Words: Victoria Mcewan
FEature Image: Getty Images
To feel represented, or to have someone to relate to in the media today is calming and encouraging. Knowing that you’re not alone, that someone shares the same worries as you and has had the same experiences makes us feel less afraid and more open towards talking about our issues. So when someone as unfalteringly confident, talented and just downright wonderful as Emma Stone opens up and speaks out about her struggles with anxiety, it really helps to dissipate the stigma for those of us who struggle with anxiety and mental health.
In conversation with the Child Mind Institute, Emma has spoken about her experience with mental health where she revealed that she started experiencing panic attacks at the age of 7 and it has been a lifelong struggle. Panic attacks are a sudden onset of emotions surrounding fear and discomfort and certain symptoms can involve palpitations, sweating, increased heart rate, derealisation and fear of losing control.
After her first panic attack anxiety made it difficult for her to go to friend’s houses and she would pretend to be sick at school so that she could return home. When Emma started seeing a therapist, he diagnosed her with generalised anxiety and panic disorder however she was not told this which she has said, in that time period, she was grateful for as there were not many role models or actors who spoke about anxiety and panic attacks but now, her conversation with the Child Mind Institute aims to raise awareness for people who are suffering from mental health and to act as a role model for them.
Emma believes that acting and improv acted as a form of therapy that helped her through anxiety and she wants to promote the idea that anxiety can be a superpower when you take control. “The world is hard and scary and there’s a lot that goes on, and when you’re really attuned to that, it can be crippling. And if you don’t let it cripple you and you use it for something positive and productive, it’s like a superpower.” You don’t have to use acting to overcome your struggles – Emma believes “you just have to find the thing within you that you are drawn to”.
If you are suffering from panic attacks these 5 tips can help you manage them:
- Stay where you are; your mind is reacting to thoughts and it’s easier to observe and react to your thoughts when you are still and safe.
- Control your breathing; by slowing down and regulating your breathing you can help prevent shortness of breath, dizziness and disorientation.
- Use positive coping statements; have a mantra which reminds you that panic is not dangerous or harmful. Maybe something like ‘My anxiety and panic will pass’ or ‘I can continue without needing to escape or avoid’.
- Shift your focus; whilst panic attacks are often imbued with negative thoughts try to concentrate on or visualise something that calms you, such as a place or situation that makes you feel relaxed.
- Challenge unhelpful thoughts; remember that your thoughts are not fact and whilst you may believe them during a panic attack, by recognising the nature of them you can begin to spot triggers which can help how you deal with a situation in the future.