An anxiety attack can feel like a waking nightmare. Knowing exactly what to do when overwhelmed by panic is a challenge, especially if you’re not familiar with what is happening. However, every person has the power to end their panic. All that is required is to be willing to gently take control of the situation.
Recognizing the Situation and Put It in Perspective
While a panicked person may feel like they’re going crazy, dying, or having a heart attack, good news! This is not what is actually happening, and it’s important to recognize that. An anxiety attack is temporary, and it absolutely will pass. Yes, the symptoms that are being experienced can be deeply alarming: racing heart, tightness in the chest, blurred or spotted vision, tingling in the body, but they will leave. It may take a few minutes, it may take longer than that, but it will end. The sufferer will feel normal again, and life will once more continue in that less anxious state.
If the cause of the anxiety attack is related to usage of a particular substance, that only underscores the temporary nature of the situation. Drugs wear off 100% of the time. In some ways, having the cause of your anxiety be something from outside of yourself makes the situation easier. Everything from caffeine to hard drugs can bring about panic, but in all instances, the effect will eventually dissipate and leave the user feeling calm by comparison.
Make a Choice to Move On from the Anxious Situation.
If a person knows what triggered their anxious response, a good next step is to (if possible) stop focusing on the cause, at least for now. If the anxious person feels it necessary, they can make a choice to engage with the source of their anxiety later, perhaps in order to come to terms with it. For the present moment, the person should make a choice to move on to something different, even if just to get their bearings for a bit. Say it out loud even, openly affirming what the next move will be. Then it’s time to stop stewing on the symptoms and take some form of action.
Help the Situation by Changing It
Change can take several different forms: it can be a change of environment, a conversation with someone you trust, or engaging with something healthy you know can calm you. Exercise and fresh air can bring immediate relief, so maybe it’s time to go for a walk or do some home exercises. Is the anxiety being heightened by some other discomfort, like hunger or exhaustion? Fresh fruit, a glad, or maybe a soothing shower will help you to get your body in a healthier, more comfortable place. A little attention to greater physical comfort can have an immediate impact on your mind.
If You Just Have to Let It Out, Let It Out!
Often times, dwelling on the root of your anxiety can make it grow, but if you feel you really need to somehow express what’s causing that anxiety, do it! While a friend or family member is probably not going to be able to tell you something that fixes the situation, just the act of expressing to them what’s going on may alleviate some of the pressure. If you can’t talk to people you know, give yourself permission to write it down. Say what you need to my, and don’t worry about getting it perfect. If you feel the need to share it anonymously, consider calling a toll-free crisis hotline rather than just posting online somewhere. Anonymous online posting can be helpful in some instances, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get a positive response, or even that your anonymity will remain intact. For those reasons, calling someone is usually a better choice, and toll-free crisis hotlines have trained counselors that will respect your anonymity.
Regardless of how you share, don’t judge whether or not your expression was worthwhile on the basis of other people’s reactions. Just give yourself credit for having the courage to honestly put what was inside of you out there, even if only for an audience of yourself.
Anxiety Out, Peacefulness In
Once some of the anxiety has been flushed out through change or expression, it’s good to take in something else to help replace it. If you have an available internet connection, then you have access to an abundance of calming and distracting media. There are thousands of videos of nature sounds, guided meditation, ambient electronic music, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) clips that can help soothe frayed nerves. If music or relaxing sounds isn’t working, move on! Everyone has different preferences about what can help distract them and keep anxiety from creeping back in. Maybe it’s a favorite funny show or
cartoon, or some other uncomplicated source of entertainment that usually helps them decompress after a long day. The most important thing about what you choose to turn to is that it distracts, it helps time pass, and it doesn’t feed into a compulsive thought process. So for example a long, pleasant instrumental piece of music may be perfect, but rechecking social media endlessly may not be so good.
A Last Step to Make You Stronger
When it’s all over, take a moment to appreciate that it is over, and without focusing on the cause. The gratitude from knowing that you’ve made it out of the woods is not only healthy in the moment, it can potentially help in the future should you encounter this situation again (though here’s hoping that’s not the case). It may also be wise to take note of what music or other distractions were most helpful. Having tools at the ready in the future might be good not only for yourself, but for someone else who may need a little support in getting through a tense time.