If you suffer from anxiety then you will know that life can feel scary at times. Worries about what might happen can sometimes spiral out of all proportion and leave you in a tailspin. If your thoughts escalate and panic sets in, it can leave you with a full-blown anxiety attack.
An anxiety attack may be triggered by a multitude of things, and it can have some fierce physical symptoms.
People who’ve had anxiety attacks report feeling:
- a faster heartbeat
- tight muscles
- tingling in hands and feet
- shortness of breath
- chest pains
- spaced out
During an anxiety attack, your body responds as if there were real danger and the adrenaline kicks in to help you respond to that danger. Your brain activates your fight-or-flight response so you can tackle the perceived threat – expect that with anxiety it’s often your fears about a future threat rather than an actual one. Anxiety attacks generally pass in 10 minutes, though at the time it may feel as though you’ll never feel ‘normal’ again.
It can be helpful to know what triggers your anxiety attacks to help you manage them, but if you find yourself having an anxiety attack then take these steps to help it pass…
Stamp your feet
Bring yourself back into your body as much as possible. Stamping your feet one at a time can bring the focus out of your head (which is where anxiety starts) and into your body. This can also help with any tingling you’re experiencing in your toes.
An anxiety attack can rob you of the ability to breathe normally, and you can end up taking increasingly shallow breaths. Aim to deep breathe through your belly button, counting in for five and out for seven. The longer out breath can have a calming effect on your nervous system.
Use your senses
A calming smell can also soothe the part of your brain that gets activated during an anxiety attack. If you know you suffer from anxiety, an easy strategy to help calm you is to carry a fragrance with you. It could be lavender, lemon, rose, chocolate, coffee, leather, or even baby powder. You can carry an essential oil or a little pot of the odour that calms you. A smell can bypass the conscious mind and go directly to the triggered part of your brain.
Trust that it will pass
While this may seem tricky when your anxiety is extreme, tell yourself that it will pass. An anxiety attack will come and go. Sitting with it, rather than resisting it, can often be more helpful. Like a tide coming in, you just need to ride the wave, trusting that the tide will go out again.
Anxiety is often a warning sign that something in your life isn’t aligned. Your instincts may be telling you something but your mind overrides them. Getting to know your anxiety and what it’s there for can be the first step to overcoming anxiety attacks.
While these self-soothing strategies may be able to help you when you’re having an anxiety attack, you may want to discover the triggers and roots of your anxiety and explore further coping mechanisms – especially if anxiety seems to be taking over your life.
Many of our therapists work with anxiety and panic disorders. To book an initial appointment at our Clapham or Tooting centres, call 020 8673 4545 or email email@example.com