I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve been quite anxious lately and having panic attacks in the night. Sometimes I wake up feeling panicky, before I’ve even had time to think. It just sort of spreads up my body. It started when I was having trouble swallowing due to thick saliva which made me feel as though I couldn’t breathe properly. I always fear death will soon be knocking on my door so this terrified me.
I’ve been saying all along that I’m not overly stressing about Covid 19 but I’ve now realised that, subconsciously, I definitely have been. How can I not? How can anyone not?
So yesterday my palliative care nurse visited as she had previously offered to come so Sue asked her. We’ve learned that palliative care nurses are there for symptom management, not just end of life care, and she’s lovely. We have of course had those difficult conversations and I’ve documented my wishes, but yesterday she reassured me I’m not showing any signs of being near the end, which was a huge relief.
I’m not through the woods yet with regard to my panicking but I wondered if it might be helpful if I shared my coping mechanisms for nighttime anxiety.
I used to be an advocate of mindfulness but it no longer works for me. My breathing is too shallow to do it properly and following my breath as it now is only draws my attention to it and stresses me. So I’ve had to find other ways.
My number one, go-to tool is Spotify. It has a wealth of playlists of sleep-inducing music and sounds, such as birds singing, rain and the sea. You can also ask Alexa to play sleep sounds if you have a device. I put my favourite playlist on and set the timer for it to go off after 30 or 45 minutes, then lie back and let the music wash over me. It seldom fails and often I’m asleep before it goes off.
I also like the sound of birds singing so sometimes I listen to a bird song playlist or, if it’s around 5am, simply listen to the real-life dawn chorus outside my window. Beautiful.
If I need more distraction, I’ve compiled my own playlist of beautiful, soothing songs by my favourite artists and lose myself in the music and lyrics for a while. My favourite is This Is Love by Mary Chapin Carpenter who has the most comforting voice.
If I’m wide awake and no chance of sleeping for a bit I listen to an audio book. Or if I’m feeling particularly anxious I put a comedy podcast on for half an hour, just to banish any dark thoughts. The other night I listened to Matt Lucas’ Bitch Bitch Bitch in which people moan about their jobs. This one was flight attendants of whom I have a lot of experience of course so it was very entertaining!
Another tip which has worked for me is courtesy of my best friend Debbie. Imagine going for your favourite walk, step by step, taking in all the sights and sounds. The other night I imagined being back in the village I grew up in (Aldbourne in Wiltshire), walking from my house to the village centre to catch the (Barnes!) coach to school.
Just as an inside, I’ll explain the coach reference above. Barnes coaches used to transport children to school in Marlborough from surrounding villages, including Aldbourne. In fact, they were from Aldbourne, their depot being in the village. They’ve grown significantly since then and are now based near Swindon. If you take a trip along the M4 the chances are fairly high that you’ll see one of their turquoise fleet, and each time I do I triumphantly exclaim “Barnes coach!”. For some reason, no one ever seems nearly as excited as me…
A personal highlight for me was when I was hosting a group of Chinese students at Cardiff Uni one time and was waiting for them outside as I was taking them on a tour in their coach. And guess what coach it was? Indeed! So not only did I get to go on a Barnes coach again but I got to use the mic for my announcements! Excitement levels peaked that day, I can tell you.
Anyway, I digress. Those are all things I’ve used over the last few weeks. Those and keeping cool, so I always sleep with the window open. I also keep the curtains partially open so I can see the beautiful sun catcher that my sister kindly sent me, and the trees at the top of the field opposite. I find seeing those calms me too.
We’re all different and these may or may not work for you but I hope something might help someone. Failing all else, revisit this blog and my Barnes coach story. 😂