Pandemic Anxiety by da-AL + Panic Attack Rescue by Caz

As the Covid epidemic drags on and on and on, for what seems like forever, the challenge of keeping socially distanced is easier for some of us. For me, working on my novels (about the books I’m working on H-E-R-E), teaches me the importance of being okay with keeping my own company. Of course, I’m beyond fortunate that my friends and family are doing well physically, emotionally, and financially. That includes my dear dog, K-D. She breaks up the surrealism of these weird times by staying close while I do ZOOM yoga and pilates.

Make no mistake, Covid is horrendous in every way. Who among us hasn’t been freaked out by it? My husband and I got sick with it just before the vaccines came out. We were lucky to survive, fortunate to have gotten medical attention. That said, I’m still dealing with Covid-related health problems.

Video exercise helps me, especially with my friend by my side to break up the surrealism. So does acquiring new blogger gadgets like a selfie stick — gawd! it took COVID for me to succumb to the very thing I was too snooty to try.
Zoom exercise helps me, especially with my furry girl at my side to break up the surrealism. So does acquiring new blogger gadgets like a selfie stick — gawd! it took Covid for me to succumb to the very thing that before, I was too snooty to try.

Whatever might stress you out, whether it’s Covid or otherwise, meet Caz, a London blogger with kindness so immense that she blogs her experiences into healing wisdom. She worked in mental health, and you can reach her at her site, Mental Health 360 dot U K, no spaces. These are her best tips for keeping our heads when anxiety threatens to do us in…

How to manage panic attacks by Caz

As someone who’s experienced severe panic attacks, I understand just how frightening and debilitating they are. I never want to experience another one and if this is you too, let’s look at how to prevent them. First tho’, in order to overcome panic attacks, you’ll need to understand what they are.

What is a panic attack or panic disorder?

We’ve all had feelings of anxiety — it’s our body’s natural response to stress, and it’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. For example, you may feel anxious about a job interview. During times like this, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal, but some people find it harder to control their anxieties. The most severe form of anxiety can trigger panic attacks.

We have panic attacks and panic disorder; one episode is a panic attack, which might occur following the death of someone close or another stressful situation. Panic disorder is when you experience regular and subsequent attacks. It’s a common yet very misunderstood illness and lots of people with this disorder won’t ever seek help due to fear and stigma.

The attacks can occur often and at any time, seemingly for no apparent reason. It feels like a sudden, unexpected rush of intense fear and anxiety along with a flood of frightening thoughts and physical sensations — so, panic attacks are not merely psychological.

What you should know about panic disorder

  • Many of the symptoms of panic attack are similar to some physical illnesses i.e. heart attack or over-active thyroid.
  • It’s a chronic condition and can lead to changes in behaviour like avoiding situations or events.
  • People dread the onset of another attack, and the fear of having one is just as debilitating as the attacks themselves.
  • Panic disorder knows no boundaries as it affects people of all socio-economic groups and races. It’s more common in women than men. It can also affect children and the elderly.
  • Although the exact causes are unclear, panic disorders can run in families.
  • While many attacks are triggered by stressful life events, they can also occur ‘out of the blue’.
  • Be aware — anti-malaria medication, cold and flu medications, appetite suppressants and even too much caffeine can trigger panic attacks in some people.

If you experience panic attacks, you might then begin to avoid events or situations because you’re afraid of another attack. However, avoidance can create a cycle of living in “fear of the fear”, which adds to your sense of panic. This can cause you to have more panic attacks, leading to diagnosis of panic disorder

What are the symptoms of Panic?

If we encounter a situation that threatens our safety, we’ll experience a series of reactions known as the ‘fight or flight’ response — triggered by the release of chemicals that prepare your body to either stay and deal with a threat or to flee to safety.

During a panic attack, we’ll experience similar symptoms, even when there’s no real threat involved. A panic attack might happen in response to situations that others find harmless. Symptoms include physical and physiological symptoms, such as these ten:

  1. Racing heartbeat, palpitations
  2. Dizziness, light-headedness, or nausea
  3. Difficulty breathing, like you can’t get enough air
  4. Dry mouth and unable to swallow — if you do need fluids, just take smalls sips to avoid choking
  5. Shaking, trembling
  6. Sweating and hot flushes or sudden chills
  7. Sudden need to go to the toilet, the body needs to lighten to fight or flee
  8. Numbness or tingling sensations, initially in your fingers and toes
  9. Your face, feet and hands might go white (as with the tingling, this is the blood leaving your extremities to rush to where it’s needed most i.e. heart and muscles)
  10. Chest pains — you might think you’re having a heart attack — one way to tell is — if your fingers and toes are tingling, you’re more likely to be having a panic attack. However, if you’re afraid always dial 999, or whatever your country’s emergency phone number is, to check

You might experience negative thoughts…

  • “I’m so embarrassed, everyone can see me panicking.”
  • “I feel like I’m dying” or “I’m dying”, or “I’m having a heart attack.”
  • “I can’t cope with this!”

