Meditation has the natural ability to create a calmer presence and more peace in your life. It will help you to notice your thoughts/worries and let go of them, essentially teaching you to not become attached to them as your truth.
- Breathe deeply. Holding your breath sends an inner signal that you’re in danger. When you feel yourself becoming more anxious, take some deep breaths and ask yourself, “In this moment, what do I fear? Am I truly in danger?”
- Accept/embrace your anxiety. When you stop trying to fight it, you might actually find that your anxiety is not your enemy. It might help avoid future problems by anticipating them…just a thought J
- Check your diet. Especially your intake of caffeine and energy drinks as they increase anxiety (and increase your fear). Yes, I drink caffeine (no, I’m not willing to stop, thank you for asking). On days where you’ll be flying, or a passenger in a car, or taking the final exam that you’re freaking out about, drink less energy drinks.
- Get quality sleep. For real, this is one of the most important things you can do for yourself on many levels. Shoot for eight good hours of sleep each night. And if you can’t get eight hours, try and get a nap in during the day.
Remember, anxiety is fear of something that we think is going to happen in the future.
Many times, it’s based on something that happened in the past that we’re afraid of reoccurring, such as an accident, failing an exam, or being embarrassed in public.
We humans have the ability to create some awareness around our fears that could help uncover the reasons for our anxiety. Little Paco doesn’t necessarily have that ability. So, his mama (that’s me, in case I’ve lost you) told him yesterday, that he’d just taken his last road trip to Arizona. He’s relieved, but doesn’t want me to go to Arizona anymore either. That won’t happen, but his days of uncontrollably shaking for 400 miles are behind him. In the meantime, his mama will keep meditating, breathing, and knowing she’s doing the best thing for her cherished little co-pilot. 😊