Panic or anxiety attacks are unexpected, intense surges of fear, panic, or stress and anxiety. They are overwhelming, and they occur with both physical and psychological symptoms. With 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK during 2013 alone, there’s a fair chance that you or someone you care about might experience it at some time in your lives.
Many people with anxiety attacks might experience breathing problems, sweating profusely, shivering, and also feel their hearts pounding.
Some individuals will also experience chest discomfort and a sensation of detachment from reality or themselves throughout an anxiety attack. In some cases, it may even feel like a heart attack or a stroke.
An anxiety attack can be terrifying, primarily because it can happen out of nowhere. Here are a few methods you can use to try and calm down an anxiety attack during or when you feel it starting to happen:
Use deep breathing techniques
If you’re able to keep breathing under control, you’re less likely to hyperventilate. Hyperventilating can make panic attack symptoms so much worse.
Concentrate on using your mouth to take deep breaths. Try to really feel the air slowly fill your chest and belly, then gradually release it. Breathe in until the count of 4, hold for a second, and then breathe out for another count of 4.
Acknowledge that you’re having an anxiety attack
By acknowledging that you’re having an anxiety attack, you can remember that this is temporary, it will pass, and YOU’RE OKAY.
Try going to a safe place
A panic attack can leave your bodily sensations paralyzed, so it can be tough to physically move towards a secure, peaceful area. When this takes place, try to do your best to move and go to a location that’s reasonably free of noise and has fewer stimuli than a busy public venue.
This could mean something like stepping outside where the space is bigger, and there’s fresh air. It could mean going to a vacant area if you’re at work, like a stairwell or an empty pantry. If you’re on public transportation, you can try moving to an empty row so you can be by yourself.
Putting on noise-canceling headphones can also work if it’s not feasible to find a quieter area in any of these settings.
Find a focus object
Some people find it handy to find a single object they can put all of their focus on during an anxiety attack. Pick one thing in clear view, observe it, then deliberately note every little thing about it.
As an example, let’s say you picked a clock. You may notice how the hand is slightly crooked. Enumerate the clock’s patterns, color, forms, as well as dimensions of the object to yourself. It can be any object— concentrate all your attention on it, and your panic attack symptoms may start to subside.
When you focus on an object, the logic behind this is that it prevents you from hyper-focusing on your anxiety. In turn, this gives both your mind and body the chance to calm down.
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