We all have those moments. Our chest tightens. The air around us feels a bit thinner. Our hands shake. Having anxiety is a terrible and suffocating feeling. You feel helpless to control your reactions. Unfortunately, a lot of times it comes on without warning. You’re left wondering what is wrong with you. You can feel everyone’s eyes on you. Your mind is racing, but you can’t seem to slow it. It’s a nightmare. But you have the power to bring yourself out of that nightmare.
Trust me. I’ve been there. I’ve suffered from anxiety since high school. I remember having my first panic attack in the band room. It got worse before it got better. When my anxiety would flare up, I’d visible start to shake. And I mean shake! People would stare at me and make fun. It wasn’t until I formulated an action plan that I began to control it. My action plan is a list of things any of us can do to calm ourselves. Here’s what I do when I feel the anxiety creeping up on me.
Talk about it.
If you’re anxious about a situation you’re going into, go to a friend or relative and talk about it. It can be a job interview, a date, or a completely new experience. Prepare yourself by talking it through with someone else. They can ease those fears and calm you down before your anxiety can truly take hold. Then once you’re in that situation that scared you, you’ll be mentally prepared. You’ve talked about it. You’re ready.
Of course, sometimes we can’t anticipate when anxiety will strike. If you feel that crippling fear overcoming you, let someone else know. Talking to another human being helps. A lot of times by admitting you’re feeling a certain way, those feelings can’t control you anymore. By talking about your feelings, you start to understand them a bit more. Then they don’t have the same type of power they once did. In certain instances, all you need is a reassuring voice to tell you it’s all okay.
Focus on breathing.
If you’re in a stressful situation, sometimes admitting you’re freaking out isn’t an opinion. You can’t always pull out your phone and call a friend. Sometimes phoning a friend isn’t in the cards. People get busy. Cell phones aren’t always accessible. That’s when I move on to step two. Breathe. I talked about this a couple weeks ago. It’s important to go inward and focus on your breathing. Breathe in and out slowly. Focus on something as basic and simple as bring oxygen into your lungs and exhaling. Let your breathing slow your heart rate. I know for me, this can actually stop the physical trimmers and steady my hands.
If breathing doesn’t work, focus next on your surroundings. Look around and actually see what’s around you. Whether you’re in a building or outside. Touch your surroundings. Grab a magazine or rummage through your purse. You can even grab the chair you’re sitting in. If one’s available, get a glass of water or something to snack on. Getting yourself out of your brain for a minute or two can make a world of difference. Again, go back to something basic. Force your brain to think of something simple.
Understand this will pass.
After you’ve slowed your heart rate and began to breathe easier, remind yourself this situation is temporary. You’ll be home before you know it. You’ll soon be in the safety and comfort of your own space. It can help to picture yourself crawling into bed and pulling the covers over your head. Tell yourself you’re safe and okay. This situation you’re in is temporary. You will make it through.
Admit your feelings.
If you’re in a situation where people are starting to stare, admit you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. Tell the people around you that you’re nervous. I’ve personally done this in an interview. You don’t have to go into specifics. You don’t even have to tell them you’re panicking. Simply say that you’re feeling on edge. This way it gets the nerves out of your head and into the room. Other people will understand. By letting others know that your nerves are present, those nerves have less power over you. Sometimes the people around you can step up and say what you need to calm your anxious mind. And for the record, I got that job. They’re nothing wrong with admitting you’re only human.
Get a bit of fresh air.
If all else fails, excuse yourself for a moment and go outside. In large social situations, I get really anxious. The loud noise can add to the distress. You’re unable to actually think or slow down your own mind when everything else is moving a mile a minute. In this situation, I’ll excuse myself and sit by myself or go outside. I make an excuse to call someone or use the ladies room. Then I head towards freshness. Whether it’s a place with fewer people or the great outdoors, it’ll help clear your head. The change in scenery will help.
Listen to music.
My favorite escape from my anxiety is music. When I’m on airplanes, I can’t exactly walk outside or leave the room. I’m stuck. So I put some headphones in and close my eyes. I focus solely on the melody and the words being sung. It helps to detach from your surroundings. Don’t let yourself think about anything else. Focus on the music. For me personally, nothing calms me down faster or makes me feel better faster than music.
Remove yourself from the situation.
If nothing is working and your anxiety is taking a stronghold, leave the situation. Walk away and don’t return. Some situations aren’t worth the stress and anxiety they cause. Think to yourself, “Do I need this in my life?” “Will it make me happier in the long run?” If you answer no to either of those questions, you don’t need to involve yourself in the situation any longer. If something isn’t going to make your life easier or happier, there’s no point in freaking yourself out. Save yourself from the panic attack and remove yourself completely. You’ll thank yourself late.
What do you do when you feel panic set in? Share in the comments and keep the positive vibes flowing!