Living with anxiety attacks
How to Cope with Anxiety: 13 Simple Tips
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If you deal with anxiety, there are strategies you can use to avoid feeling consumed by it. Here are some quick solutions to help you address the situation immediately, as well as long-term methods to combat a recurring issue.
Know that feeling of your heart beating faster in response to a stressful situation? Or perhaps, your palms get sweaty when you’re confronted with an overwhelming task or event.
That’s anxiety — our body’s natural response to stress.
If you haven’t recognized your triggers yet, here are a few common ones: your first day at a new job, meeting your partner’s family, or giving a presentation in front of a lot of people. Everyone has different triggers, and identifying them is one of the most important steps to coping with and managing anxiety attacks.
Identifying your triggers can take some time and self-reflection. In the meantime, there are things you can do to try to help calm or quiet your anxiety from taking over.
If your anxiety is sporadic and getting in the way of your focus or tasks, there are some quick natural remedies that could help you take control of the situation.
If your anxiety is focused around a situation, such as being worried about an upcoming event, you may notice the symptoms are short-lived and usually subside after the anticipated event takes place.
1. Question your thought pattern
Negative thoughts can take root in your mind and distort the severity of the situation. One way is to challenge your fears, ask if they’re true, and see where you can take back control.
2. Practice focused, deep breathing
Try breathing in for 4 counts and breathing out for 4 counts for 5 minutes total. By evening out your breath, you’ll slow your heart rate which should help calm you down.
The 4-7-8 technique is also known to help anxiety.
3. Use aromatherapy
Whether they’re in essential oil form, incense, or a candle, natural scents like lavender, chamomile, and sandalwood can be very soothing.
Aromatherapy is thought to help activate certain receptors in your brain, potentially easing anxiety.
4. Go for a walk or do 15 minutes of yoga
Sometimes, the best way to stop anxious thoughts is to walk away from the situation. Taking some time to focus on your body and not your mind may help relieve your anxiety.
Getting some quick exercise can help boost your mood and calm your mind.
5. Write down your thoughts
Writing down what’s making you anxious gets it out of your head and can make it less daunting.
These relaxation tricks are particularly helpful for those who experience anxiety sporadically. They may also work well with someone who has generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) when they’re in a bind!
However, if you suspect you have GAD, quick coping methods shouldn’t be the only kind of treatment you employ. You’ll want to find long-term strategies to help lessen the severity of symptoms and even prevent them from happening.
If anxiety is a regular part of your life, it’s important to find treatment strategies to help you keep it in check. It might be a combination of things, like talk therapy and meditation, or it might just be a matter of cutting out or resolving your anxiety trigger.
If you’re not sure where to start, it’s always helpful to discuss options with a mental health professional who might suggest something you hadn’t thought of before.
1. Identify and learn to manage your triggers
You can identify triggers on your own or with a therapist. Sometimes they can be obvious, like caffeine, drinking alcohol, or smoking. Other times they can be less obvious.
Long-term problems, such as financial or work-related situations, may take some time to figure out — is it a due date, a person, or the situation? This may take some extra support, through therapy or with friends.
When you do figure out your trigger, you should try to limit your exposure if you can. If you can’t limit it — like if it’s due to a stressful work environment that you can’t currently change — using other coping techniques may help.
Some general triggers
- a stressful job or work environment
- driving or traveling
- genetics — anxiety could run in your family
- withdrawal from drugs or certain medications
- side effects of certain medications
- phobias, such as agoraphobia (fear of crowded or open spaces) and claustrophobia (fear of small spaces)
- some chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, or asthma
- chronic pain
- having another mental illness such as depression
2. Adopt cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT helps people learn different ways of thinking about and reacting to anxiety-causing situations. A therapist can help you develop ways to change negative thought patterns and behaviors before they spiral.
3. Do a daily or routine meditation
While this takes some practice to do successfully, mindful meditation, when done regularly, can eventually help you train your brain to dismiss anxious thoughts when they arise.
If sitting still and concentrating is difficult, try starting with yoga, or walking meditation. There are many free guided meditations on apps like InsightTimer that can help you get started.
4. Keep a journal
It can be helpful to create a habit of writing down your thoughts and emotions in a journal each day. The process of writing down thoughts itself can be calming for some.
