Anxiety and panic attacks are like my silent lifelong nemesis. I have cursed and struggled with them for the majority of my life. In fact, the majority of the population either suffers quietly from anxiety or has had a few brushes with it at some point in their lives. I have a good 20+ years of panic attacks under my belt (I should get a girl guide badge for that, no?) I have figured out a lot of ways to help when attacks or anxious feelings come my way. Nothing is fool-proof, but there are a lot of things you can do to prevent, ease or use to teach your self to think differently. This is a doozy of a post, tons of information that I have personally found that really helps me – if it’s not your cup of tea, no worries (no pun intended) otherwise read on.
BEFORE/ALWAYS: things you should do regularly to help prevent anxious feelings and generally keep yourself feeling great.
- watch what you eat. Processed, carb heavy, sugar, even gluten (seriously gluten is a huge anxiety trigger for me) can have a major effect on my anxiety. I notice it more when I stay away from these things and then have a day where I cave to cravings – the next day will no doubt be filled with anxiety and/or a panic attack (or two).
- be consistently active. Physical activity increases endorphins/makes you feel good, which will help in the long run to keep your anxiety down. Also, it can be really distracting to work out and get your mind off the over-thinking, sometimes some good old distraction works wonders.
- practice yoga. Usually I would say this would be conjoined with physical activity, but in this case it’s a stand alone star. A strong daily practice can literally be a miracle worker for those who suffer with anxiety. If I miss more than one practice in a row, my anxiety levels climb through the roof. Also yoga teaches you how to keep your breath slow and calm when your body is working really hard, which translates into real life when you are feeling stressed, anxious or struggling. (how to get started practicing yoga and how to fit yoga in your budget)
- increase your B12 intake. You should consult your doctor on this one, but people who are prone to anxiety and depression benefit from having higher levels on B12 in their blood stream. Also there is a chance that your B12 levels are low, which could be the cause of some of those extra anxious feelings. You can find high levels of B12 naturally in nutritional yeast, fish, bran, and eggs or a natural supplement or vitamin.
- sleep. Trouble with sleeping is a big anxiety trigger (trust me), finding ways to get your zzzz’s will help you in the anxiety long run.
- step back and go somewhere quiet. Remove yourself from your current situation, even if it is not the cause of your attack. Find somewhere quiet where you feel like you have room to breathe, take your deep breaths as loud as you like till you feel even a bit better. If possible, lay down on your back or set yourself in a childs pose – make yourself comfortable and remove any restrictions from breathing.
- breathe to a count of four. Breathe through your nose. In through one nostril for a count of four, then out through the other for a count of four. Keep doing this till you have calmed down, maybe try to increase the count to 6 if possible. The act of concentrating on your breath might distract your thinking enough, as well as the slow exhales will naturally calm you down some.
- write down your thoughts. Even if you think they are silly. Half the time you are over-thinking and you logically know it’s silly but you just can’t get your brain to stop. Taking a moment to write your thoughts down, can help get them out of your head.
- write down logical answers to your thoughts. Take it a step further and write down the worst case scenarios to your thoughts (as if your, what if was true, for example), chances are it’s not so bad. Then also write down the more logical thought, instead of the over thought one. Forcing yourself to see things and spending the time analyzing them out of your head, is a great way to teach yourself to think differently for the future and maybe stop some of your thoughts in their tracks.
- watch your self talk. Be kind to yourself. We are told everyday to be kind to others, but it’s equally as important to be compassionate to yourself. We are often so hard on ourselves, sometimes causing our own anxiety from our self talk.
Still have that anxious feeling, look here for 6 more detailed ways on how you can kick an anxious attack away in the moment.
*Overly anxious reactions can be a learned behavior it is possible to learn how to react differently to your triggers. Avoiding situations that may be trigger, is only a short-term fix. Dealing and teaching yourself to react differently should be the goal (most likely with help). There are also several types of anxiety, so if you feel yourself avoiding more situations than not, feeling not so great the majority of the time a stressful situation comes up and having a hard time dealing with your anxious feelings visit to your doctor – getting more specific, educated help might be in your best interest (no shame in improving oneself, ever). I also highly recommended a cognitive therapy group or program, if something like that is available in your area – re-training your brain how to react to stressful triggers is the ultimate help and cognitive therapy will most definitely help.