…and feelings of…

  • You’re going mad or crazy.
  • Being out of physical or emotional control.
  • Unreality/detachment from yourself or your surroundings.
  • Heightened sound and visual awareness, and hypervigilance (for flight or flee you need to hear and see clearly and be vigilant).

A panic attack generally lasts between four and twenty minutes, although it often feels a lot longer. However, they have been known to last an hour. I had them one after another, and all night for around three months and it felt like torture.

What to do if you’re having a panic attack

  1. Breathe as slowly and deeply as possible, exhaling firstly through your mouth — slowly for a count of 8-10 seconds, then in through your nose slowly and so on.
  2. Recognise that this is a panic attack and tell yourself that it will pass, because it will.
  3. Try to get to a quiet space and sit down if necessary and continue with the breathing.
  4. If you’re at work or outside, ask for help, I know this might feel a little embarrassing, but do ask if you need to.
  5. Count backwards slowly from 100 or…
  6. …look around for 5 things that you can see and name them out loud i.e. “I can see a truck,” etc. You can go onto things you can hear, smell, taste, or touch in the same way — until the panic subsides. This technique will help you stay in the present and grounded by using your five senses.
  7. Use muscle relaxation techniques — try slumping your shoulders, letting them drop down from your ears, give your jaw a little wiggle then let it relax, uncross your legs, unclench your fists and lay the palms of your hands lightly on your thighs (remind yourself that your body cannot be relaxed and tense at the same time).
  8. Put a few drops of lavender (known to ease anxiety) on a tissue, exhale then breathe it in slowly.
  9. Dial 999 if the symptoms continue or get worse.

What to do if someone else is having a panic attack

  • Ask the person if they’ve had a panic attack before, and what they think might help them or has helped them in the past.
  • Encourage them (or tell them quite firmly if they’re confused and unable to follow directions) to breathe (as above). Do this with them if necessary, as often they think they can’t breathe and won’t be able to do this alone.
  • Follow the above steps and call 999 if necessary.

Self-help to combat panic attacks

  1. Listen (regularly) to free mental wellbeing audio guides online.
  2. Search and download relaxation and mindfulness apps or online community apps.
  3. Learn other skills like visualisation to help you relax and practice them often.
  4. Notice when your body is tense i.e. when your shoulders are up round your ears or your fists are clenched and let them relax. When your body is constantly tensed up, it’s effectively telling your brain you’re on alert, tensed and ready to fight or flee.
  5. Ask your close friends or family members to support you by gently pointing out when you’re all hunched up and tense. Even better, perhaps they’ll give you a light head massage, or lightly rub your arms and hands in a soothing way.
  6. Practice the breathing exercises often so that you’ll be able to use them easily when needed.
  7. Try mixing lavender oil with other aromatherapy oils like geranium to produce your own stress reliever.

I can’t stress enough the need to practice the coping techniques. You know you wouldn’t be able to drive say on a motorway after having just one lesson. It takes practice!

Treatment for Panic attacks

Treatment aims to reduce the number of panic attacks you have and ease your symptoms.

  • Psychological (talking) therapies and medicine are the main treatments for panic disorder
  • Depending on your symptoms, you may need either of these treatments, or a combination of both

When to get help

  • If you’re having suicidal thoughts, please seek professional help. Or talk to someone close.
  • See a GP if you’ve been experiencing symptoms of panic disorder. Regardless of how long you’ve had the symptoms, if panic attacks are interfering with your life, work, or relationships you should seek professional help.
  • Although panic disorder is a medical condition in its own right, there can sometimes be a physical reason for your symptoms — and treating it can bring the anxious feelings to an end. See your GP to rule out any other causes and don’t self-diagnose.

Over to you

The above lists are not exhaustive, and you may have other tips for readers, which you can leave in the comment section below. Please feel free to make any other comments and ask any questions.

Have you or anyone you know experienced anxiety or panic? What helped you or them?

