Today’s questions come from viewers trying to heal from the emotional aftermath of a divorce. Panic attacks as well as fear are two common conditions left behind in an unsuccessful marriage.
Dear Mary Jo,
I was involved in an emotionally abusive marriage for several years and recently divorced. How do I know when it’s okay to date again? I miss having someone, but am scared to love again.
There is no rushing with dating again, and I would recommend easing into it by forming friendships. Meeting people is the most important part of dating. The more groups you join that interest you, the more people you will have the opportunity to talk with and share interesting ideas with.
Social groups such as athletics, maybe a running group, tennis group, or a cooking or art class will help you out and to allow you to meet others in your situation. Many churches plan activities for singles and this is a wonderful way to meet people who support your faith and emotional needs. I would make sure to have support to work on your emotional concerns as well. Being in an abusive marriage lowers self-esteem so working with a therapist to help you re-build your confidence can help you avoid getting involved with someone like your ex. Good luck, Paula.
Dear Mary Jo,
I got divorced 8 months ago and recently have started having panic attacks. They are terrifying and I feel as though I am going to die. I’m afraid to go out because I may have one out in public. How can I stop them?
At least 1/3 of people visiting emergency rooms are there due to panic attacks. They are frightening to be sure, but they can be cured and the sooner you get help the better. It may be a one-time event, but usually they are recurrent, and they are triggered by a certain situation, such as crossing a bridge or public speaking. I am not sure what triggers yours, but a counselor could help you.
The best plan is to go to a therapist who practices cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on thinking patterns, and the behaviors you do at that time to trigger or continue the panic attack.
There are also medications you can take to help you minimize the effects of the panic attack. A medical doctor or psychiatrist could prescribe those.
Self-help things you can do are:
- Learn about your panic. Take it apart and figure out where it’s sourced.
- Learn how to slow down and breathe deeply. Smelling an orange or peppermint can help with this. If you can calm your breathing rate, your heart will slow also and stop the panic.
- Pack a care package of personal things that calm you. Maybe the smell of a cologne brings you memories or comfort. A specific symbol such as holding a rock, a rosary, or something soft is comforting for some people.
- Lastly, have quotes or music that helps you feel calm. These items can restore a sense of being grounded or safe which helps stop a panic attack.
- Practicing relaxation techniques with yoga have also shown benefits with helping to manage panic attacks.
Remember, it’s a process and it takes time to learn to manage the panic attacks so they will no longer be a threat. These techniques will help you though, and I am sure you will get through this. Good luck.