We often play down an anxiety attack and see it as a nuisance. For many people, anxiety is far more than a nuisance – it is almost paralysing, and they long to learn how to defuse an anxiety attack. Fortunately, it can be defused in five minutes, if you know how.
A sudden emergency, a trip to the dentist or even giving a presentation can signal terror. Many of us know the feeling, but being armed with strategies like those listed below will keep the situation under control.
Learning how to manage an attack is the key.
Knowing that you can manage an attack before it happens means you will be less likely to actually experience one. Part of the panic you feel is being convinced that you won’t be able to manage, and that the attack will go on and on, so you need to correct this belief.
- Slow down – professional advice often focuses on slowing breathing. Sometimes though, as anxiety strikes, we quickly become too panicky to focus. If you can’t concentrate long enough to slow your breathing, sit down or find somewhere safe to pause a while. A moment of quiet will naturally calm your breathing and allow more oxygen to circulate.
- Ground yourself – when you have paused for few seconds, it can be useful to centre yourself in the ‘here and now’. To do this, look around the environment. Name three things that you can see. Feel your feet on the ground or the chair supporting your back, and simply take in your surroundings.
An Anxiety attack is a trickster
What are you afraid of? What is it you fear will happen? Anxiety creeps up. Sometimes it is hard to pin point where it has come from; for many of us it just takes over. It is a good idea to ask yourself these simple questions. Most people say that they are unable to pinpoint the fear, but it is possible to work out the reason. Usually, you will have a picture in your mind of your worst fear in any situation. What is it? Be honest with yourself.
- Know your fear – once you have worked out the source of the anxiety, you can beat it. Most people don’t get this far, because they believe the anxiety is swallowing them. This makes them think they are powerless – it feels like it is gobbling them up. Remember anxiety is a trickster. It is not swallowing you. Once you know your root fear in a given situation, you can logically work out that it is a thought process that has spiralled out of all proportion. You will now be able to work out a plan to conquer the fear.
- Take out a pen or your phone and write down a plan – this will help you cope with the situation as it unfolds. You will then have a step by step guide that you can use and also share with friends and family so they can help you too (also direct them to our blog post on panic attacks – always a useful one to bookmark!). Notice as you do this how you almost immediately begin to feel in control.
- If you start to wobble, begin again – there is no shame in doing this. It will take time for you to adapt to your new plan and follow the steps, so be kind to yourself and keep practicing.
Remember fear has two meanings:
FEAR = Fear Everything and Run
FEAR = Face Everything and Rise
Written by Louisa Gibbs, Psychotherapist and Referrals Co-ordinator at Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk), providers of 1 to 1 and group treatment for anxiety.