Dog Day of a Pandemic Summer in 12 Steps and Cool Video

What’s a novelist, writer, creative, any kind of person, to do amid COVID-19? Preface: I know I’m super lucky that to date, and fingers crossed that it stays that way,  my circle has been relatively unscathed by any coronavirus. That said, I invite you to join me in whining…

There’s only so much writing and reading I can do during this pandemic sheltering-in-place without feeling stir-crazy… lonely… and just plain hot. We’re into the dog days, the part of summer when there’s no evading stickiness and the persistent “fragrance” of each other……

Khashayar and K-D dog stroll the beach.
1. K-D likes the seashore, um, sorta…

These days, masking up, talking to people from afar through the muffling, and daring the germs feels like endeavoring a safari, albeit not a blood-letting one. (Dear reader, my condolences if you’re plagued by maskne.)

Nevertheless, we decided to make a foray — to the shore — dog beach, to be exact. Mid-week and mid-morning, we calculated, would be sparse. Once we got there, no lifeguards shooed us away, so the three of us were tight.

Khashayar and K-D doggie wet their feet at the beach.
2. …but K-D’s not so certain about liking water.

Masks on… it was time for our dear little K-D doggie to learn to swim!

After all, my lovely girl has water-loving labrador-ish-ness twined into her DNA. Unfortunately, her older lab-ish sibs taught her to be suspicious of water. The sorely missed Lola and Pierre would tremble through warm showers. Their hearts, nonetheless, were huge, their love of their hu-Man great. That water-fearing duo steeled themselves to wade into a shallow lake when they thought their hu-Man was drowning, never suspecting that he was play-acting.

Khashayar and K-D doggie look at a stick floating in the water.
3. K-D spotted a toy! Alas, it’s in the water…

K-D is defined by two loves: playing and eating, in that order.

Khashayar and K-D doggie look at stick in water some more.
4. Khashayar assures her there’s nothing to fear.

Joy! She found something to play with; a stick.

Khashayar shows K-D a stick at the beach.
5. My bigger sweetheart wades into the water to show my littler honey how refreshing it is.

With gentle persistence, my dear Khashayar enticed her deeper.

Khashayar walks into water as K-D doggie looks on.
6. K-D worries when one of her fave people is getting wet…

It took time for play-mode to kick in — that plus her aversion to getting left behind by her fave hu-Man.

K-D runs along beach with Khashayar in tow.
7. K-D is perfectly aware of doggie on the far right and has already told all roving canines to ‘stay offa my stuff’…

At some point, she set down her toy to pursue other activities — but when another critter showed interest in it, she told ’em off. Three sessions of that, and she’d had enough. Dang it, she was going to play with it with her hu-Man… maybe…

Khashayar continues to coax K-D doggie into water.
8. K-D waits to be super-duper sure that water is ok…

Khashayar had confidence enough for both of them!…

Khashayar coaxing K-D doggie into water some more.
9. K-D subscribes to “better safe than sorry” no matter how awesome that stick looks…

… and Khashayar has patience…

Khashayar looks on as K-D doggie doggie paddles back to shore.
10. K-D wants me to tell you that they don’t call it “dog-paddling” for nuthin’. Note: she’s sheltering by watching Emergency!, wherein TV Californians talk lakka Chicagoans…

O-m-g!!! We should’ve brought a surfboard for her to hang ten!

K-D doggie swims past a wave as Khashayar looks on.
11. K-D also wants me to tell you that she never was scared…

Patience and love work well in all situations, no?

Khashayar looks on as K-D reaches dry land.
12. K-D, a natural water sprite!

Turn up your speakers and sit back for a cooling video of one of her many subsequent swims that day. Bliss out to wet ears flapping against a happy dog’s face, one who’s fresh from a doggie paddle frolic and free of the day’s worries…

Read more posts I’ve written to uplift you during the pandemic here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

How’s it in your part of the globe? How’re you personally weathering all this?

Happy 105 Birthday Sam Sachs + Update with New Video

Sam Sachs on his 105th birthday! Screenshot from CityTVLakewoodCA video.
Sam Sachs on his 105th birthday! Screenshot from CityTVLakewoodCA video.

Hurray! Sam Sachs’ 105 birthday, which I first posted about here, was a massive success in every way. His birthday last Sunday, was a bit different due to COVID19 (here and here and here and here and here and here are some posts that might cheer you through this crisis). As of that morning, according to the Long Beach Post News, the retired high school teacher and celebrated WWII vet received over 6,200 birthday cards from all over the United States and probably other countries too.

Seventy-six years ago, in nothing but a glider, a.k.a. a “flying coffin,” pulled by an airplane, he landed with other soldiers behind German lines to help liberate a Nazi internment camp! For his bravery, Sachs was recently inducted into the French Legion of Honor.

Lt. Col. Sam Sachs fought in WWII.
Lt. Col. Sam Sachs fought in WWII.