However, it can also help you keep track of when you experience anxiety, how it makes you feel, and what sort of things trigger it.
Although each person is different, and some people experience social anxiety, spending time with friends and family on a regular basis may help you manage your anxiety.
Socialization can help relieve stress, encourage feelings of laughter and togetherness, and decrease loneliness. Research has shown that social connectedness can help you become more resilient to stress in the long run.
6. Try supplements or change your diet
Changing your diet or taking supplements is definitely a long-term strategy. Research shows certain supplements or nutrients can help anxiety reduction.
- lemon balm
- omega-3 fatty acids
- green tea
- valerian root
- kava kava
However, it can take a few months before your body is actually running on the nutrition these herbs and foods provide. If you’re taking other medications, make sure to discuss herbal remedies with your doctor as there can be adverse reactions.
7. Keep your body and mind healthy
Exercising regularly, eating balanced meals, getting enough sleep, and staying connected to people who care about you are great ways to stave off anxiety symptoms.
8. Ask your doctor about medications
If your anxiety is severe enough that your mental health practitioner believes you’d benefit from medication, there are a number of directions to go, depending on your symptoms. Discuss your concerns with your doctor.
Identifying what sort of anxiety you’re dealing with can be somewhat challenging because how one’s body reacts to perceived danger can be entirely different compared to another person.
It’s likely you heard anxiety as a blanket term for that general feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease. It’s often a feeling in response to an upcoming event that has an uncertain outcome.
Every person deals with it at one time or another, because it’s part of our brain’s response to a perceived danger — even if that danger isn’t real.
That said, there are times anxiety can get serious and turn into anxiety attacks that initially feel manageable and then gradually build up over a few hours. (This is different from a panic attack, which is out of the blue and subsides.)
Signs of an anxiety attack
These are some of the more common mental and physical symptoms of anxiety:
- feelings of danger, panic, or dread
- nervousness or restlessness
- rapid heart rate
- trembling or chills
- tiredness or weakness
- gastrointestinal problems
- difficulty focusing
It’s also possible to experience an anxiety and panic attack simultaneously. The quick coping strategies mentioned above may also help with a panic attack.
Other mindful strategies to cope with panic attacks include focusing on an object, repeating a mantra, closing your eyes, and going to your “happy” place.
Symptoms of a panic attack
- fear of dying
- feeling like you’re losing control
- a sense of detachment
- heart palpitations
- shortness of breath
- chest pains or tightness
- feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- numbness or tingling in your extremities
- feeling hot or cold
If you notice that quick tips haven’t been working, you may want to consider seeing a professional for help. Especially if you believe you have GAD and it’s interfering with routine activities and causing physical symptoms.
A mental health professional can help with streamlining the process of identifying your triggers, maintaining long-term strategies through behavioral therapy, medications, and more.
Anxiety may always be a part of your life, but it shouldn’t overtake your day-to-day. Even the most extreme anxiety disorders can be treated so that the symptoms aren’t overwhelming.
Once you find what treatment works best for you, life should be a lot more enjoyable and a lot less daunting.
Read this article in Spanish.
11 tips for coping with an anxiety disorder
Speaking of Health
Topics in this Post
- Behavioral Health
- Balance your mental and emotional health
Having occasional feelings of anxiety is a normal part of life, but people with anxiety disorders experience frequent and excessive anxiety, fear, terror and panic in everyday situations. These feelings are unhealthy if they affect your quality of life and prevent you from functioning normally.
Common symptoms of anxiety disorders include:
- Feeling nervous
- Feeling helpless
- A sense of impending panic, danger or doom
- Increased heart rate
- Obsessively thinking about the panic trigger
These feelings of anxiety and panic can interfere with daily activities and be difficult to control. They are out of proportion to the actual danger and can cause you to avoid places or situations.
You should see your health care provider if your anxiety is affecting your life and relationships. Your provider can help rule out any underlying physical health issue before seeing a mental health professional.
While most people with anxiety disorders need psychotherapy or medications to get anxiety under control, lifestyle changes and coping strategies also can make a difference.
Here are 11 tips for coping with an anxiety disorder:
- Keep physically active.
Develop a routine so that you're physically active most days of the week. Exercise is a powerful stress reducer. It can improve your mood and help you stay healthy. Start out slowly, and gradually increase the amount and intensity of your activities.
- Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs.
These substances can cause or worsen anxiety. If you can't quit on your own, see your health care provider or find a support group to help you.
- Quit smoking, and cut back or quit drinking caffeinated beverages.
Nicotine and caffeine can worsen anxiety.
- Use stress management and relaxation techniques.
Visualization techniques, meditation and yoga are examples of relaxation techniques that can ease anxiety.
- Make sleep a priority.
Do what you can to make sure you're getting enough sleep to feel rested. If you aren't sleeping well, talk with your health care provider.
- Eat healthy foods.
A healthy diet that incorporates vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish may be linked to reduced anxiety, but more research is needed.
- Learn about your disorder.
Talk to your health care provider to find out what might be causing your specific condition and what treatments might be best for you. Involve your family and friends, and ask for their support.
- Stick to your treatment plan.
Take medications as directed. Keep therapy appointments and complete any assignments your therapist gives. Consistency can make a big difference, especially when it comes to taking your medication.
- Identify triggers.
Learn what situations or actions cause you stress or increase your anxiety. Practice the strategies you developed with your mental health provider so you're ready to deal with anxious feelings in these situations.
- Keep a journal.
Keeping track of your personal life can help you and your mental health provider identify what's causing you stress and what seems to help you feel better.
Don't let worries isolate you from loved ones or activities.
Your worries may not go away on their own, and they may worsen over time if you don't seek help. See your health care provider or a mental health provider before your anxiety worsens. It's easier to treat if you get help early.
Learn more about anxiety management:
- 5, 4, 3, 2, 1: Countdown to make anxiety blast off
- 9 ways to tame anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Addressing your mental health by identifying the signs of anxiety and depression
Siri Kabrick is a nurse practitioner in Psychiatry & Psychology in Fairmont, Minnesota.
For the safety of our patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was either recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in a non-patient care area where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.
Topics in this Post
- Behavioral Health
- Balance your mental and emotional health
National Bullying Prevention Month: Educating children and ourselves
Anxiety disorders: Is it really all in your head?
Identifying signs of anxiety and depression
Panic attacks (episodic paroxysmal anxiety) - attacks of severe anxiety (panic) or fear (most often - fear of death, less often - fear of losing consciousness, loss of control, helplessness or fear of "going crazy"), accompanied by a rapid heartbeat and a feeling of " suffocation, shortness of breath. Sometimes there are additional symptoms such as increased blood pressure, a feeling of "internal trembling", trembling in the limbs, a feeling of "hot flashes" of heat or cold, numbness of the extremities, increased sweating, a feeling of "unstability" or dizziness, nausea, derealization or depersonalization, etc.
Panic attacks last on average 5 to 30 minutes. However, sometimes they can last several hours, and in rare cases - up to several days.
I must say that even 30 years ago this disease was extremely rare. But now the incidence of panic attacks is increasing exponentially every year! Especially in big cities. Alas, panic attacks are considered a “disease of megacities”. And they suffer, most often, people with increased anxiety and the so-called perfectionists.
Earlier, in Soviet medicine, this disorder was called " sympathoadrenal crises ". This name, more than the modern one, reflected the essence of the processes occurring in the body during panic attacks. Nevertheless, I will not bother readers with a description of biochemical processes and a list of the hormones and neurotransmitters involved in these reactions. Knowing this practically does not affect the fact of the occurrence of seizures. Because biochemical processes are just an "intermediate link" in the chain of cause and effect relationships occurrence of panic attacks . What then is the "primary link", so to speak, the root cause?
Panic attacks occur suddenly, and, as it often seems, without any external causes or under the influence of minor unpleasant factors (an ordinary quarrel in the family, another trouble at work, overcrowding and stuffiness in a subway or train car, a long “traffic jam” on the road, etc.). etc.). In fact, panic attacks always occur against the background of an already long-term depression (most common), or after repeated or severe stress (or rather, distress). Don't be surprised by this, because it is quite difficult for an ordinary person, not a specialist, to diagnose depression. Especially, at himself. Moreover, its mild or atypical forms. Especially if it lasts a year or several years (and for some people - since childhood!). In this case, they may not even remember how they felt without depression. In this variant, the body functions “with the last of its strength”, works “at the limit of its capabilities”; and some minor unpleasant event can be the “last straw” for him! Figuratively speaking, a panic attack is “hysteria of the body”, its “desperate cry: “I can’t do this anymore !!!”
