Anxiety is a normal part of life, and as such, most people experience some level of anxiety at one point or another. However, during particularly stressful times, anxiety can be difficult to deal with and can escalate to what is known as an anxiety attack or panic attack. An anxiety attack is usually triggered by something specific in your environment or thinking patterns. It creates a physical reaction that can feel very scary. Common physical symptoms of an anxiety attack can include:
- Sense of impending doom or danger
- Fear of loss of control or death
- Rapid, pounding heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
- Hot flashes
- Abdominal cramping
- Chest pain
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or faintness
- Numbness or tingling sensation
- A feeling of unreality or detachment
If you’re able to identify what triggers your anxiety (and talk about it), then you can start working on coping strategies before they have time to really get under your skin (or even worse— cause an attack). If you begin to feel some of these symptoms coming on, consider the following preventative steps to help you through it.
- Take control of your breathing
Practice breathing exercises regularly so that when you are feeling an attack coming on, you can prevent it or work through it faster. Try breathing in through your nose, and exhaling out through your mouth for 10-30 seconds. This will help lower your heart rate and make you feel calmer.
- Distract yourself
Can you focus on something else? If so, try doing that until the feeling passes (like watching TV or reading). Keep yourself occupied with positive thoughts that are not related to what caused the anxiety in the first place. This will help replace the triggering thoughts and keep you calm and relaxed.
- Talk yourself through it
You can prevent or work through an anxiety attack by reminding yourself that you are in control and practicing self-talk.
- Remember that this too shall pass.
- You’ve felt this feeling before, and know what to do next
- You are safe, and it will be okay
- You are stronger than your anxiety
- Be aware of your surroundings
Staying grounded in the moment is a great method for combatting anxiety
- Stay in the present moment by recognizing physical objects, and senses around you.
- Focus on your breathing.
- Practice mindfulness by focusing on what’s around you in the here and now without judging it or getting caught up in any negative thoughts about it (or yourself).
- Write it out
- Keep a journal. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you process them, and can be a great way to remember what happened in the past.
- Write a gratitude list each night before bed so that when anxiety strikes, even during sleep, it’s easier to focus on all that’s going well in life rather than fixating on negative thoughts
- Write down daily activities such as meals eaten or errands run so that when anxiety escalates, you can track habits and focus on what to do next.
Being prepared for an anxiety attack is a key component of managing it. If you know what to expect, then you can take steps to control it. If you’re struggling with anxiety, know that you are not alone. You should talk about it and seek help from a mental health professional, friend or family member, support group, counselor, and/or doctor. If you don’t know where to start and need assistance finding someone who can help you, reach out to the team at Hudson Psychiatric Associates today.