It’s safe to say that everything about anxiety is unnerving. In fact, by dictionary definition, it’s “a feeling of worry, nervousness, and unease about something with an uncertain outcome.”
When the physical symptoms come chasing the mind’s anxiety, it feels as though you’re coming down with something, similar to symptoms of a common cold or flu. Your heart rate has likely increased, tension washes over your body, you may break out in a sweat and in some cases feel unsteady. Shortness of breath and a stomach full of butterflies and knots warned you that a panic attack is probably on its way and as you’re caught between a rock and a hard place, your urgency to ease the anxiety only intensifies the situation and you’re caught in an anxiety-driven cycle.
Your best bet is to stop. Stop where you are, focus on your breathing and take your time in returning to a calmer state of mind.
Trish Barillas, life coach and author of A Face of Anxiety believes that we should get ahead of the anxiety and learn key strategies to tackle anxiety there and then. In speaking to The Everygirl, she said, “I believe you can take precautionary steps to avoid panic attacks from occurring if you know your triggers well enough,” she explains. “Once you have done the work on yourself to understand your own anxiety, there are many treatment options to make you most comfortable in those situations.”
So what do the experts recommend for counteracting anxiety as soon as you feel it creeping it?
Change the story you’re telling yourself
If you find your mind wandering into anxiety-related overthinking, asking yourself, “what if?” and creating stressful scenarios in your head, stick to the facts present in the situation at hand. Weigh up a list of what you’re feeling versus what’s actually happening. Your anxiety is trying to trick you into overthinking and overanalyzing the past and the future, neither of which you have control over. This exercise forces you back to the present.
Sweat it out
Divert the adrenaline triggered by feelings of anxiety and channel it into physical exercise. In doing so you’ll burn stress hormones, tire your muscles and reduce excess energy and tension. Best of all, be sure to soak up the positive endorphins released in the process.
Practice grounding techniques
Grounding techniques are great to have on hand when you feel an anxiety attack on the approach. This can be done in two ways, either through progressive muscle relaxation or a mental body scan. The latter requires lying on the ground or sitting somewhere comfortably and simply scanning your body slowly. While you’re doing so, instead of focusing on good or bad feelings and thoughts, simply acknowledge any sensations going on such as tingling, tightness or warmth from your toes right through to the top of your head with the purpose of raising awareness of your body and what’s going on within it. Progressive muscle relaxation refers to exercises of tensing certain muscle groups and then relaxing them, learning to release tension and combat feelings of anxiety.