I have suffered with anxiety and panic attacks for more than 25 years. You can’t help but learn a few things about how to cope. So here are a few Self-Help Strategies I have personally used and a few I developed on my own. But before you start, here are a few keys thing I learned along the way:
- Doctors have solutions but most of those involve drugs. Avoid if at all possible (not the doctors, just the drugs). I suggest keeping a few Xanax or some such on hand only if you have lot of self-control as to their use. You can get hooked fast and then you will have a new problem on top of the anxiety issues.
- Anxiety is unique to you. The outward forms may change or modify as your brain gets used to the types of panic or anxiety you experience. Your brain adapts and then the anxiety expression changes. There are a hundred ways you can experience anxiety, so once you have anxiety, you have it for life. You have to learn to accept and cope and recognize each new manifestation.
- Accepting is key to coping. Don’t let any guru or doctor tell you that you can be “cured” of anxiety. But you can learn to cope so well, that you will fell as if they are gone.
- You must do meditations and sometimes they need to be long and deep. I found that visualizations worked best for me in times of major anxiety. Other times I could resort to simpler methods.
- Do what works for you not someone else. Try different techniques. However, again, your brain learns and adapts so you may have to change techniques when one stops working.
- Don’t underestimate the ability of seemingly simplistic techniques to work. Anxiety is coming from the brain and the brain believes what you tell it to believe.
For more information and additional self-help techniques download my Coping with Anxiety and Panic Attacks eBook here.
Try one of these:
- If possible, move to the quietest place you can find and distract your attention. Take slow deep breaths and stare at a simple still pattern while repeating to yourself reassuring things.
- Say in your head (out loud if you can) positive, reassuring thoughts: Relax, this is easy. I can handle this. This feeling will go away. I am stronger than this.
- Count backwards from 50 by 5s, name some football teams, notice every tiny detail of your fingernails, count the tiles on the bathroom floor, sit down and look at the details in the grass…
- Talk directly to the panic. Get annoyed with it: stop this, go away, I’m not having this, you’re not winning.
- Don’t try to deny it. Yell at the panic in your head – STOP THIS, I WON’T HAVE THIS.
- Snap your fingers hard. Snap your wrist with a rubber band (yes, it’s good to keep a band around your wrist if you are going out or at work), or pinch your ear … anything to distract your brain.
- If possible, sit down in case you feel dizzy.
- If you’re feeling light-headed, cup your hands over your nose and mouth as you breathe. This will help you breathe in extra carbon dioxide.
- Observe and reason with all the panic symptoms you are experiencing. Say to yourself “the chest pains are normal because my chest wall muscles are tensed up”; “this nausea is because my digestive system has shut down temporarily”; “I’m dizzy because panic is temporarily constricting the arteries to my brain”.
One more thing: If you have left the room or gone to a quiet location, you must go back immediately when the attack is over. This is very important, even if you don’t continue the activity you were engaged in when it happened – but go back to that place. Don’t let your brain “win” and keep you away from your normal activities or it could set up an avoidance pattern.
When I was having the worst of my attacks I had trouble in the dark – slept with the light on. I was having trouble going to the movies with friends. Most of them knew my issues and would accommodate my need to sit toward the back and let me sit in an aisle seat. Sometimes, if the movie was scaring me (and it didn’t have to be a scary movie – might have been just too much “action” in the movie), I would have to get up and walk out to the lobby where I could usually find a quiet place. I felt calmer if I could sit in the aisle seat. Sometimes I stayed there for the rest of the movie – but I would try to force myself back into the theater. I have to admit though, I rarely go to movies now.