#66 Two Way to Control Allergies, Anxiety, & Angst In the Middle of the Night

Jun 03, 2024

It took me years to get over the fear of anaphylaxis after a few food allergy episodes when I was a teen, one of which landed me in the hospital with epinephrine injections, a rapid heart rate, and a nervous father. Now, when my dad is nervous, that’s scary, because my dad is always stoic. He’s 88 years young now and he’s amazing. He’s seen a lot in his many years on this earth, and I don’t ever remember seeing him shaken, except for that day in the emergency room when I told him I was scared. He grabbed my hand and said, “Yeah, well, I’m not feelin’ so great about this either.”

Two Ways That Helped Me To Relax

Today I’m sharing 2 ways that helped me to relax last night when I woke up at 3 o’clock in the morning with the feeling like my throat was closing. I have not felt this way in YEARS, and I’m reminded of just how much I do not like that feeling.


For longer than I should admit, in my late teens, it started my senior year of high school, I ate only tea and toast because I had what I thought was an allergy to some type of food because every time I would break out into hives and my lips would swell, I had just been at some sort of food festival or a big party. 


“I’m having a reaction” would fly from my mouth often and whoever I was with would kick into gear and grab the Benedryl and start running a bath. 


One night, after coming out of the bath, I was watching TV with my father and I told him I just felt so weird, and he said, “Well if anything starts happening with your tongue, let me know.” I suppose that was all I needed to hear because not long after that I anxiously shouted, “Dad! The tip of my tongue feels hard!”


Well, I knew my father had speed because I used to keep the books for his softball team and I loved nothing more than to watch him run around the bases. He seldom got out because he was quick as lightning. 


That night, he went from a relaxed position with his feet up in the recliner to having the car keys in his hand and opening up the front door before I could even finish my sentence.


At the Hospital

He doesn’t drive fast, my father, so there was a bit of disconnect between the urgency from the relaxed recliner pose, car keys, open door, and the drive to the hospital. Fortunately, the hospital was only 10 minutes from the house and when you arrive at the ER with a breathing issue, they take you in immediately.


It was a long time ago, I don’t remember all the specifics, but I do remember them injecting me almost immediately with epinephrine and that made my body start to shake and shiver and my heart beat a mile a minute. It was not pleasurable, especially for a kid who had no tools to deal with this small t trauma. 


It wasn’t until after this episode that my mother, who is a professional singer and voice coach and is also 88 years young now, taught me how to diaphramatically breathe. How to take control of my breath and allow it to bring my brain and body into a calm state. She was my very first breathwork teacher. How cool is that? Who knew I’d grow up to be a breathwork healer, I just love when things in life unfold this way. 


The typical remedy was Benedryl and an oatmeal bath. And they were followed up with meals of nothing by tea and toast because I knew I had no reaction to them. I TOOK MUCH HEAT from my sisters because of this fear. They were relentless and couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t eat anything else but tea and toast. 


My Sisters Were Super Annoying

I was my heaviest during this time, so I was not emaciated. Eating and drinking only tea and toast didn’t have anyone worrying about me like they may be worrying today, it wasn’t about trying to lose weight or a food disorder as much as it was an anxiety disorder and a true fear of food. Little by little, I suppose I have my sisters to thank for this because they both became really annoying around my eating habits, I would introduce a new food into the tea and toast regime, and when I didn’t react to it, I knew I could now add on to my food choices at meal time.


With this history, you can imagine how I felt last night when I woke up at 3 am with a thick throat out of nowhere. Right away, my intuition told me it was allergies. The window next to me was wide open, as were all the windows in the house. It was a gorgeous day and the evening was spectacular. Steve and went to eat at a local restaurant outside, and when we returned home, I wasn’t ready to be inside for the night, so I sat for a bit on the patio, decided to rearrange the furniture and sit some more in my newly arranged setting. 


I asked Steve if he wanted to join me and maybe start a fire, but he declined due to how he was feeling with his allergies. He said he’d been struggling all day with them.


This “closing throat” feeling made me feel vulnerable and uneasy and I started to shake. Could I be reacting to something I ate at dinner? Did I get bitten by a bug in my sleep? I’ve woken up with bites before so maybe this time I thought it could be a poisonous spider. My mind wasn’t spiraling as much as it was trying to rationalize my current situation. I’ve never been allergic to pollen. My throat will sometimes get scratchy in the spring, but it never amounts to something. I’ve always written it off as a celebration of the change of seasons. Warmer weather is on the way! 


I remember as a kid on the most beautiful days, out windows had to be shut because of the terrible reaction to pollen my mother and brother both had. They were so bad they had to get shots from the doctor. Did this mean that I was going to have to suffer the same stuffiness? Closed windows on the most glorious days of the year?


I Could Have Used More Consoling

Steve was awake now and wasn’t worried at all about how I was feeling. He shrugged it off telling me that’s exactly how he’d been feeling. This was both helpful and not helpful at the same time. I would have liked to be consoled a bit more, but it wasn’t a big deal and helped to calm me. 


In fact, the first thing I did to calm myself last night while the thoughts were swirling around inside my head was to move closer to Steve. I had an immediate sense of ease. I’m sure you’ve read about the many scientific studies that affirm the release of oxytocin in the body, which is called the Love Hormone BTW, and it makes you feel warm and comforted when you get a hug from or sit close to someone you love. 


My breathing began to slow, and that’s when I did the second best thing I could do for myself which was begin a course of Basic Relaxation Breath. By changing my breathing pattern, I changed my physiology. Inhales activate our sympathetic nervous system, the fight, flight, and freeze response, which is why breathing in slowly is important. Exhales activate the rest and digest part of the nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system. When we exhale, our heart rate slows down, intestinal and glandular activity increases and we generally feel more relaxed. 

Relaxation breath and you activate it by slowly inhaling through your mouth to the count of 4, and slowly exhale to the count of 8. If 4 is too big a number for you, lower the count on the inhale, and double the count on the exhale. 


We’ve been taught since childhood to take a deep breath to calm down, but if we take in a huge, quick breath, this isn’t doing us any good. It’s actually working against what we’re trying to achieve. 


These two ways to relax and calm the body and brain down can transfer to other issues that make you anxious or give you angst. Once you get the hang of exhaling for twice as long as your inhales, you will feel calmer and less anxious within just a few breaths. 


Practice basic relaxation breathing often so it becomes easier when you find you need it in a pinch. It lowers your stress response and anxiety and improves overall emotional, physical, and cognitive health. Just remember to inhale slowly to prevent increasing the stress response and keep your brain and body calm.

These  2 ways also work well for kids in school who suffer from test anxiety or speaking in public and for anyone going on a job interview. 

Which of these strategies resonates most with you? 

DM me on my Instagram page @jenncaputo and let me know!