Anxiety and panic attacks are scary experiences. In the moment, they can feel all-consuming and trick you into believing that they will never end. The good news is that panic attacks typically only last about 10 minutes and are very treatable with the proper mental health support. Since it is difficult to think logically when your body is going through this fight-or-flight response, you may be unable to identify what steps to take in order to gain immediate relief from anxiety and panic attacks in the short-term.
These are some tools you can use to hopefully make them a bit more bearable:
- Drink a glass of water. Dehydration can cause fatigue, headache and nausea. It is difficult to feel calm when your body and mind are preoccupied with fighting off these unpleasant symptoms. Drinking a cold glass of water may not eliminate anxiety, but will help you feel more alert and focused. Studies have shown that water has natural calming properties. This means that even if you are not dehydrated, the act of drinking water can be soothing and grounding.
- Hold Ice. Holding an ice cube is a great way to chill out—no pun intended. This is especially helpful if you are in the midst of an anxiety or panic attack. The logic behind this is that the cold feeling forces your brain to divert its attention away from secondary sensations, like anxiety. Try holding an ice cube in the palm of one hand for a few seconds before switching it the other hand.
- Go outside. Similar to holding ice, going outside and espousing yourself to a different temperature can provide a gentle shock to your system. The fresh air, change of scenery and physical activity of walking can also help to clear your mind and bring your focus back to the present.
- Deep breathing. Anxiety can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath or rapid heartbeat, which in turn can make you feel even more anxious. Taking deep, controlled breaths can instantly alleviate these physical symptoms. Practice by inhaling though your nose until your stomach is expanded. Pause for a few seconds before exhaling your breath through your mouth while letting all your muscles relax, as if you are taking a big sigh.
- Repeat a soothing mantra. This is a great one to do alongside deep breathing. Repeating a calming phrase in your head is a way to remind your brain that you are in physical danger. Some examples are “I am safe”, “I will get through this”; “this will not last forever” or “one day at a time”.
Remember that these are only temporary solutions to reduce in-the-moment panic and anxiety. If you are struggling with chronic anxiety or excessive worry, seeking mental health treatment can be immensely helpful in providing long-term relief.
– Carolyn Moriarty, LPC