In the fall of 2012, I started experiencing life-altering anxiety. My panic attacks were so bad that I had to quit my job, failed multiple college classes, stopped driving and stopped living life. There have been SO MANY inopportune moments that a panic attack has come on and I have been at its mercy- concerts, meetings, work, MY WEDDING DAY. Yeah, the list goes on. Through my experience, I have discovered these few small tips that I hope help you in the midst of the panic.
1 // Call someone
When you feel it coming on, reach out to someone. Maybe call someone to distract you. I often do this with my husband. I'll call and just say that I'm not feeling well and need him to distract me. Sometimes, he'll tell me a story or something that's happened to him during the day or he'll bring up a funny memory. This can be a great strategy to do before you really feel like you're going to lose it.
2 // Listen to soothing music
I always carry headphones with me (these wireless ones are my favorite and so affordable!) so that if I am ever feeling overwhelmed, I can put them on and escape. I keep my favorite soothing playlists downloaded to my Spotify (this playlist is one of my favorites) so that even if I'm out of data, my music is available. Sometimes, I'll be the weird person that keeps their headphones in while they grocery shop because it keeps me feeling calm and like I'm in my own little world.
3 // Do yoga breathing
Find a place to close your eyes. Take a deep breath in for as long as you can. Then let it all go for as long as you can. Do this a few times. Who cares if you look weird? Get that oxygen to your brain, boo.
4 // Write down how you feel
This sounds stupid, but writing it down and getting it all out can help you feel like you're releasing the anxiety out into the universe. I keep a notebook in my car in case I just need to write down "I feel so anxious right now. I feel overwhelmed. I feel like I'm going to throw up..." blah blah blah. Sometimes, I'll even use the notepad on my phone...though I prefer the notebook because something about touching a pen to paper makes you feel more grounded.
5 // Close your eyes (and your ears)
This is honestly my go-to. It looks so weird and my husband has just about gotten over me looking ridiculous in public while doing this. Sometimes, you just need to block out all the external stimuli. Shut your eyes tight and even plug your ears if you need to. This helps me feel like I'm safe and in my own world. I often do this on airplanes where I feel claustrophobic and anxious during take off and landing.
6 // Feel something
Keep something in your bag that has a texture to it like a soft, fuzzy key chain, some rough beads on a bracelet or a seashell that has bumps and curves. Sometimes, just holding something and rubbing your hands over it can help ground you and remind you that you are alive and you are okay. It also distracts your brain.
7 // Self-talk
You need to develop a mantra that you can tell yourself to remind yourself that it's all good. Mine is "I'm okay. Everything is going to be okay. This is just one moment in the huge span of my life." I repeat it to myself over and over in my head, sometimes out loud. Sometimes, I repeat Bible verses that particularly comfort me. Sometimes, I ask myself "What is making me feel this way? What am I scared of?" When I fly, for example, my answer is, "I'm scared that the plane is going to crash." I keep asking myself why. "Well, because I've seen movies and heard stories where that can happen." And then I reason with myself. "Yeah, but do you know how many planes take off and land every single day? And you don't hear about that many plane crashes. It must just happen once in a blue moon. And there are so many stories where the plane crashes but everyone is okay. This pilot wouldn't have his job if he didn't know what he was doing..."
8 // Play a mind game
I like to play a game called 5,4,3,2,1. Whenever you're feeling on edge, you need to name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. It helps your brain think and it distracts you. I also like you try to say the alphabet backwards or do math problems in my head. Playing a mindless game like Tetris on your phone can help too, but maybe turn off the music (as that can sometimes fuel the external stimuli that feeds into the anxiety)
9 // Cold Water
If you are REALLY on the verge and it's about to go down, find a bathroom and get the water as cold as you possibly can. Plug the sink if you can and fill the sink with freezing cold water. Plunge your hands underneath and let it shock your body. Your body will focus more on that then the panic attack. Same thing works if you have ice. Put ice on your stomach or somewhere where it will shock you. This can immediately snap your brain out of it.