When you’re in the middle of one, an anxiety or panic attack seems anything but simple. Many times, you don’t know what set you off and put you there in order to work your way out of it.
Panic or Anxiety Attack? Which One Is It?
The two disorders are used interchangeably, but they’re quite different. A panic attack comes seemingly out of nowhere. It results in fear you can’t shake. Symptoms usually include nausea, racing heart, and/or trouble breathing.
An anxiety attack, on the other hand, starts out gradually with worry, stress, and fear from a specific trigger. At some point, the emotions are so severe, they turn into an anxiety attack. Symptoms of this can vary, but they mimic a panic attack.
The key to avoiding anxiety and panic attacks is to know your triggers and stay away from them, but that’s not always possible. Instead, it’s important to know these five simple tactics to manage an attack when you feel it coming on.
1. Validate Your Feelings
Have you ever been in the beginning stages of an attack, and someone near you said, “Just don’t get upset”?
How often has that actually worked out for you?
When you’re upset, trying to shove those feelings back inside you tends to make things worse. It might seem like you’re okay on the surface, but what’s bothering you hasn’t been dealt with yet.
As soon as you recognize that you’re about to have an anxiety or panic attack, admit it to yourself. Then, try to pinpoint what set you off. Validate that you have a reason to be upset, then promise yourself you’ll deal with it later—not at that moment.
2. Ground Yourself
Panic and anxiety usually rear their heads when you’re living in the past or the future. Grounding yourself means reminding your amygdala, known as the fight-or-flight response, that you’re in the present, and you’re currently safe.
Common grounding techniques include:
- Deep breathing or counting backward from 1,000 or another difficult number
- Closing your eyes and picturing your happy place
- Looking around and pointing out at least five things that you can see, touch, hear, or smell
- Find something that makes you laugh
Each person’s grounding technique is unique to them. But finding one that works for you is essential to soothing the fear response that’s running in the brain’s background.
3. Relax Your Muscles
Tight muscles and panic or anxiety go hand-in-hand. Your body is on alert, and all your muscles are ready to run.
By purposely relaxing your muscles, you let your brain know that it’s time to stop panicking. There are a few ways to do this:
- Sit or lay down in a quiet area without distractions, then use breathing techniques to relax each muscle.
- Use CBD in your meal to target your endocannabinoid system and relax your muscles from the inside. This edible dosage calculator by Veriheal shows you how to calculate how much CBD to use.
- Talk to your doctor or therapist about prescription muscle relaxants.
When your muscles begin to relax, the rest of your body does, too. You might find yourself falling asleep, but at least you’ve left the panic or anxiety attack behind!
4. Get Moving
Exercise may not be something you’re excited about in the middle of an attack. But it changes your brain physically in ways that can knock the panic and anxiety out fast.
With just a few simple movements or a short walk outside, your brain chemistry changes. A boosted heart rate increases the level of neurochemicals that fight anxiety and make you feel good. Serotonin and endocannabinoids are two of them.
Exercise also wakes up the regions of the brain that are in control of the amygdala, telling it to relax.
5. Use Positive Affirmations
Affirmations are a form of self-kindness. They’re positive statements that you are capable of getting through whatever challenge is in front of you.
These mind-changing tools adjust the direction of your brain from negative thinking to more soothing thoughts. It’s not magic or mumbo jumbo; it’s a science called neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is how your brain physically changes and adapts as you go through life. When you use affirmations, you’re rewiring old thought patterns and designing channels of positive thinking. This makes it easier for you to naturally access those pathways in the future.
This site has some examples of positive affirmations you can use the next time you feel like you’re about to have a panic or anxiety attack.
Panic and anxiety attacks are physical symptoms of mental stress. They’re real, and they can get in the way of you having a normal life.
But the good news is that once you recognize what’s going on, you may not be able to stop your attack, but you can manage it. Use these simple tactics to get a handle on your mind and train it to behave!