I’ll start this post with a disclaimer. Different things work for different people, at different times, in different situations. I can’t promise any of this will help you. However, these are my top 5 favorite ways to stop a panic attack before it begins...
1. Simply Breath
Except, yea, I know, it’s really not that simple at all. In fact, there’s nothing simple about controlling the physical side effects of anxiety. Often times(at least in my experience), the physical side effects are caused by anxiety rooted so deep in our subconcious that we feel physically ill before even realizing that something is triggering our anxiety. What I like to do to help the process along is imagine myself breathing in bright white light. I picture it filling my entire body…most importantly, my brain. Then, when I can no longer (slowly) breathe in, I imagine that when I breathe out, all of the dark negative thoughts go with it. In my mind, they look something like a black shadowy, whispy smoke. I may, or may not, watch too many ghost stories. It doesn’t have to be bright white, and shadowy black…it can be whatever visualization works for you. Hell, you can even invision it scientifically if you like. In with the oxygen, out with the carbon dioxide… Not only does this automatically slow down your heart rate, it distracts your mind from whatever sttarted the panic in the first place.
2. Ground Yourself
Lay down on the floor, stand up and plant your feet pn the ground, sit…whatever you can manage in the moment. Visualize all your crappy feelings leaving your body on the quickest path to the ground. Like lightening, literally grounding itself. Keep this imabe playing in your head until there are no feelings left to hold on to. This is also a great one if you’re a chronic pain sufferer, like myself. This is my favorite thing to do at night while I desperatly try to fall asleep.
These next two are brought to you by my therapist…
3. Simple Math
Want to make an obsessive negative thought go away? Are you a frequenter of remedial math classes, like myself? Then this trick is for you! Start doing simple math equations in your head. Times tables, simple addition or subtraction, anything that takes a bit of concentration. Just enough concentration to focus your mind on math, and ONLY math. 2+2 is 4, 4+4 is 8, 8+8 is 16, etc.
This is a favorite of mine when I drive. Turn on some music you know the words to, and sing. Sing as loud as you want. Let it take your mind off of everything else (except driving…please, also focus on your driving). This one was suggested to me as a great way to relax your nerves while you have your kid in the car, simply because they have no idea it has anything to do with stress. They just think you like music. They can even sing along!
5. Hit The Delete Button
This is an important one for me because, as someone who struggles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a lot of my anxiety comes from obsessive thoughts. These thoughts can be sad, terrifying, violent and graphic, etc. Whenever an upsetting though pops in to my head, I literally “Cancel” it by simply repeating the word cancel over and over again in my head. I replace the terrible thought with the word cancel. Cancel doesn’t have to be your word. Your word can be whatever you want it to be. The idea is the same, use a word that “deletes” your thought. Think it, picture, say it out loud if you need to.
Let me know in the comments below some of your tips and tricks for controlling anxiety, or things you’ve tried that haven’t worked for you.
Don’t forget to also check out My Top 5 Tricks for Getting Through the Day!