I awake in the middle of a summer night, hot and uncomfortable and possibly disoriented from a disturbing dream.
Feelings of nausea intertwine with the heat, rendering me physically drained.
I sit in the waiting rooms of doctors’ offices, feet tapping in sporadic rhythm, nervous at the onset of blood pressure readings and other evaluations.
Such scenarios are a few of my triggers for anxiety; for shallow breathing and a high heart rate and palpable tension, inducing incessant worry surrounding my panic symptoms. (Since I’m prone to anxiety regarding my health, anxiety attacks entrap me in a cycle of wondering if my health is in jeopardy.)
And yet, these moments somehow pass, they always do. Over time, I’ve tried to figure out mechanisms to thwart the anxiety. Here are a few I’ve found:
- Acknowledge it.
As soon as physical symptoms arise, I remind myself that anxiety is the culprit. Once that truth is acknowledged, there is a sliver of relief. The beating pulse, the weakened state, the feelings of lightheadedness — all of it is anxiety and nothing more.
An article in Anxiety Coach stated “Here I acknowledge the present realty, that I’m afraid and starting to panic.” “The thought that I am in danger is just another symptom of panic, not an important or useful thought.”
- Change your thoughts.
This is a crucial technique in thwarting anxiety. Though it may feel as if control cannot be attained, there is control — control over your thoughts, control over what you choose to internalize.By bringing the negative rumination to a halt and infusing doses of reality, anxiety can begin to dissipate.
I try to tell myself that these anxiety-ridden thoughts are hurting and not helping me, while reiterating reassurance and rationality.
I’m safe. I’m healthy; I do not have a medical condition. This is just my fear.
And according to an article on Everyday Health, the physiology of fainting is not synonymous with an anxiety attack. Fainting occurs when your blood pressure drops, but blood pressure doesn’t drop during an anxiety attack.
When you’re battling with anxiety, you don’t feel safe. By altering your thought patterns, you’re training your brain to trust that you are intrinsically safe, that everything is okay.
- Focus on relaxation.
Breathing is integral to curbing anxiety. I practice deep breathing, while Everyday Health’s post emphasizes belly breathing: “When an attack starts, exhale deeply, loosen your shoulders and focus on some longer, deeper inhales and exhales that let your belly rise and fall. Place one hand on your belly if you need to feel this happening.
”Anxiety Coach’s article also highlights the act of relaxation. “Identify and relax the parts of your body that get most tense during a panic attack,” the article stated. “This typically involves first tensing and then relaxing the muscles of your jaw, neck, shoulders, back and legs.”
And of course, if anxiety becomes too challenging, seek professional help.
Deep breathing photo available from Shutterstock