Four tried and tested tips to dealing with an anxiety attack
Do you suffer from anxious thoughts? Here are some tips that are sure to help you instantly.
I have always been a rather anxious person. Recently, I realised I have been experiencing more situations when my chest constricts into a knot of uneasiness and I can’t breathe properly or think.
Feeling curious about why I often felt like I was going crazy, I asked Dr Dhanesh Gupta, a senior consultant of general psychiatry at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), a list of questions to figure out why I was feeling this way.
He told me that “an inappropriate level (more than optimum) level of anxiety is when it is excessive, constant and overwhelming and starts interfering in our bodily and mental functioning”.
So, that’s what an anxiety attack is.
Here are four tips to dealing with an anxiety attack that I have tried and tested.
1. Take a breather
Imagine walking to the front of a massive lecture hall, filled with people, to give a speech. Your heart is pounding, your palms are sweaty and you feel like you can’t breathe.
Calm down, it is okay. Regain your composure by doing simple deep breathing exercises to improve the circulation of oxygen in your body.
Dr Gupta explained: “When you feel anxious, your heart tends to beat faster and you breathe faster or hyperventilate. This reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches your brain, which in turn causes you to feel lightheaded or dizzy and results in heightened anxiety.”
So true. Whenever I have an anxiety attack, one of the things that always helps me is to watch this GIF.
I take a look at it regularly when I feel anxious, and I find myself breathing in sync.
2. Use meditation apps
This method is perfect when you need a quick yet discreet remedy. When you are in the middle of an anxiety attack and there’s no other option but to hope it passes quickly, meditation apps are a life saver.
I recommend using this meditation app called ‘Stop, Breathe & Think‘. You start by telling the app how you feel and it will recommend a couple of meditations that are specific to the emotions that you are experiencing, such as sadness, insecurity, fear or anger.
Next, plug in your headphones and listen to the list of recommended meditations. No one will know.
3. Create a “happy place”
If you watch Sherlock, you would know that he has a “mind palace”, a place in his head where he stores facts so that he can solve crimes more efficiently.
Take a leaf from Sherlock’s cap and create your own “mind palace”. All you need is a ‘door’ with a ‘lock’ for your happy place.
When I have an anxiety attack, I force myself to go to my “mind palace”. I promptly shut the metaphorical door and lock it. By shielding my mind from the negative energy around me and barricading myself in my happy place, I feel more safe and secure.
4. Distract yourself
Another way to manage your anxiety is by distracting yourself from the feelings.
Dr Gupta recommended the use of distraction techniques too. He said: “Engaging your senses will help you to focus on something else and take your mind off the trigger of your anxiety attack.”
Personally, I find it helpful to always have a form of distraction at hand. For instance, I usually like to read till I fall asleep. Reading is great because it’s a therapeutic way to fall asleep (unlike scrolling through social media) and it forces your mind to focus on something else, instead of the bad thoughts looming in your head.
If you struggle with anxiety, know that you don’t have to struggle in silence. There are many resources on the Internet, such as anxietycoach.com, that can help you manage your anxiety.
If you know someone who has or might have anxiety, Dr Gupta recommends adopting an open, non-judgemental approach.
Let them talk about their problems without giving them too much advice, and try not to suggest that they might have an anxiety disorder. You could encourage them to speak to a professional too.
If you are looking for more mental well-being resources, check out Youthopia’s resource page with everything from mental health self-assessments to tips for coping with challenging seasons in life.