Well, in the question "Who is to blame?" figured it out. Now let's move on to the equally important question "What to do?" The fact that no one in the world has yet died from panic attacks is little consolation for those suffering from this excruciating disorder. To say that panic attacks are an unpleasant state is an understatement! These are unbearable sensations, and in the most severe cases, a real feeling of approaching death, which a person is sometimes forced to experience daily! And most importantly, he does not understand what is happening to him, and how to stop it!
Panic attacks sharply reduce the quality of a person's life, subordinating her entire expectation of the next attack. And, accordingly, they affect social activity, sometimes making a person completely incapacitated.
When panic attacks first appeared in the clinical practice of physicians, they were treated empirically with various sedatives and tranquilizers. However, after their cancellation, the seizures reappeared, and with prolonged use of these drugs, tolerance (insensitivity) inevitably and rather quickly set in. Therefore, in order to stop panic attacks, it was necessary to constantly increase doses or resort to more “strong” tranquilizers. But everywhere there is a limit: the number of tranquilizers is not unlimited, especially their doses. It was necessary to remember another very important aspect: long-term use of these drugs causes dependence on them. And after the abolition of tranquilizers, the symptoms of mental and physical withdrawal joined the renewed panic attacks, which further worsened the patient's condition.
Then the tactics of treatment were somewhat changed: antidepressants were added to "light" or small doses of "medium-powered" tranquilizers. And it was a "breakthrough" in the treatment of panic attacks! Because antidepressants do not just "relieve" the symptoms, but they affect the foundation on which these attacks are based - depression itself! Of course, in modern medicine there are a huge number of antidepressants, and the effectiveness of their effect on panic attacks is very different. But an experienced psychotherapist or psychiatrist can quite accurately select a drug that is suitable for a particular person. It is important to note that antidepressants have a cumulative effect, so their therapeutic effect does not appear immediately after the appointment, but after a certain time (on average, after a month). And, here, the full duration of treatment with antidepressants is, at best, from 6 to 12 months, and sometimes up to several years.
At the same time, there are cases of especially severe courses of panic attacks, when the appointment of even "powerful" antidepressants for a sufficiently long time does not bring the desired effect, i. e. panic attacks do not stop completely, but only become less pronounced or occur less frequently. In this version, the person, anyway, does not feel healthy and constantly lives in fear of the appearance of another attack. In this case, doctors are forced to launch "heavy artillery" - to add NEUROLEPTICS to the treatment, which patients have to take for quite a long time. Antipsychotics have a large number of unpleasant side effects, which is why many patients refuse them.
However, there is another way to treat panic attacks. He is not a drug! That is, there is a REAL METHOD OF COMPLETE CURING FROM PANIC ATTACKS, ABSOLUTELY WITHOUT RESORTING TO ANY KIND OF MEDICINES !!! This method is PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC.
In the modern world there are a lot of different types and directions of psychotherapy. But, it must be said bluntly that with panic attacks, most of them are not effective without medical support.
However, the method that I use in my psychotherapeutic work is unique. It often allows you to completely eliminate panic attacks in 1 session! One or two more sessions are required to eliminate the FEAR of the appearance of seizures (or their expectation).
But in order to begin the direct elimination of panic attacks, a certain “intellectual” preparation of the patient is necessary. It requires from 8 to 12 sessions (depending on the severity of the disease and the personal characteristics of the patient) with a frequency of 1-2 sessions per week.
After eliminating panic attacks and the fear of their occurrence, it is extremely important to “develop” the underlying causes that led to their appearance. This will be a kind of "insurance" against the occurrence of panic attacks in the future. This requires 3-4 months on average (with the frequency of classes 1 time per week). But, having worked through these “deep roots”, a person not only completely gets rid of panic attacks, but also depression, solves many personal problems and begins to live a full life!
How to live with panic attacks?
It is impossible to find out the exact statistics: not everyone turns to a specialist for help. One way or another, a person with a panic attack always has a choice: live in constant fear or fight it.
