More than just a quick, passing moment of nervousness and a knot in your stomach, anxiety attacks are the real deal. Those of us who have gone through one know how bad it can get, and we wouldn’t wish them on our worst enemy. However, by practicing a few quick tricks, it can get just a teeny bit easier to get through an anxiety attack. Here are some of them.
1. Acknowledge it.
One of the worst things you can do during an anxiety attack is to try to ignore it. You know how it goes; telling everyone you’re alright, trying to smile through it, trying to ignore your racing heart and clammy palms. Quite often, the harder we attempt to get through an attack by turning our backs on it, the stronger the attack comes on. As the saying goes, what we resist, persists!
Drop into your body and allow yourself to feel through every emotion and sensation. Tell yourself that indeed this is an anxiety attack but, like all things, this too shall pass.
2. Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
When we’re in fight-or-flight mode, our breathing changes. You may find that during an anxiety attack, you’re either holding your breath or breathing much too quickly (hyperventilating). The faster we can steady the breath, the faster we can steady the emotions attached to the anxiety.
The 4-7-8 breath can work wonders during an attack; simply breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 7 seconds, and breathe out for 8. Being mindful of the breath not only slows the heart and racing mind, it also helps distract us from what triggered our anxiety by giving us something else to focus on.
3. Get grounded
Grounding is the act of feeling out the body, the space your body takes up, and feeling its connection with the earth and everything around it.
Although attempting to ground can be challenging during a full-blown anxiety attack, you can start easily by paying attention to the way your feet feel as they connect with the ground. From there, imagine strong roots growing from your feet into the rich soil below. It’s helpful (and fun!) to imagine that you’re a tree swaying gently in the wind—strong roots, strong trunk, and branches that can withstand even the strongest “winds” (thoughts).
4. Rest & Recover.
Sometimes a little bit of R & R (rest and recovery) can be all we need to curb an anxiety attack. After all, attacks are more likely to come on when we’re feeling tired and burnt out, and can leave us feeling...well, even more tired and burnt out!
When you begin to feel anxious, take a seat, close your eyes, and practice the exercises above (acknowledging, breathing and grounding). If you’re able, allow yourself to lie down in a comfortable position and stay still. If you can, take a short nap, as well. Sleeping can be like a reset switch for the brain and body; you’re likely to find that you wake up feeling much more calm and level-headed after a snooze. Remember to allow yourself adequate recovery time after an anxiety attack has passed, too.
Mindfulness is key when it comes to managing anxiety. By acknowledging, allowing, and applying the techniques above, you can start to put the power back in your own hands and make room for a more peaceful existence.
Image Credit: Christian Erfurt