How to Care for Yourself During an Anxiety Attack
Anxiety is a very common problem. More than 40 million people each year deal with anxiety symptoms. The anxiety definition: “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome” can apply to both chronic and acute anxiety. Chronic anxiety lasts for at least a month while an acute anxiety attack is more intense and shorter in duration, like a panic attack.
What is an Anxiety Attack?
Anxiety is sometimes described as a feeling of doom that can intensify when someone has to do something they find frightening like going out in public, riding a train, or going for a job interview. Sometimes that feeling comes seemingly out of nowhere and can intensify so quickly that it can cause heart palpitations, irregular breathing, dizziness, and sometimes even fainting.
There can be many things that cause anxiety. Anxiety triggers are unique for each person that suffers from anxiety. However, there are some social situations that generally cause anxiety for millions of people like:
- Talking on the phone
- Talking to strangers
- Going to crowded places like shopping malls
- Driving in traffic
- Flying on an airplane
- Speaking in public
- Going somewhere unfamiliar
Anxiety can also be triggered by going to places that someone has bad memories of or someplace where they had a bad experience. Stress can also cause anxiety, which is why some people who have a lot of stress in their homes or in the workplace can experience anxiety when they are getting ready to go home or go to work.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety can produce both physical and mental symptoms. Sometimes the physical symptoms are so intense they are mistaken for a heart attack. The symptoms of anxiety are different from person to person because the level of anxiety that each person suffers is unique. You could have all of these symptoms or just one or two:
- Feeling agitated
- Feeling restless
- Excessive worrying
- Replaying conversations or things you’ve said over and over in your head
- Feeling a sense of dread or doom
- Excessive sweating
- Fast heartbeat
- Irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Inability to catch your breath
Anxiety vs. Stress
It’s very normal to wonder if you’re experiencing anxiety which can be a serious condition or just experiencing a bout of stress because things are hectic in your life. Many of the symptoms of the two things are the same, and stress can be an anxiety trigger in many people.
The best way to tell if you are experiencing stress or anxiety is to look at what is causing the feelings that you’re having. Stress comes from an external trigger but anxiety is triggered internally. Stress comes from a specific external condition like a deadline at work, or an event coming up, or a big paper that is due. You are feeling stress because of an event that is outside of you.
When you’re feeling anxiety that is caused by your internal feelings. If you are not facing unusual deadlines or stresses but you still find yourself suffering from the symptoms of stress and anxiety because your mind is racing or some other internal thought or feeling makes you feel panicked that is anxiety and not stress.
How To Care For Yourself During An Anxiety Attack
When you have an anxiety attack it can set off a panic that can make you even more anxious and it can send your anxiety spiraling out of control. There are some things that you can do when you feel an anxiety attack happening to help keep yourself calm and shorten the duration of the attack.
The first thing that you should do is start taking deep breaths. As your anxiety level goes up your breathing will get shallower. Deep breaths will give you the oxygen that you need and help you stay calmer. Slow deep breaths are a great way to calm panic and anxiety.
The next thing that you should do is find a quiet and private place to ride out the attack if you can. Being in public sometimes you can’t find a private space but if you can go to the bathroom, an unused room or office, or another private or semi-private place do that. If you’re on a train or in public try to find a seating area that is not crowded.
Get some water or herbal tea. If you have access to hot water and you have an herbal tea bag with you like Chamomile tea or Lavender tea that can help you relax make yourself a cup of tea. If you can’t do that get some water and sip it very slowly. You will probably have dry mouth and the water can help alleviate that and help you relax.
Reach out a friend or loved one on your phone and ask them to talk you through your anxiety attack. You can text them if you are not in a place where you can really talk. But just having that contact with someone you can trust can be a big help reducing the duration of the anxiety attack.