6 Instant Ways to Calm Down When Anxiety Hits Hard
Clinically described, an anxiety attack or panic attack happens when adrenaline is unnecessarily released into the bloodstream, triggering the fight or flight response. It takes 3 minutes for your adrenal glands to secrete a full dose of adrenaline. If you can stop your anxiety within those 3 minutes, the residual effects will also be less.
The feeling of intense anxiety is not something easily described. Nor would those of us who suffer from it want to even retell the crippling effects of an attack in fear that even the memory could bring it back.
When anxiety hits, knowing how to calm yourself down can be the difference between carrying on and giving in. There are several methods for calming your anxiety attack whenever it strikes so you can get back to doing what is most important – living life.
1. Nothing is wrong
That means deep breaths. Complete breaths. As you breathe, think to yourself about the reality of the situation. You are having an anxiety attack, but ideally, nothing else is wrong.
As you breathe, think about yogic breathing (if you have experience in that). Think about expanding the chest laterally, filling up every nook and cranny of your torso with fresh air. This is also called “belly breathing” or “diaphragmatic breathing.”
Because anxiety often causes hyperventilation – those short, gasping breaths – “belly breathing” is the direct counter to it. This kind of breathing, when practiced regularly, can actually reduce the frequency of anxiety attacks, because you gradually reduce stress levels.
2. Say “Stop”
Either aloud or inwardly. Telling yourself to stop it might sound silly, but it is really effective at halting negative thoughts before they begin. “Stop” is a strong word, and it will have a direct effect on the cause of your anxiety. If you are one of those people who perpetuate the anxiety with pessimism and dark scenarios, say “stop” until that’s the only command in your mind.
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3. Confront anxiety before it begins
Anxiety attacks often leave us feeling lifeless and demoralized. We were fine just a moment ago. And you know what? You will be fine again. Remember that. Tell yourself that. Replace negativity with positive affirmations to counter whatever it was jump-started the panic in the first place.
In fact, prepare positive affirmations to confront anxiety before it begins. If you have intense feelings of doubt, such as failing a major exam or not getting the job you are gunning for, tell yourself that it is okay. You will be fine, no matter what. There is always tomorrow to try again. You are enough.
If that fails, tell yourself this, “I have survived worse. I will survive this.”
Yes, I am asking you to accept that you have anxiety and to tolerate its presence. Anxiety is there, in all of us. It looms. But just like how you dealt with that particularly pesky kid in school who always seemed to latch onto you, if you ignore it, any validation goes disapproved.
Panic attacks are prompt by some feeling or fear. Learn what that fear is and accept what it does to you. Instead of fearing it, learn what you can do to mitigate the effects of it. During the course of the anxiety attack, acknowledge what is happening. Don’t try to play it off. This returns back to number 1. You can’t be relaxed if you are not paying attention to what your body is telling you.
5. Do not just stand or sit there
If the four steps above do not provide enough rapid relief, it might be time to get slightly more active during your panic attacks. Do not just stand or sit there. I know that when I get severe anxiety, I need to move.
Engage your mind in a task. Stand up, go for a jog up and down the stairwell, get in the car and drive, or do some yoga poses. Train your thoughts to something other than panic. You will also notice that “working” returns you to present reality, which is something anxiety separates you from. Once you have the tools to remain grounded, you can pull yourself from the attack much more quickly.
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6. Start an anxiety journal
Some people also like keeping “anxiety journals” to record what sets them off. When anxiety comes on, they scribble down whatever is on their mind or reread previous entries. In time, you might pick up on patterns of how to avoid anxiety or develop a therapeutic means of transforming that anxiety into creativity.
Remember, your anxiety will end. No matter how crippling the sudden attack may be, stay calm, breathe, and tell yourself it will be okay. Do not let yourself sink into depressive thoughts. Rather, believe in yourself and allow your body to relax. The more you accept, the less influence anxiety will have over you.