I’ve struggled with anxiety most of my life and used to have anxiety attacks regularly. Over time, I have learned several ways to keep my anxiety at bay which has honestly changed my life. You can read here all about how I got my anxiety under control when it was at it’s worst through meditation and mindfulness.
Even though my anxiety has been much more frequent in the past, I still have the occasional break down triggered by random stressful situations. Today I want to share with you what I do during an anxiety attack to calm my mind and get through it as painlessly as possible.
This is by far the most important tip I have for you!
When your mind is “in the clouds”, it’s important to bring yourself back to the body. Anxiety attacks can cause extreme shortness of breath and even hyperventilation (often a symptom I experience). I will breathe so quickly that I’ll start to choke on my own breath which makes the experience even more frightening than it already is.
Without forcing your breathing, feel your chest rising and falling. Try to slow your breath and feel your body moving as you inhale and exhale. The last anxiety attack I had, my dad told me to focus on relaxing the middle of my torso just below the rib cage. This tip really helped bring me back to my body so I could slow my breathing.
I often get chills and hot flashes while I’m in the midst of an anxiety attack. My teeth chatter and I’ll break out in sweats almost like the flu. My dad has always told me to keep the body warm during a panic attack by bundling up and drinking warm water. I asked him to help me explain why this helps so much:
First thing to know is there are many different causes of anxiety and panic attacks from a Chinese medicine perspective. No one treatment is going to help everyone – and you should always seek out competent healthcare advice to make sure a given treatment is right for your constitution.
That said, I’ve found the warm/hot water trick to be invaluable for people who are having high anxiety moments or panic attacks. Part of this is simple – drinking something warm is soothing for us – and the ritual of getting hot water can often be enough of a focus for the mind to reduce the anxious feelings, depending on their severity.
On a more complex level, we can think about what’s going on in the instance of a panic attack. Your body is flooded with biochemicals that signal the body to go into fight or flight mode. This shunts energy, heat, blood and resources out to the limbs so you can run for your life! The interior of the body, particularly the digestion, gets no love in this situation. So, by taking warm water into the center, we are reminding the body to pay attention to the interior, and giving needed yang energy (yang is the warming side of the yin-yang pair) that can help to draw excessive thinking and energy down and in – the perfect antidote to the “up and out” gesture that anxiety has.
-Eric Grey, MS, LAc
You can also read his helpful article about chronic anxiety here if you’re interested in learning about it from a Chinese Medicine perspective!
It’s important when you’re having an anxiety attack to remember that you’re not going to die and that it will end eventually. As my dad explained, there’s a chemical reaction happening in your body during a panic attack that can’t be reversed, you just have to ride it out. Don’t force it to be over because the more you think about what is happening, the more you will stay in your own head which is why you’re having the anxiety attack in the first place.
Remember that the experience you are having is fear triggered by stress. Not fear triggered by something actually life threatening. Try to accept what’s happening and use coping tools like the ones I’m discussing in this post to get through it as painlessly as possible.
I use an app called Headspace that I refer to in the link at the beginning of this post for daily guided meditation. Recently I discovered the SOS and Singles section of the app. They have mini guided meditations to use in moments when you’re starting to feel very overwhelmed or are having a panic attack.
I find that if I feel anxious and am anticipating an anxiety attack doing one of these short mediations can completely erase the feeling!
Thank you for reading! I hope you found this post helpful for coping with anxiety attacks in the moment. If you have any tips I didn’t include please let me know in the comments below! I am always searching for new ways to ease my stress and make anxiety attacks easier.