It doesn’t take much to get anxious. For some, writing a difficult exam, performing onstage, meeting a potential partner or socialising (especially in case of introverts) can cause jitters. For others, it might take more–a decisive interview, an impending medical diagnosis, rejection or dealing with the loss of a loved one. And while it is perfectly normal to feel anxious, at times, anxiety can turn into a full-blown panic attack.
Let me tell you this from personal experience: Panic is strong enough to impact reason and logical thinking.
Shortness of breath, chest pains, shivering and nausea–panic attacks have rendered me helpless quite a few times. Luckily, friends, family and experts helped me understand these reactions better. And I learnt to deal with it alone.
Do you recall being caught in such an episode? Relax. There are ways to handle an attack. Here’s how.
Deep breathing: Tried and tested. Sometimes an attack can make you feel trapped and incapable of movement. This is where relaxation techniques come into play. One way to calm the mind is by deep breathing, with focus on inhaling and exhaling.
I have a colleague who prefers to count numbers along with the breathing exercise. Prone to panicking, she does it at her desk or, if it’s too much, just takes a walk or heads to a secluded space. When she returns, she is back in control.
More often than not, telling yourself you are in control helps.
Tapping: According to psychotherapy experts, an effective relaxation technique is tapping. One has to tap areas like the crown of the head, under the nose and under the lower lip with the index and middle fingers of both hands, preferably forming a pattern. Concentrating on the rhythmic tapping helps in calming down.
One of my go-to techniques when I find myself alone and panicking is identifying the signs of anxiety and distracting myself.
I choose to pick up a book and lose myself in the story. Listening to my favourite song and watering plants work equally well.
In public spaces, concentrating on colours and movement helps me a lot. I consciously start linking whatever I see to a positive thought. For example, I have two dogs and if I see something brown or black, I link it to their furry coats. It makes me relax as the link starts a chain reaction of happy memories. The aim is to shift the concentration from anxiety-inducing thoughts to other things that you enjoy doing. It’s all in the mind after all.
Meditation, when practised correctly, helps one reach a state of thoughtlessness which helps put a handle on anxiety-inducing thoughts.
Self-depreciation is a common trigger for anxiety. The I am useless and incapable of doing anything rant is something many of us are familiar with. Once this thought becomes repetitive, we talk ourselves into believing it. This rant, in time, becomes our truth.
Train your mind to convince yourself of your capabilities instead.
Write it down
Sometimes, overwhelming thoughts of fear, failure, jealousy, insecurity and the like plague our mind. Such thoughts can push us into the realm of panic. This torrential flow of thoughts engulfs the person, leaving them gasping for breath.
Writing these thoughts down takes the edge off for me. When I see the words on paper, they appear ridiculous and I can effortlessly ignore them.
I have been told that a balanced lifestyle that includes daily meditation–sometimes twice a day–helps. Meditation, when practised correctly, helps one reach a state of thoughtlessness which helps put a handle on anxiety-inducing thoughts.
Many a time, when anxiety starts to take over, I reach out to friends or family who are a call away. Talking helps. I say anything that crosses my mind. This, and the responses of the people I am speaking to, help me calm down. Make sure you call the right person, though. Someone who understands your state.
All of these techniques have helped me keep a lid on anxiety. However, there are times when clinical intervention is necessary. If reaching out to a psychotherapist helps in any way, do it. You and I deserve a peaceful life as much as the next person. Keep your inner strength at hand.
The power to fight anxiety is within you. Tap into it.