I thought I was having a heart attack.
I was home alone. My husband was shipped out on a deployment, and as I sunk to the floor in pain, I wondered how long it would be before someone found my dead body.
I was desperately trying to breathe, but with every gasp, my chest got tighter and tighter. The whole room was spinning. My body was tingling, and all I could do was lay there ― helpless.
I was 32. I had never heard of anyone having a heart attack at 32. From my physicals I was in good health, so what was happening to me?
Everything was in slow motion, and it was like a scene from a movie… I was physically there, but it felt as if I were watching what was happening.
Thankfully, slowly the room stopped spinning, the tingling began to disappear, and my lungs opened up. I watched my chest rise and fall as I began to breathe more easily, and I thanked God that it apparently wasn’t my time yet. I immediately called the doctor and went in that day.
Did you know a panic attack can feel like a heart attack?
I didn’t, but I do now.
I had experienced a full-blown panic attack.
As I started to cry in the doctor’s office, wondering, “How could this happen? What is wrong with me?” The doctor started asking questions. It only took a few questions, and her diagnosis was jaw-dropping.
Cause: Stress, anxiety and overwhelm.
I had literally brought this on myself. It was my own doing and my own creation.
Her prescription… Re-evaluate my life. Re-evaluate my schedule. Rest more. Do less.
I was angry. That wasn’t possible. I demanded an alternative… a pill…something, but her answer never changed.
When I got home I cried out of frustration. I had no idea how to rest more and do less. I was going to school full time, working a full-time job, running a business part time, and handling life on my own with a husband on deployment.
As I swam in my puddle of tears… I realized something.
I had to change. It was non-negotiable. My health and life were at risk.
I spent a couple of days and analyzed everything about my life and the schedule I had created. There were two main reasons I discovered caused my panic attack. Once I identified them, I got to work changing them, and years later… I haven’t looked back.
1. Over-Committing: SayingYes When It Should Be No
At that time I had committed to work full time, school full time, my business and life. When I actually scheduled all that out, that wasn’t the problem. I actually could make that work. It was everything else. Everything I said yes to. At that point in my life I don’t think no was a part of my vocabulary.
Can you pick up an extra shift? Yes. Can you do extra work on this project? Yes. Can you attend the clean-up of the community center on Saturday? Yes. Can you take me here? Yes. Can you pick this up for me? Yes.
I actually had time for what I needed to do, but I didn’t have time with all of my over-commitments from always saying YES.
I was the poster child of a people-pleaser. I wanted to make everyone happy. I wanted everyone to like me, but what was that costing me? My health!
I shifted my thinking and decided that if it weren’t an absolute yes, and I mean something that felt really good, then it was a no.
I started having more time to eat, to sleep and to relax. I performed well at work, received straight As in college, and all of my life responsibilities got accomplished. People still liked me, and I didn’t lose any friends by adding no to my vocabulary. What a liberating realization for me.
Years later, if it not an absolute yes, it is still a no.
2. Lack Of Self-Care
By over-committing I had stopped taking care of myself. I barely ate most days, if I ate at all. I slept maybe four hours a night if I was lucky. I stopped reading for enjoyment. I stopped taking walks on the beach. I stopped working out. Everything I used to do for my well-being, I’d stopped completely and replaced with something else. No wonder my health declined!
I began to make time for me. I started eating, sleeping, and doing activities that rejuvenated my mind, body, and soul. The reality of the true value of self-care came to light, and I realized I actually had more energy when I gave time to myself. I was able to accomplish more and give more when I made time to fuel my mind, body, and soul.
I created new and non-negotiable daily self-care habits. These included journaling, meditating, eating healthy, sleeping, and spending time outdoors daily. All of these are mandatory in my life now, and no matter what is going on, I give to myself daily.
It has been over two years since my panic attack, and I never imagined how different my life would be. Those moments on the floor with my body giving up was a blessing.
I am happy, healthy and more accomplished that ever before. I am still a driven person. I am still the woman who has big dreams and is always working toward something more, but now I don’t over-commit and I take care of myself.
You are important. Your physical and emotional health matters. If it’s not an absolute yes, it’s a no, and taking care of yourself is a requirement. Your life depends on it.
I would love to hear from you. How do you take care of yourself? Share with us in the comments!