A lot of the time, I’m questioned on how I cope with anxiety, particularly when it was much worse than it is now (yay mild recovery) and I had to tackle bouts of panic attacks. I won’t go into too much detail about my personal experience with anxiety, as I’ve touched on it previously and it’s highly likely I’ll discuss it further in future, specific blog posts. In a brief version, I used to suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, though you’d never think I struggled with that kind of thing if you met me.
Everyone experiences feeling anxious from time to time and that is completely normal, but a panic attack is a much more overwhelming and extreme feeling of anxiety. They’re especially scary if you’ve not experienced one before, and can be exhausting and really damaging to people’s self-confidence. A lot of people experience physical symptoms with panic attacks too, which can include; nausea, sweating, feeling short of breath, shakiness, and lots of other unpleasant and upsetting symptoms. I thought I’d use my experience with preventing panic attacks and diffusing them when they come over me, to educate others in how they can help themselves, too. Hopefully, this post will help someone who is currently battling anxiety and/or panic attacks.
1. Distracting isn’t always the way!
A lot of people tell you to try and distract yourself when you’re panicking, but that isn’t always the key to helping a panic attack. Don’t ignore your feelings and conceal it. Acknowledge and accept that you sometimes become panicky, and this is one of those times. Reassure yourself in your mind that no harm can come to you. My mum used to use the phrase (and recommended it to me to) “I am here, I am safe” and repeat it three times in her head until she felt calm. This process has worked well for me and helped me to realise that I’m in no real danger, and the dangers I’m fearing are things my anxiety has caused me to believe (usually things that just would not happen in a lifetime). Tell yourself that it’s just anxiety and it will soon pass. As you probably already know, your body isn’t actually capable of staying in a heightened state of anxiety for very long, so that’s reassurance that it will definitely come down.
2. Contradicting Myself with Distraction Tips!
If you’re constantly focusing on the fact that you are panicking, you can make your symptoms worse and you’ll start panicking about panicking. The worst kind of panicking – pointless panicking! I’ve said panicking a lot. Before your anxiety gets to a level where you may have an attack, distract yourself when the feelings emerge with little activities. Now, as this is about panic attacks in public, you’re not going to whack out a monopoly board game and round up some friends. (Thinking about it, I don’t recommend Monopoly for anxiety at all, that thing ends relationships forever). Let’s say you’re sitting on the tube or on a bus – there are small activities you can do to take your mind off the crappiness! Play a game on your phone (I love Sudoku for this), listen to some music, text a friend or family member or count the amount of certain objects in the room. How many chairs are there? How many speckles on the carpet? You can even try counting backwards from 100! If you feel anxious during a lesson or lecture go to the bathroom for five minutes to relax. Remind yourself you are never trapped. There is always an escape.
3. Avoid certain food and Drink triggers
No one ever wants to believe this one (and I understand, coffee is great) but drinks that contain caffeine such as tea, coffee, and energy drinks are stimulants and can heighten feelings of anxiety if you are susceptible to them. I do not practice this advice myself, but feelings of anxiety do not come with drinking high caffeine drinks for me personally. I do have friends, however, who go out of their way not to drink anything that contains caffeine due to it affecting them in this way. It can often give them heart palpitations or raise their paranoia.
Counting your breathing can really help you to relax. Breathe in through your nose for three seconds and out through your mouth for four seconds. This is probably the best tip because you can do this in silence, meaning you can literally do this anywhere! You’d be amazed how often people forget how to breathe properly when they’re in a state of panic, so this is a great tip for calming yourself down. This one works for relaxation in general – not just preventing panic attacks!
5. Coping mechanisms
As I mentioned earlier, anxiety and panic attacks can cause some physical symptoms, such as nausea. Little coping mechanisms can help prevent anxiety. For example, if you’re prone to feeling nauseous or get a dry mouth when feeling anxious, make sure you always have a packet of chewing gum or mints in your bag. Drink lots of fluids – this is both relaxing and stops your mouth/throat from drying up. I carry around a small bottle of Strawberry Volvic water everywhere. It’s relieving to know that you always have back-up and you can combat the sickly feeling with chewing gum, a mint, or a drink.
What do you think of these tips? If there’s a technique in the post that you use a lot or one you can recommend that I’ve overlooked, then please let me know by leaving me a comment