Anxiety is not my studied expertise, but I have years of first hand experience with it — self made expert if you will. Anxiety can come in so many different shapes and sizes, anxiety or panic attacks are different for everyone. Some of us have chronic cases of it, others sporadic or maybe just a few cases (can count the episodes on your hand) in your lifetime. Whatever your case, it’s ridiculously common, always very frustrating and often can be a little scary. I have many tried and true methods I use to prevent or help deal with my own anxiety episodes or panic attacks, but I thought since I myself have just finished and overly anxious (for no reason what-so ever, as it sometimes goes) week today would be a good time for me (and for you) to go over again a few “in the moment” things you can do to help get over that anxious feeling.
1. Be Kind To Yourself – don’t beat yourself up, stop that negative self talk — you know what I’m talking about. Actually this is better: pretend you are talking to your best friend and trying to calm her down from something she is anxious over, or something she is beating herself up about — and then take your own advice. We are so much harder on ourselves, give yourself the same break and kindness you offer everyone else.
2. Put Down The Sugar and/or Caffeine – both are equally good at being the kindling to your panic attack. Most people feel that caffeine, in any shape or form can instantly induce anxious feelings. But in my anxious expert opinion, sugar can do just the same but maybe not quite as instantaneous. In general, processed sugar is just bad for you so it’s always better to avoid when possible, but if you are prone to panic attacks, just pretend that sugar is garlic and you’re a vampire — and you’ll be good. Generally greasy and unhealthy foods can also do the same (and often some say gluten for the same heavy effect), weighing on your stomach making it breathing feel more difficult which can induce anxious feelings. Eating well before and during an attack is a really good line of defense.
3. Find Somewhere Quiet – somewhere you can maybe stretch out without obstruction to your chest or stomach. Removing yourself from any noise or situation that was causing an attack is always a good first choice. Sometimes a few moments to catch your breath in quiet is all you need to reset yourself. Lay on your back (in savasana) or a wide legged child’s pose if possible, and just focus on your breath.
4. Stop Thinking – say what? Okay don’t stop thinking, that’s not possible but stop thinking about what you currently are thinking about (tongue twister). Because I’m sure if you are feeling panicky or anxious you are in a maze of over thinking thoughts and you need get yourself out of that asap.
Sometimes it helps to carry a journal, and each time you get that anxious feeling, write down: 1.what you are currently doing 2.what you are currently thinking 3.a more logical end (or result) to that thought process (similar advice that you would give to a friend). This is helpful for teaching yourself how to think, and teaching yourself to take your own advice.
5. What’s The Nap Situation, Like? – is it possible to grab even a 15 min snooze? A nap of any kind is often a good way to rest your thoughts and feelings, the ultimate ‘find somewhere quiet’. I know 90% of the time a nap won’t be possible, but when the glorious day happens that there is a nap chance and you are feeling a smidgen of anxiety, take the nap. And a nice second runner-up, is to one up the moment of quiet (like number 2) and close your eyes while you do it. Try to only think about your breath going in and out, and nothing else – basically you are meditating, but I know that word can scare people off so let’s just call it the ultimate quiet time.
6. Breathe To The Count Of Four – take the breathing up a notch and slow your inhales to a count of four, then hold for a second and exhale to a count of four. Continue this for as long as possible, it will help slow your heart rate and in turn ease some of that anxiety. Try this when you are somewhere quiet (#2) or when you are either trying for a nap or meditating (#4).
And because it’s so important let’s go for number 7. For me, It’s All About Yoga – Even if I practiced already, yoga has a way of resting me and helps bring me back to the best version of myself, yoga helps me prevent anxiety attacks and just generally makes me a better person. For you it might be running or swimming, or yoga too — whatever the vehicle, it’s helpful to have something healthy that keeps you calm and centered and something you can go to when you need it most.
If you are looking for more ways to prevent an anxious episode or a panic attack, read about my tried and true ways to prevent and deal with an anxiety attack.