How To Fight Back When Your Anxiety Attacks
You’re going about your day and, seemingly, out of nowhere your heart starts to race. It gets harder to breathe, you feel a wave of nausea, your hands are sweaty and trembling. At that moment, these feelings cloud over everything in your life. What’s going on?
For some people, this can be recognized as anxiety. In those moments, your body enters “fight or flight” mode because of a perceived threat. Physically, your body starts to release cortisol—stress hormones—and you feel a burst of adrenaline, a quickening of your pulse, and a complete redirection of your blood so you can’t think clearly. With that, there are accompanying symptoms that can look different with every individual: nausea, difficulty breathing, dizziness, trembling, etc. For those living with anxiety, this stress response is triggered on a day-to-day basis, and it becomes a new normal.
Every effort made to stop anxiety in its tracks when it arises and shifting yourself into a calmer state is worth it. Here are some tips for processing anxiety in the moment and a few tools to help work through the symptoms.
This is absolutely easier said than done, we know, but if you can manage to slow your breathing, your brain begins to understand that there is no perceived risk. If you notice that your breathing becomes shallow and your heart is racing, this a good indicator you’re in the grips of a stress response. It can begin to feel like you’re treading water and the anxiety starts to set in.
Instead, take three deep, long, slow belly breaths.
This will immediately change your brain chemistry and slow your heart rate, giving you a feeling of calm so you can get your footing again.
As strange as it may sound, smells can directly impact our emotions. Using an essential oil or scented lotion can help your heightened senses become more focused.
Find an essential oil, lotion, or balm that focuses and comforts you.
By taking in the scent, your brain is redirected towards something other than your anxiety, and you may begin to feel calmer.
Some of you may immediately envision yourself whirling around a fidget spinner at the peak of an anxiety attack—sounds calming, right? Maybe not for some. When we say fidget, this could literally be anything! Maybe it is a coin, a keychain, a watch, anything that is easily accessible around you. Find whatever item works for you, and then begin to fidget with it.
Memorize the texture, the weight, the shape, and the movement of an item.
In focusing on that, your attention is transferred from the anxious thoughts running through your head and into something tangible.
In the midst of an anxiety attack, it may seem like there is no end to the way that you’re feeling. Having some sort of memento or keepsake with you can be a helpful reminder that there was (and will be) many moments in your life where anxiety wasn’t present. This could be a souvenir from a place where you felt safe, a picture of someone that supports you, or even a token of something that makes you feel like you.
Keep a memento of something that represents serenity in your life and focus on what it symbolizes.
Anxiety can feel like an all-consuming thing, but a memento can bring you back to positive emotions and thoughts.
Talk About It
Share with those close to you when you are feeling overwhelmed, and let people know how they can help you. You can always talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.
Tell friends and family how you’re feeling.
Anxiety can be scary, but by sharing, you don’t have to carry the burden on your own.
These tools are steps you can take while in the middle of an anxiety attack. However, there are also proactive steps you can take in order to combat anxiety in general. Remember to take the time to clear your head through meditation, adequate exercise, enough sleep, and seeking professional help when you need it.
Sometimes, our brain can enter that “fight or flight” mode before we even realize it is happening. You can begin to redirect your brain and calm your heightened senses. With these tools, you have the power to control the symptoms of anxiety.