The mayor of where Sachs was born, Grand Forks, North Dakota, proclaimed Sunday in his honor. U.S. President Donald Trump sent a dozen Army National Guard members with a laudatory letter, a photo, and a framed flag.

News coverage came from all over the place, in addition to my own posts and shares. There were so many greetings from Southern California-area politicians, among them Lakewood’s Mayor Todd Rogers. Here’s a full account by Lakewood’s news…

Over the days preceding Sachs’ special day, fancy decorated vehicles, old and new, private and public, paraded past and over his house. That included low riders, collectors, a Los Angeles County fire truck, sheriff’s cars, and a sheriff’s helicopter.

Sachs promises he’ll do his best to be around for us to help him celebrate his 106!

On the day of his birthday, Sachs thanked one and all amid a front-yard filled with hundreds of donated American mini-flags.

“I had no idea what to expect … This is magical.”

Presents from strangers arrived too, such as how one man dropped off $50! Ivonne Meader, the owner of the senior care home, noted that the event offered folks a chance “to be part of something special.”

When’s the last time you mailed kind thoughts to someone? Do it right now to do a good deed, plus support the United States Postal Service. Out of stamps? Set out an envelope marked “U.S. Postmaster” for your carrier (neither postage on it nor a handling fee required) with your check inside with instructions regarding your order — or order online. President Trump wants to do away with the USPS, yet without it we’ll be at the mercy of private companies setting rates and deciding whether small towns and hard to reach places are profitable enough to service…

Video music nirvana + Happy Nature Day all days

Our Nature Day picnic turned out nicer than we expected. Our impromptu Nature Day picnic turned out nicer than we expected.

Did you know that April Fool’s Day is celebrated in Iran too? Thirteen days after Persian New Year (our 1st day of Spring, which you saw us celebrating here and here and here), Persians stay out all day and play games. It’s Sizdah Be-dar (literally 13 Outdoor), also called Nature Day. One must dispel any potential bad luck from the number thirteen. Some people like to play innocent pranks on that day too!

Often that 13th day falls around Easter, filling local parks to double their capacity. So many people gather that folks will run into childhood friends, ones from other countries.

Sheltering, quarantine, house arrest, what’s in a name? Yes, it’s grim, but it also bespeaks of a hopeful world, one where everyone is pulling together (not counting the every-present handful of conspiracy theorists). (Here and here and here and here and here and here are a few more posts to cheer you through the crisis.)

Nature Day was an at-home workday for us. Half-heartedly, my husband and I set a modest picnic under the dwarf kumquat tree in our little front yard. Our sweet doggie joined us for a quick round of cards over tea and Persian cookies. One thing led to another, and before we knew it, we were having fun. Then we ran back indoors to return to our at-home work. Dinner involved more Persian deliciousness – see in this post that reveals how Persian food has something for everyone!

Get in close to smell Khashayar's bubbling tomato-bean-potato stew. Get in close to smell Khashayar’s bubbling tomato-bean-potato stew.

No, I don’t have a right to complain — not when people have suffered far worse and continue to do so. We’re all well here. This far, California seems to have evaded the tsunami of illness that’s still predicted to swell, probably thanks largely to our horrid mass transit that scares folks off from piling together into busses and subways.

Family in Iran, thank the heavens, is fine if we don’t count how the country has been walloped by the epidemic, amid a grossly hobbled infrastructure.

I’m rambling. Forgive me. This is what one does when one is cooped up for weeks, relegated to video chats and to regarding anything to do with life outdoors as if its all of it is radioactive waste, from people to food to petting — hands off! — each other’s dogs, and why aren’t you wearing a mask? Well, I thought outdoors…

Thank goodness for the arts. I’ve got this video-post about my enchantment with those who pursue arts and hobbies for no other compensation than inner glee.

A gift to you from Iran! Here’s some of my extended family there sharing fine musicianship — enjoy their classical Persian music performance of “Tak Derakt: Single Tree”…

With that loveliness in mind, here are a few photos from my dear husband’s visit to Tehran several years ago. (Here and here are more about that same trip.)…

The whole of Tehran turns green in Spring. The whole of Tehran turns green in Spring.
Even at night this Tehran bridge is colorful. Even at night this Tehran bridge is colorful.
Flowers in Spring in Tehran. Flowers in Spring in Tehran.
Tehran's spring-time snowy mountains. Tehran’s spring-time snowy mountains.

If you want a better idea of how a real Sizdah Bedar is meant to be, look here and feel here.

How are you fairing indoors, dear reader? Healthy and happy, I hope…