If you have anxiety, you know the feeling. Your heart starts pounding. You can’t breathe. And you feel like something terrible is about to happen. You may even wonder if you’re having a heart attack. Anxiety attacks make you feel panicked because something has triggered your fight-or-flight response. It’s frightening when it happens, but learning what you can do on your own, like relaxation and breathing techniques, as well as seeking other anxiety attack treatments, can help.
How Do You Identify an Anxiety Attack?
Let’s say you are going into a job interview or going out on a first date. Your palms begin to sweat, your heart races, and you have difficulty breathing. These are some signs of an anxiety attack. While symptoms vary by person, common symptoms of an anxiety attack also include chest pain, dizziness, trembling, nausea, irritability, numbness, or hot flashes. You feel out of control of the situation or your body.
“Our lives are full of mountain peaks and valley floors. It can seem that the valley is all that is known, however, that is not where a person is meant to live,” said Sheena Miller, Clinical Manager at Integrative Life Center. “Addressing the root of the issues is where we can help guide someone out of the valley, because the sun is warmer and brighter at the top of the hill.”
While some situations or thinking trigger a flight-or-fight response, learning about coping strategies and applying them during your anxiety attack is essential. By allowing yourself the chance to calm down, you can begin to think more logically and act more rationally. These methods can help change your responses to anxiety.
5 ways to calm yourself during an anxiety attack:
- Find a Safe Space. Get to a private place where you feel comfortable and safe, whether in a bedroom, your car, or a public bathroom, so you can focus on coping with the attack.
- Practice Intentional Breathing. Take slow, deep breaths and count to 10. Try to ground yourself by clearing your mind and focusing on positive thoughts. Place your hand on your stomach and gradually bring your breathing to a regular pattern again.
- Center Your Mind in the Present. Focus on what you can fix or change now. Don’t get lost in memories or future worries. Think about what would help make you feel happy or bring you joy, and try to initiate a plan to bring about those positive, reassuring feelings. If you’re ruminating, ask yourself, “What also could be true?” This question can help you challenge negative or catastrophic thinking.
- Go for a Walk or Run. Exercise can be a great distraction that positively impacts your physical and mental well-being. Take it a step further and go for a walk or run outside to breathe fresh air and enjoy the nature around you.
- Communicate. Share your feelings and thoughts with a trusted loved one. You might be surprised to learn that they can relate in some way and offer assistance. By not isolating yourself, you’re creating a safety net of social support for when you need it.
Help Preventing Anxiety Attacks
Coming down from an anxiety attack leaves you feeling wrung out and maybe even embarrassed. The feelings you have during and after an anxiety attack aren’t something anyone wants to experience. Avoiding an attack altogether is better. Here are some things you can do to stave off anxiety attacks before or while seeking professional treatment for anxiety attacks.
A healthy diet, proper sleep, and moving your body daily improves your mental and physical well-being. Reducing or eliminating harmful habits that increase anxiety, like smoking cigarettes, drinking caffeine, or substance use, is helpful for anxiety attack treatment.
Create a plan or list of ways that help you manage and cope with stress. Hobbies and activities that bring you joy or allow you to focus on more positive thoughts can significantly impact your healing journey. Think of your negative responses to stress and how you can turn those actions into something more supportive.
Meditation, exercise, journaling, aromatherapy, and relaxation exercises are some ways you can naturally assist your healing journey. Nature gives you ingredients like lavender, chamomile, and lemon balm, like that found in hot teas, which can help lower anxiety levels.
You can increase your feelings of relaxation and improve your emotional well-being by regularly practicing relaxation techniques such as mindful meditation, muscle relaxation, and breathwork. Other ways to relax your mind and body include yoga, music therapy, aromatherapy, and hydrotherapy.
“Everyone has anxiety from time to time,” Sheena said. “When you start to experience physical symptoms and your quality of life becomes chronically impaired, it’s a good signifier that a higher level of care might be needed.”
Types of Anxiety Attack Treatment
Treatment is available for anxiety and anxiety attacks. You can work with a mental health professional to determine what treatment or mix of treatments for anxiety attacks will work best for you. Here are some common anxiety treatments.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) uses a NeuroStar® machine to deliver focused magnetic stimulation directly to the target areas of the brain. It is proven to safely eliminate or drastically decrease anxiety and depression symptoms in most people. The treatment is delivered through sensors placed on your head for 20 minutes each session. You have treatments five days a week for six weeks for a total of 30 treatments.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps you target and challenge negative patterns, irrational beliefs, and thoughts that feed your anxiety. Mental health professionals commonly use this talk therapy for anxiety and depression. Working with your mental health professional, you can create a structured, goal-oriented treatment plan.
Exposure therapy encourages you to face and overcome your fears and anxiety in a controlled, safe space. Gradual exposure to the fear or anxiety in your imagination or reality garnishes you a better sense of control. Basically, the more you face your fear, your anxiety will lessen.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a talk-based therapy for people who feel intense emotions. It focuses on the reality of their lives and behaviors and helps them learn to commit to positive change. It can be effective for people who have difficulty managing and regulating their emotions.
Motivational interviewing is a short-term, practical, and empathetic process for approaching behavior change through evidence-based treatment. This type of therapy helps you find the motivation to change your behaviors and responses.
Did you know outdoor activities like rock climbing, swimming, hiking, or horseback riding can be therapeutic? Adventure therapy can help promote healthy identity development, self-efficacy, and growth when led by a mental health professional. If group therapy is an option, you can create friendships and bonds with others like you who have anxiety attacks.
“Just as with a physical wound, the first step in healing a wounded soul is to stop the bleeding, basically keeping the situation from worsening,” Sheena said. “Whether using one-on-one therapies or in a group, the focus is on helping the person understand what the source of their issue is so that it can be addressed.”
Anxiety and anxiety attacks can drastically reduce your quality of life, but you don’t have to live with either. Treatment is available. Integrative Life Center offers various anxiety treatments, including all of the modalities discussed in this post. Contact ILC, and let’s find the right treatment option for you.