In this entry we are going to learn how to manage anxiety attacks in 3 easy steps. There may be times where you feel so overwhelmed by your anxiety that you may not know what to do with yourself. I have often found myself in this position, feeling dazed and confused, exceptionally nauseated and looking for anyway out of the situation. Perhaps you are in business meeting, a formal event such as a wedding ceremony or even a job interview. Sometimes there just isn’t an easy way out of these situations, so I’am going to give you a few tips to ‘Bite the bullet’ and survive one of these familiar episodes.
Managing an anxiety attack
Own it: The single most important thing you can do (In my experience) is to own the onslaught of anxiety. Stop ‘fighting’ it.
When I am at my most uncomfortable stage during an anxiety attack, I cant keep my hands down. I simply must have them squeezing, pinching or pulling at something! I rest them behind my head, or start pulling on my neck! But if you make a conscious effort to avoid these temptations, it will actually help relieve tension.
Many studies have shown that your mind often follows your body, whereby people who are in a relaxed position will find it easier to relax, while the same applies for people who are tense and agitated. When you look confident, you will start feeling confident! Stop for a moment and take note of how each major muscle group feels. You will undoubtedly feel tension somewhere. For me, my shoulders become stiff and uptight, and relaxing them goes a long way to achieving a relaxed physiological state. Fix your posture, get comfortable, accept that your anxiety is happening, and get ready to whether the rest of storm.
Check out this TED Talks video on the importance of posture
Breathe: “Well, duh!” You might say. But you would be surprised at what happens to your respiratory rate when you’re having an anxiety/panic attack.
When you are suffering with either of the above mentioned episodes, your body enters a phase known as ‘Fight or flight’. Your mind thinks it perceives a threat in the form of whatever it is that triggers your anxiety. In the case of social anxiety, it might be public speaking, in which case your mind associates public speaking as something potentially harmful and triggers this unnecessary fight or flight response to warn you. When this happens, your body literally prepares to ‘fight’ or ‘flight’, flooding your body with adrenaline, which in turn increase both your heart rate and respiratory rate, and even preps your muscles ready for combat, making them feel tense!
Because of this response someone suffering an anxiety attack will unconsciously begin taking short, rapid breaths. This can cause you to feel feint and panicked, which can make you more anxious and quickly become a viscous circle. Take a conscious note of your breathing the next time you fall foul of anxiety, then breath slower. Inhale through your nose for a few seconds, hold for 2 seconds, and then exhale through your mouth slowly. This will help subdue the adrenaline rush by keeping your heart rate and respiratory rate under control.
Divert your attention: The end goal of this step by step guide is let your anxiety attack pass on by, and get yourself through it as quickly and and comfortably as possible. So once you have both your body and breathing (See Steps 1-2) in check, its time start thinking about something else…Well, anything else really. The idea is to take your mind off your current situation by taking it else where. Stop thinking about how awful you may be feeling at that moment in time, and start thinking about what you’re having for dinner. Like, really, give it some serious thought! I want you to plan out every single detail. Right down to what crockery you will be using to eat it.
Your aim is to forget that the anxiety attack has even happened. If these pleasant thoughts take center stage in your mind for long enough, it can have a dramatic effect on bringing your panic to a halt.
But what if you’re in a scenario that requires you to be on the ball and attentive, such as job interview or giving a public talk? I would invite you to try something that may sound counter-productive, and damn right scary, but has actually worked for me several times in the past.
Fake it until you make it! Keep your mind so set on the job at hand that there just isn’t any room for the anxiety to keep festering. Talk more, talk louder, ask and answer questions freely and laugh (or make yourself laugh if need be). In the seven years I have been navigating severe social anxiety, I have had to resort to this approach several times. I will be honest, It has not always worked. But it has dragged me through multiple job interviews and presentations.
By fully engaging with those around you and immersing yourself in the situation, you will begin to own it. And that is a momentous step towards feeling comfortable in whatever situation you are in, anxiety or no anxiety.
I hope this passage helps you construct a method of dealing with anxiety attacks in the future. If you have any other suggestions of your own, please comment below and share it with us!
Why not try our Knowledge is Power post?