5 ways to manage anxiety attacks
Dealing with anxiety? You probably already know the warning signs and sensations: a rapid heartbeat, racing thoughts, a tight feeling in your chest, sweaty palms… the list goes on and on. When these moments — commonly referred to as anxiety attacks — occur, it can seem impossible to stop them.
Fortunately, there are both short- and long-term ways to manage anxiety attacks when they happen. In this article, we’ll cover five of these ways — two in-the-moment techniques to help you lessen the effects of an ongoing attack, and three behavioral changes that may help prevent future attacks from happening as frequently or severely.
Anxiety in the short-term: two coping techniques
Before we get into long term changes that will help you change your relationship with anxiety, it’s important to have tools to deal with anxiety when it does happen. If you are currently experiencing an attack as a result of a stressful situation — an upcoming work presentation, a first date or a heavy university workload — try the following quick reduction techniques for some fast relief.
1. Take a walk and breathe deeply while you do
One of the best things you can do when you are feeling really anxious is to remove yourself from the environment that is causing you stress. If you’re doom-scrolling awful news stories on your phone or lying in bed thinking about all the chores you have to do before work, it’s important to physically get away from those heightened-stress environments. Taking a walk without your phone outside of your living space will help you clear your head, think and redirect your thoughts toward something neutral — your body.
To further remove yourself from a bad mental space and focus on your physical environment, practice deep breathing while you walk — or instead of it — to regain focus and control. Breathing in for a specified amount of beats (such as the 4-7-8 technique) can help you remain calm and collected, allowing you to work through an anxiety attack at your own pace.
2. Ask yourself targeted questions
Once you regain physical control and feel a little more comfortable, it’s important to begin addressing the negative thoughts that made you anxious in the first place. Start thinking about your thoughts and fears objectively: are they really as bad as your mind is making them out to be? Consider yourself a rational observer of your own mind in this moment. If you were your friend giving you advice, what would you tell yourself?
Practices like these allow you to interrogate your thoughts as an outsider, allowing you to remain dispassionately removed from the stressors in your mind. This takes time and practice, but learning to approach your anxiety from a place of rationality will eventually help you recognize and dispense with negative thoughts more quickly.
Anxiety in the long term: management strategies
While immediate care for an ongoing anxiety attack is important, it’s also crucial to develop a lifestyle that prevents anxiety attacks from occurring. While nobody can completely remove anxiety from their life — it’s a natural stress-response hard-wired into us — it is possible to rewire your anxiety so that it appears when truly warranted, instead of when there is nothing to worry about. The following are three ways to create a lifestyle that will help you manage your anxiety.
1. Pay attention to when attacks occur
Knowing what brings on anxiety attacks is crucial to avoiding or lessening them when they occur. Some attacks are brought on by physical substances — common ones include alcohol, drugs, caffeine and sugar. Others can be brought on when physical needs are not met, such as sleep loss and hunger.
Then there are the immaterial triggers. These can include a job that induces burnout, a family environment that is negative or overtly toxic, a relationship that is dysfunctional, and more.
Everyone is different, and so what makes you anxious may be completely different than what makes others anxious. The important thing is to listen to your body and start to make correlations between your anxiety and potential triggers. Once you do this, you can work to remove those triggering elements from your life.
If you can’t necessarily get rid of a trigger — maybe you need to keep a job that is anxiety-inducing — then turning toward other short- and long-term strategies can help lessen the effects of anxiety attacks when they do occur.
2. Pay attention to your health
Part of managing anxiety involves looking after your own health. Eating properly, taking supplements, getting proper, restful sleep and exercising are all wonderful tools when it comes to managing stress.
Think about your physical health as an extension of your mental health. If your body is unhealthy, your mind is working double duty to remain healthy, and an overburdened mind is, unfortunately, an easy victim for anxiety.
3. Write about your anxiety
Externalizing anxiety is one of the best long-term coping strategies out there. By writing about your attacks, you can properly assess them and identify triggers. You may find that speaking with a mental health professional or therapist is the best way for you to talk about these issues. If that feels like a lot — or you are not in a financial position to sign up with a therapist right now — there are other options, too.
One such option is The Journal That Talks Back. It’s an online journaling service where anxiety sufferers can write in an e-journal and connect with responders who read the journals and provide detailed feedback on every entry. Responders are trained to help you navigate life problems such as anxiety by asking great questions and giving stellar feedback.
If you think you could benefit from a service like that, give it a shot!
Anxiety: you can manage it
Left unchecked, anxiety can invade every part of your life. Fortunately, there are great tools and tactics to manage it. Tackling anxiety will almost certainly improve your day-to-day outlook — and trust us, you can do it. Wherever your journey toward defeating anxiety takes you, we have faith you’ll find the tools, resources and tactics you need to go forth with confidence and poise.
We are a coaching company with expertise in lots of different areas like mental wellness, career, relationships, parenting and a whole lot more. While coaching in The Journal That Talks Back™ can help you to take a deeper look at the above topics, we recognize that there are times when other resources, like therapy and/or counselling, may make more sense. As such, we have begun to develop a Mental Health Directory with well over 800 resources and we are investing time and effort into really growing it. It is also developed in a super user friendly way (we hope) so that it's easier to navigate than say another government website. Click the button below to check out our Mental Health Directory.