What to do if you or a friend is having an anxiety attack? We will share the personal experience of a person suffering from panic attacks, and together with a psychologist we will find out how to cope with it yourself and help a loved one.
Panic attack: real experience
Anastasia, student, 1st year student:
“My first panic attack happened at the age of 16. Then I did not understand what was happening to me and why this was happening. Thought it was a nervous breakdown. At first I felt a shiver all over my body - I could not hold anything in my hands. The thought flashed through my head that an earthquake had begun. I instinctively sat down on the floor and hugged my knees, but the world around me still trembled. I started crying and scared because there was no one at home to call for help. Being alone with fear is the worst thing in this case. I don't know how long I sat on the floor like this. When it was all over, I thought I might have died.
About six months later I had a second attack. It was stronger than the previous one and felt like it lasted forever. I did not understand where I was, what I was doing and what I was so afraid of. Then I wanted one thing: for it to end. I sat on the floor and cried, because I could not move, I was paralyzed with fear. I wanted to call my parents or friends, but neither my arms nor my legs would obey. Like it wasn't my body. I couldn't figure out what I was so afraid of. Thoughts in my head seemed to slip away, it only made it worse. When it was all over, I could not come to my senses for a long time, as if a panic attack had taken away all my emotions and feelings.
The third attack was the most severe and painful. It took me by surprise just like the previous ones, but this time I was not alone at home. I was working at the computer when I felt the onset of panic. I knew right away that something terrible was about to happen. I gasped for air and felt my hands become uncomfortably sticky with sweat. Attempts to get up and go to drink water in the kitchen were unsuccessful. Rising from the chair, I fell to the floor and barely crawled to a place where I could lean on something with my back and sit down. My parents came running as soon as they heard the noise from my room. All I could do at that moment was to press my legs to my chest and cry in fear. I felt like I was in a completely unfamiliar place.
Parents were really scared then. They already knew that I was suffering from panic attacks, so my mother immediately brought a glass of water, and my father went to look for a sedative. I stayed in this state for almost an hour and a half, then the panic slowly began to recede, but subconsciously I was afraid for a long time that it would soon begin anew. For the rest of the day, I felt like I was on the verge of death.
When dealing with panic attacks, the worst thing is that they take you by surprise. At least for me it is. After three seizures, I realized: it’s up to me to decide whether to live in fear all the time or fight it. ”
Heart is beating, breathing is difficult, palms are sweaty: what to do?
How to help yourself if an attack is already underway? We deal with the psychologist from Stavropol Valentina Ostapenko. She made a list of self-help actions for a panic attack.
1. Try to calm down
Turn on your favorite music and sing along, play a game on your phone, read a book, or add some complicated numbers out loud. These actions require concentration, and this will distract you.
2. Get moving
A person with a panic attack can sometimes find it difficult to even stand on their feet. In this case, the psychologist advises squeezing and unclenching the palms, touching the earlobes, touching something in the hands, or even sucking on a candy to engage the taste buds.
A panic attack makes the heart beat faster. There is a feeling that there is too little air around, so it is important to calm the “enraged” heart. The psychologist advises the method of breathing in cycles: a second for inhalation, a second for holding the breath, and a third for exhaling.
Sometimes talking to yourself or a loved one helps. This method can also work as a distraction.
Psychologist advises not to limit yourself to dealing with symptoms during an attack. Regular exercise, healthy sleep, meditation and sessions with a specialist will help to cope with the problem before it appears.
How to help a person with panic attacks?
In this case, you should try to trust yourself and your feelings or take the advice of those who have experienced panic attacks.
1. Be there
No one wants to be alone in this state. Even if your friend or relative won't talk to you or tries to cope on his own. During a panic attack, you can bring water or lend a hand if he wants to get up from his place.
If the person is in the mood to talk, try to distract them. Questions about the causes of a panic attack or stories about your problems will be inappropriate, and a dialogue on an abstract topic or a joint solution of logical problems can help.
3. Don't ignore
Ignoring is the easiest way to prolong an attack. Sometimes the problem and root cause of panic attacks is that a person is left alone with their fears and hardships.
When you are sure that the attack is over, you can ask what helped your friend to take his mind off the panic attack. Be sure to specify under what circumstances he felt the first symptoms. It is important that a person does not lose touch with reality and is able to explain at a session with a psychologist how a panic attack occurred.