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How I Cope With This 'Embarrassing' Symptom of Anxiety

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Have you ever been out shopping or standing in line, only to see the person next to you sweating profusely? Everyone else seems cool as a cucumber and yet here is this person who is a sweaty mess. You wonder what the heck is going on with person, maybe thinking, “Did they just rob a bank?”

They might be having a panic attack.

When I have a panic attack, or even just higher anxiety — I tend to sweat. When I’m at home or with a few select friends, it’s not that big of deal. When I’m out in public, it can be really embarrassing.

I recently found myself panicking in a airport. I had some time, so I sat in a chair to take a few breaths. When I stood up, the chair was covered in sweat. I didn’t really know what, if anything, I should do, so I just walked away. Other times, I have had drops of sweat running down my face, trying to wipe it away before other people notice.

The somewhat funny (if it wasn’t also ridiculous) thing is, I live in a cold place in Canada. It can be below freezing, and even still, I’m sweating. I’ve had to step into the cold on occasion and open my jacket, to let the breeze in.

Having dealt with this for awhile, I have come up with some solutions, and I’d like to share them here. If you have more, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

1. If you have a sense of humor and the moment seems right, make a joke about overheating due to menopause. Especially if it seems like the person you are interacting with will be amused and/or sympathetic. You might be surprised how well this works, with the bonus of giggles.

2. Purchase a USB fan that attaches to your phone. You can buy these handy little tools easily online, and they do actually help.

3. Use a cooling mist. I love scented things, so this is a pretty natural choice for me. Each person is going to have a preference as to ingredients, scent, etc., so check a few out before you purchase. This is my favorite one

4. Baby or makeup wipes. This is one I haven’t personally tried, but I know they come in handy for some folks. If you normally don’t have kids around, I’d recommend finding something small you can easily keep with you. If you have kids along, this is likely to be an easy one to remember.

5. Peppermint lotion. I find some times just a bit of Peppermint is enough to help me cool down, plus it’s refreshing! I again turn to my friends at Sage for my favorite lotion, of course there are many types to choose from. 

6. Lavender essential oils. I like this more so as a reducer of anxiety, but keep it on the list as it’s one of those easy things you can keep with you and can help with any smell you might get going on. I’m not super picky, so I tend to choose what is on the cheaper side.

7. Deodorant. If you find this helps you out in this type of situation, be sure to take it along. If you don’t have a lot of space, you could pick up a smaller sized container, where stores have their travel sized items.

8. Take a seat in the food court or coffee shop and get a cold drink. Oftentimes just having a few minutes to relax can help the situation, add in a cold beverage and voila! you’re ready to go again. If I’m near a Starbucks, I’m a big fan of their refreshers and shaken iced teas.

9. Splash some water on your face. This is a tried and true method, and if it’s available to you, it is worth a shot. Unfortunately conditions may not be sanitary or there may be no available washroom, which is when a baby wipe may be more helpful.

10. Try again another day. If you are finding that nothing is working, and you are caught in a embarrassment/anxiety loop, you may just choose to try again. Just don’t wait too long, that way avoidance symptoms can be resisted.

11. Don’t forget your as-needed anxiety medication if you have it. If you have been prescribed a medication, the doctor has agreed you need it, and there is no shame in utilizing those pills. Discuss with your doctor or therapist, how best to use these meds, and you may be able to avoid or temper your anxiety and any embarrassing symptoms.

The next time you are out and about, and see that sweaty person, remember they could be in the middle of a panic attack. As a society, if we can continue to learn to be understanding and kind, it will go a long way in helping those of us who experience “embarrassing” symptoms. For those of you who do experience this symptom, I hope my list has given you some ideas, and again I’d love to hear yours.

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Getty Images photo via Koldunov

Originally published: February 9, 2018
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