Everyday events in life can cause anxiety. Having a one-on-one with your boss, going on a blind date, taking part in a competition… any event that is uncertain or out of your control can make you anxious. However, there are times when that anxiety takes control over you, leaving you a complete wreck. And you may not even know that you’re suffering an anxiety attack. Understanding what an anxiety attack is and what its symptoms are will help you take necessary steps and treatment to overcome it and regain control of your life. Read on to learn more about how to stop an anxiety attack.
What is an Anxiety Attack?
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a panic attack as “an episode of intense fear or apprehension that is of sudden onset.” Wikipedia states that a panic attack is usually “accompanied by at least four or more bodily or cognitive symptoms.”
Heavy pounding of the chest, shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness in the hands and feet or fear that the worst will happen to you are some of the predominant anxiety attack symptoms but other symptoms include experiencing hot and cold flashes, trembling, tunnel vision and feelings of detachment. Anxiety attacks can be intense and episodic in nature. Therefore, being aware of its symptoms and following certain practices will help you get through them and prevent you from living in fear.
Anxiety can manifest itself as a number of disorders such as General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, Phobias, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder. Each of these disorders are characterized by their own distinct symptoms. Some disorders can be managed and controlled using self help techniques while others require a physician’s care.
How to Stop an Anxiety Attack Using Self Help Techniques
When you know you’re having an anxiety attack what can you do?
1. Don’t Panic
When you feel the symptoms of an anxiety attack coming, don’t panic. It gets worse when you focus on them so try to find a distraction to keep out the negative thoughts. Call a friend or family member and talk to them about something that takes your mind off the attack. If that doesn’t work, do some simple mental exercises such as solving a math problem. You can also pick up a few ice cubes and keep them in your hand. The discomfort caused by them can take your mind off your attack. Keep your mind engaged in doing something interesting so you don’t exacerbate the problem.
2. Control Your Breathing
Shallow breathing propels the symptoms of anxiety attack. When you control your breathing, you also control the symptoms. When you start experiencing the first symptoms, stop whatever you are doing and do a breathing exercise. This may be easier said than done, but regularly practicing breathing exercises and relaxation techniques will help you control your breathing in an attack.
3. Keep a Journal
When you feel the symptoms of the attack coming, you can also try to note down some of the symptoms and thoughts that you are going through. This in turn will turn out to be your anxiety attack help guide because you will be more prepared the next time you have an attack.
4. Practice Positive Thoughts
Spending too much time brooding can bring on stress and anxiety. Always think positive thoughts and accept that life will always have its uncertainties. Worrying is not going to make them go away. Instead get into a positive frame of mind and practice on enjoying what you have at the moment.
5. Eat Healthy Foods
Sometimes bad eating habits can bring on an attack. Never skip a meal, especially breakfast. Drop in sugar levels can make you feel more anxious. Reduce your intake of caffeine and nicotine and eat foods rich in omega fatty acids.
6. Exercise Regularly
Exercise is a natural stress buster, so don’t give in to your laziness. Spending at least 30 minutes a day on some activity such as brisk walking, jogging or aerobics can do wonders.
7. Get Good Sleep
Lack of good sleep can compound your feelings of stress so make it a point to sleep at least 7-9 hours a day. Set a regular sleep schedule and make sure you unwind yourself before hitting the bed.
Seeking Anxiety Attack Treatment
Self help techniques can be effective in some cases, but if your worries and fears don’t abate, you need to seek professional help.
Visit your doctor who may do a medical checkup to rule out any other illness such as a thyroid problem. He may also check if you are under any other prescription medication or are taking recreational drugs which are likely causing the problem. If your physician rules out these causes, he will most likely recommend you to a therapist. The therapist will work with you and devise an appropriate course of treatment.
Depending on the type of anxiety disorder and the severity of the condition, it can be treated within a relatively short period of time using behavioral therapy, medicines or a combination of the two.
Behavioral Therapy for Panic Disorder
Panic disorders are usually treated with a combination of cognitive and behavioral therapies. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a speech therapy that changes the way you think and behave by removing negativity associated with a problem. You may also be exposed to your fear in a controlled environment repeatedly so you can overcome them.
In some situations, medication such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants are also prescribed with therapy to overcome anxiety attacks. However, anxiety medications can become addictive and create unwanted side effects so weigh your options well to make an informed decision about taking them.