I read a good article on BuzzFeed last week that offered simple tips to deal with anxiety and panic attacks: 31 Actually Helpful Tips For Dealing With Panic Attacks
I won’t list them all here, and you can check out the article for more details, but here are a few I thought especially helpful. (And I have suffered from panic attacks in the past, so I know what works for me.)
- Listen to songs with a slow rhythm to help control your breathing. Look through your playlists for music in the range of 60-70 beats per minute. Create a playlist especially for when you feel a panic attack coming on. I like the piano version of Tears for Fears’ Mad World.
- Play with a toy that engages your senses. Different textures, sounds, and visuals can all help distract and calm. Do you have a favorite toy that might work for you? I just had a friend give me an amazing gift—an adult coloring book (see below)! The pictures are very detailed, and each one takes well over an hour to color (using a gorgeous box of colored pencils). It’s incredibly soothing, and good for bedtime, too.
- Visualize doing yoga even if you’re not physically able to. Close your eyes and think through the controlled movements and breathing of some yoga poses. Controlling your breathing is key to preventing or stopping a panic attack.
- Treat your panic attack like a nightmare. You know that feeling when you wake from a nightmare? It’s very much like a panic attack—sweating, shallow breathing, rapid heart rate. After a nightmare, you re-orient yourself and tell yourself it was just a dream, and you let your body relax. Try the same thing with your anxiety.
- Read a book you know really well. I have a set of go-to comfort books for when I’m feeling stressed or ill. Some are books I read as a child, such as The Little White Horse, or something more recent, such as At Home in Mitford. They are very different books, but what they have in common is that I know the story lines and characters so well, I can get quickly caught up in the narrative and stop focusing on whatever’s making me anxious.
Many people experience anxiety and panic attacks, but the good news is that counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have proven to be as effective or more effective (and longer lasting) than prescription anxiety drugs.
Related story: Parents can learn how to prevent anxiety in their children
Don’t hesitate to seek professional help. ACA-compliant health plans must cover mental health care the same as other illnesses. And if you don’t have insurance, look for a community clinic that offers a sliding scale for payment.
Related resources for treating stress/anxiety: