Don’t Panic! Breathe and Create a Routine

fog in port moody

Sorry for the disappearing act this week, but I desperately needed a little break. On Sunday, my body let me know that it couldn’t keep up with my crazy workaholic lifestyle anymore. How? By having a panic attack.

Have you ever had a panic attack? They are freaking terrifying! I was sitting on public transit, making my way home, when all of a sudden my heart started to race. I couldn’t see straight, the back of my neck started to sweat, I was nauseous… and all I wanted to do was jump off the train, away from everyone, and into some fresh air. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option.

For the next 20 minutes, I stared straight ahead and focused on nothing but my breath. Deep breath in, deep breath out, don’t throw up. (Oh yea, I was also focusing on not throwing up.) I tried to take a few sips of water but each one tasted worse than the last. I counted down the number of stops I had left, feeling as though time couldn’t possibly go any slower. As we finally approached my stop, I jumped up too fast to realize how weak in the knees I was, and I stumbled onto the platform.

I immediately burst into tears. My entire body was trembling, sweat was dripping down my neck and back, and my arms were so weak I could barely bring up my hands to wipe the tears off my face. I eventually sat down, cried it out and texted a friend to tell her what was happening. “I’m having a panic attack.” “Breathe from your belly button,” she said. It took over an hour before I could stand up again – two hours until I felt somewhat normal. And then I started asking myself…

…what the heck just happened?

My friend’s suggestion made sense. “It’s been a crazy year. Sobriety, the accident, all the moves.” But sobriety feels good. Well, except for those reoccurring dreams about being a closet drinker – having just one beer, when I’m alone at night and no one is watching. Moving has definitely sucked. Sure, I feel at home in Port Moody now, but it took one move from Toronto and three across the Lower Mainland to get me there. But the accident… aside from the physical pain I’m still in, that’s definitely screwed some things up.

The most obvious thing that has changed since the accident is my daily routine; I just don’t have one anymore. In a split second, I went from having an active, carefree lifestyle to being stuck on the couch. I am getting better but, to put things into perspective, it’s been 93 days since the accident and I still can’t sit comfortably for more than a couple of hours. I basically stopped going into the office (unless I could work from the couch in our lounge) and, with that, I lost my daily routine.

When you don’t need to leave the house, you don’t really need to shower – by a certain time, anyway. When you have nowhere to go in person, you go online. When you can’t physically do your usual hobbies (gym, hike, run, etc.), you start new ones – ones you can do from your computer. When you don’t workout, you go a little stir crazy. When you take on more side projects, you add more deadlines to your schedule. And when you live like this for three months straight, I guess you have a panic attack.

What a typical weekday looked like before the panic attack:

6:15 a.m. – Wake up, open my laptop and work in bed for a couple hours
8:00 a.m. – Eventually make my way into the living room
9:00 a.m. – Remember that I should eat breakfast and maybe drink some coffee
11:00 a.m. – Think about showering
12:00 p.m. – Think about showering
1:00 p.m. – Eat something quick
2:00 p.m. – Take a break to shower (finally)
3:30 p.m. – Finish up work, go to physio / massage therapy
5:30 p.m. – Eat something quick then tackle some dishes (maybe)
6:00 p.m. – Blog, blog, blog, write, write, write
9:30 p.m. – Realize it’s too late to go to the pool / hot tub
10:00 p.m. – Watch a show in bed (usually something stressful, because apparently I only like dramas)
11:30 p.m. – Go to bed and toss/turn all night

I know what you’re thinking… that sounds like a really crappy day. Add to it that I’m usually uncomfortable, especially while waiting for painkillers to kick in, and you’re right. What I’m wondering is how I didn’t have a panic attack sooner! This “routine” was full of stressful thoughts, procrastination and ineffective work habits. The minute I realized that my lack of a routine was likely one of the causes of my panic attack, I decided to take a week off of blogging and work on creating a new one.

What a typical weekday looks like now:

6:15 a.m. – Wake up, stretch, drink water, shower, make coffee and eat breakfast
7:00 a.m. – Open my laptop and start working
9:30 a.m. – Pack up and leave for the office (hit up Starbucks, if it’s in the budget)
12:30 p.m. – Take a proper lunch break (away from my laptop)
4:00 p.m. – Finish up work, go to physio / massage therapy then go home
6:00 p.m. – Make a good dinner, eat, have a cup of tea and do all of the dishes
7:00 p.m. – Watch TV, write a blog post, work on other side projects, etc.
9:00 p.m. – Go downstairs to use the pool / hot tub
10:30 p.m. – Stretch again then go to bed (and fall asleep reading, of course)

I know it still looks busy (and it is) but it includes breaks – real breaks – away from my laptop. I even have four alarms on my phone (at 6:15, 9:30, 12:30 and 9) to remind me to take them! It’s only been a few days, but I can already feel the difference. For starters, showering before starting work… who knew how good that felt? That sounds so stupid, but working remotely (and starting as early as I do) is really different than having to be in an office by a certain start time – it’s easy to lose yourself…

My days still seem to flash before my eyes, but not without me taking the time to enjoy parts of them. Stretching in the morning helps me wake up. Swimming a few laps and soaking in the hot tub helps me fall asleep. And getting outside and breathing in the crisp fall air helps me clear my head. I’m slowly starting to feel less stressed about everything, which is helping me get excited (again) about all of the projects I’m working on right now – including some volunteering, which I’m grateful Jess suggested I do.

Things I need to remember going forward:

  • Just because I work remotely, that doesn’t mean I have to work 24/7
  • My side projects are supposed to be fun – not work
  • The exercises I have to do for my back are not a chore – they are part of the healing process
  • I can’t run or go to the gym yet, but I can swim (a bit) and I’ve always loved being in the water
  • Most importantly, I don’t have to do everything myself – it’s ok to ask for help

So, that’s how my week was. How was yours?