Anxiety attacks can be overwhelming, both physically and mentally, leaving you with a feeling of losing control. Learning how to calm down during these episodes is crucial for regaining stability and peace of mind. In this blog post, we will explore various techniques and strategies to help you regain control and overcome anxiety attacks. These methods are scientifically proven to be effective and can be incorporated into your daily routine for a healthier, anxiety-free life.
1. Practise deep breathing techniques
When anxiety strikes, our breathing often becomes shallow and rapid, contributing to the panic we feel. By learning and practising deep breathing techniques, you can help alleviate the symptoms of an anxiety attack. One popular method is the 4-7-8 technique:
- Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of 4.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of 8.
- Repeat this cycle several times.
- Focusing on your breath helps to slow down your heart rate, reduce hyperventilation, and encourage relaxation.
2. Ground yourself in the present moment
Anxiety attacks often cause our thoughts to race, making it difficult to focus on the present. Grounding techniques help to bring you back to the here and now, reducing the intensity of the anxiety attack. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 method:
- Identify 5 things you can see around you.
- Identify 4 things you can touch or feel.
- Identify 3 things you can hear.
- Identify 2 things you can smell.
- Identify 1 thing you can taste.
This sensory-focused technique can help to interrupt the panic cycle and reestablish a connection with your surroundings.
3. Engage in mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool to help cope with anxiety attacks. By practising mindfulness, you learn to observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment, which can help to lessen the impact of anxiety. To practice mindfulness meditation:
- Find a quiet, comfortable space to sit or lie down.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Focus on your breath, observing its natural rhythm.
- If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
- Regular practice of mindfulness meditation can help to build resilience against anxiety attacks and improve overall mental well-being.
4. Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique that involves tensing and relaxing various muscle groups to relieve tension and promote relaxation. When practised regularly, PMR can help to reduce the severity of anxiety attacks. To practise PMR:
- Begin with your feet and work your way up to your head.
- Tense each muscle group for 5 seconds and then relax for 15–20 seconds.
- Focus on the difference in sensation between the tensed and relaxed muscles.
- Practising PMR regularly can help to create a sense of calm and relaxation that can be accessed during an anxiety attack.
5. Establish a support network
Having a strong support network can make all the difference when it comes to managing anxiety attacks. Reach out to friends, family members, or mental health professionals to share your experiences and seek guidance. Knowing that you have someone to turn to during an anxiety attack can help to lessen its impact and provide a sense of security.
6. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle can have a significant impact on your ability to cope with anxiety attacks. Incorporate regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep into your daily routine to improve overall mental and physical well-being. These healthy habits can help to reduce stress, improve mood, and increase resilience against anxiety attacks.
7. Seek professional help
If anxiety attacks persist or worsen, it’s essential to seek professional help. A mental health professional, such as a psychologist or therapist, can provide personalized guidance and support. They may recommend cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours associated with anxiety. Medication may also be prescribed in some cases, depending on the severity of your anxiety.
8. Create a Personalised coping plan
Develop a personalized coping plan that outlines the techniques and strategies that work best for you when dealing with anxiety attacks. This plan can include deep breathing exercises, grounding techniques, or a list of supportive individuals to contact during an episode. Keep this plan accessible so that you can reference it during an anxiety attack, helping you to regain control and calm down more effectively.
9. Practise self-compassion
During an anxiety attack, it’s essential to practice self-compassion. Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel anxious and that anxiety attacks are a natural response to stress. By treating yourself with kindness and understanding, you can help to create a more nurturing environment for recovery.
10. Utilise distraction techniques
Distraction techniques can be an effective way to shift your focus away from the anxiety attack and onto something more positive or neutral. By redirecting your attention, you can help to reduce the intensity of the panic and regain control. Some distraction techniques include:
- Listening to calming music or a guided meditation.
- Engaging in a creative activity, such as drawing, painting, or writing.
- Watching a favourite film or TV show.
- Going for a walk or engaging in physical activity.
- Completing a puzzle, playing a game, or engaging in a hobby.
Find activities that resonate with you and help to take your mind off the anxiety attack. By incorporating these distraction techniques into your coping plan, you can better manage anxiety attacks and create a more balanced, stress-free life.
Anxiety attacks can be debilitating, but with the right tools and strategies, you can learn to calm down and regain control. Practice deep breathing techniques, grounding exercises, and mindfulness meditation to help alleviate symptoms during an attack. Establish a support network, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and seek professional help if necessary. By incorporating these proven techniques into your daily life, you can overcome anxiety attacks and live a more peaceful, anxiety-free life.
Adam Mulligan, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.