Anxiety is one of the most common mental health struggles in the world. Millions of people have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders and millions more struggle with undiagnosed anxiety. It can manifest as a disorder, short-term anxiety, or around a specific issue or concern. Regardless of how it presents itself, this is something no one should deal with alone. A panic attack can often accompany anxiety. These can feel like they come on out of nowhere or they can develop slowly over time. Some folks end up in the ER because they’re not sure what’s going on and think they’re having a medical emergency.
(Note, going to the ER during a panic attack even if you do know what’s going on can be the right thing to do for some people. They can provide immediate help and help keep you safe.) Those who have had a panic attack will tell you how intense and awful it is. Those who are prone to them may be able to recognize the warning signs in themselves or others.Anxiety and panic attacks can feel out of control, scary, frustrating, and overwhelming. Our daily lives get interrupted and sometimes we may even find we have to rearrange our lives while we work through them. In this article, we’re going to offer some ways to help calm yourself during a panic attack. These may also help you to refocus your mind during times of anxiety, regardless of the cause.
Please remember that this is not a substitute for medical advice. If you’re concerned about what’s happening to your body or mind, please get medical attention. This information also does not substitute for counseling. Working with a counselor can be a critical part of working with anxiety. They may also refer you to someone for mediation or other treatment options.
These are offered only as suggestions to help when you are feeling especially anxious or have a panic attack coming on. Not every tip will work for every person. Start at the top and work your way through them. Some of these may seem too simple, that’s ok. Sometimes our brains need the most basic simple needs met to move forward. You may wish to consider printing this and keeping it somewhere easily visible for when you need it.
Tips for Interrupting a Panic Attack
Here are some tips for calming anxiety or interrupting a panic attack:
- Breathe deeply. Do you have any regular breathing practices you use? Start them now. If not, breathe as deeply and evenly as possible.
- Are you physically safe? If so, reassure yourself of that, tell your brain that there is nothing physically dangerous around you. If not, get yourself to safety immediately.
- Drink a glass of water.
- Should you call anyone for support or reach out to someone in your home?
- Stay off screens.
- Are you still doing deep breathing? Return to your breath.
- Have a snack. Choose something with a lot of protein and no sugar or caffeine.
- Do you have any supplements, prescriptions, or vitamins you need to take?
- Get physical movement. Walk, do yoga, use a punching bag, jump on a trampoline. Just get moving for a bit.
- Do you have any home remedies like essential oils, flower remedies, acupressure points herbs, or homeopathy that you use? Use those now.
- Take a shower.
- Dress in something you love. Not pajamas unless it’s bedtime!
- Light a candle or do something else to make your environment cozy.
- Don’t forget your breathwork.
- Dance. Put on your favorite tunes and dance.
- Get physical contact with something living – a human or pet.
- Laugh. Even if it doesn’t feel genuine, get yourself laughing.
- Do you need to call someone now?
- Try one, or more of these:
○ Count colors. This is a method of mindfulness. Start with red and count 5-10 red things you can find in your environment. Then move on to orange and count 5-10 orange things. Move through the rainbow, counting 5-10 of each color. If you have a favorite color, start with that, and then work through the rainbow. You may need to open cabinets, peek inside your closet, or open a colorful book. This is also a good activity to do outside on a walk.
○ Look for lines. This is similar to the above practice. First, look for all the horizontal lines you can find around you. Next, look for all the vertical lines you can find. Then, look for parallel lines. Last, look for wavy lines.
○ Shape search. Pick a shape and find as many of that share in your space as possible
- Write out a list of things you’re grateful for
- Repeat a mantra
- Engage in one or more relaxation techniques such as:
o Progressive muscle relaxation
o Alternate nostril breathing
o Dry skin brushing
o Body scan
- Get outdoors into nature. Take a walk in your neighborhood if you don’t feel safe to drive. Otherwise, drive to somewhere you can connect with nature and go for a walk or sit and relax for a while.
- Do you need to go to sleep? Give yourself permission to get comfy and crawl into bed. If you’re too wound up to sleep, start back at the top of this list.
- Read a book or magazine. Avoid screens – read something on real paper. If you’re still too anxious, start back at the top of this list.
- Reach out to your counselor or seek medical attention if you’re still feeling extremely anxious or having panic attack symptoms
Questions to Ask Yourself After a Panic Attack
After you’ve calmed down ask yourself these questions:
- Have I changed any of my medications, supplements, vitamins, or diet recently?Changes in any of these may lead to an increase in anxiety and anxiety symptoms. Work with your healthcare provider, if needed.
- Am I in a conflict?Conflicts with others may lead to an increase in anxiety. Let your counselor know what’s going on so they can help you resolve the conflict.
- Am I overcommitted or overdoing it?Give yourself a break if you can. If you’re in an especially busy season, see if you can delegate tasks to someone else. Otherwise, take extra time each day to engage in relaxation techniques and to nurture your mental health.
- Can I get outside help?Can you get someone to help with housework, chores, childcare, work, or anything else? Is it time to seek help from a doctor or alternative medicine practitioner? Do you need to go get a massage? Should you order takeout tonight for dinner or have grocery delivery instead of going to the store? Is there someone you trust who you can call and as to come be with you for a while? Think about all the areas of your life and all the ways you might be able to get some additional help and support.
- Am I struggling with a decision?Decision fatigue can often lead to anxiety. Your counselor can help you with decision making and give you the skills to process decisions.
- Do I have a routine?A consistent routine gives our brains something to expect each day. Even if you can’t have a detailed day-to-day routine, find areas of life where you can have a rhythm or routine.Perhaps you do the same things in the same order every morning and at bedtime. Or maybe you take a lunch break at the same time each day and engage in some sort of ritual or routine over lunch. Set yourself up with as much consistency as you can for now.
- Am I in a season of transition?Transition disrupts our routine. This makes it even easier for our brain to enter fight or flight. Recognize this and find routine any way you can.
- How long have I been feeling this way?If you’re noticing a considerable spike in your anxiety in the last couple of weeks, that’s something that should be given more attention. Reach out to your counselor and healthcare provider.
Christian Counseling for Anxiety
If you need help overcoming your anxiety, please feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors listed in the counselor directory. Help is available, and we would be honored to walk with you on your journey to recovery and peace.
Copyright Leah Elliott, 2021, All rights reserved