Need help dealing with panic or anxiety attacks? These helpful techniques will help you not to feel so overwhelmed all the time.
The world is changing at the rate of knots. It’s been an incredibly challenging time for many of us. As things start to open up to a “new normal”, anxiety seems to be everywhere. “Have I done this right?” “Can I handle this?” “How come everyone else seems completely sorted while I feel like I’m crumbling?” There’s a lot going on.
About eight years ago, I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks. I tried a whole range of things; some worked but some didn’t. So I searched high and low to find things that made me feel good again. I wrote Generation Panic primarily as a reminder to myself of all the things that would help me get back on track. Since then, I haven’t had another panic attack – and I’d like to share my tips with you. Here’s what I do when I feel overwhelmed (these can be done with anyone of any age!).
5 ways to manage your anxiety
1. Shake it off
When I feel anxious, it’s as though a current of electricity runs through me. My shoulders tighten, everything clenches up and it feels all-consuming. In that moment, I need to “get rid” of that nervous energy. Give this a try: stand up tall, stretch and flick your hands out to your side. Imagine the nervous energy leaving your fingertips. Next, run your hands down your arms, creating friction to get rid of the energy. Finally, jiggle your whole body and shake the anxiety out of your system.
I love this; it takes away unwanted energy. When anxiety kicks in, it feels like I’m glued to the spot and I sit still. I spiral deeper into the despair of the moment. But by standing up and moving my body, things instantaneously feel much easier. By adding the energy flick on top, I’m good to go!
2. Breathe in, breathe out
We forget that our breath is (unsurprisingly!) with us at any moment. We get so caught up that we forget to breathe. Or we do so high up in our chest, all tight and sprung up. There’s a ton of research around deep belly breathing and its benefits. So, in a stressful and anxious moment, remember to take a few deep, proper breaths.
Start by breathing in for a count of three, holding for three, and breathing out for three. It’s perfect for dealing with a challenging situation or stress. You can even imagine you’re inhaling peace and serenity, then exhaling stress and tension. Breathe, calm yourself, reset and go back to deal with the situation when you’re more composed. As you get better at breathing, try to increase the 3-3-3 to 4-4-4 and all the way up to 7-7-7. Breathing is the most powerful tool to slow your heart rate and calm your body.
3. Take it one step at a time
I sometimes get overwhelmed by my to-do list of appointments, dinners and work projects. It can spiral quickly into panic, which makes it impossible to complete even easy tasks. An obsession with the future can completely ruin the moment.
Try and bring it back to the present by asking yourself simple questions to alleviate the stress you’re feeling:
- How can I make the next five minutes happier?
- What would happen if I just enjoyed this moment right now?
- What do I need to get through the next hour?
4. Do you have a routine?
Take care of yourself on a daily level. Simple things, like getting enough rest, can have a profound impact on your anxiety. If you had a poor night’s sleep, reaching for caffeine and sugary things to get through the day will only backfire later. It’s time to put yourself first. Imagine you have a little genie on your shoulder looking out for you, telling you the best habits to genuinely make you feel good from the inside out.
It’s common to feel like the lines between work and home life are blurred these days. When your desk is mere metres from your dinner table and your bed, it’s hard to have clear boundaries or a routine that’s easy to stick to. Defining things like screen time, working hours and when you eat dinner as a family will make a huge difference. These suggestions may not seem like much, but everything adds up – changing that coffee to decaf, going for a walk and stepping away from your emails after 7pm will have a ripple effect.
Remember those airline emergency instructions? You need to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. This is no different to real life. Prioritise yourself and find a routine that works for you so you’re in the best position to help others.
5. You can’t do it alone!
Everyone, no matter how confident they seem, experiences anxiety on some level. So open up and lean on your support network. Don’t feel like you’re alone! Others close to you will be able to relate in some way – it helps even if there’s just one person you know you can rely on.
When I struggled with panic attacks and my anxiety was at an all-time high, I felt incredibly isolated. I thought I was the only one struggling and the saboteurs in my mind became louder and louder. Reaching out to others and being open about what I faced was a complete game-changer. Although it was hard to take the first step, I never regretted it.
So the next time anxiety attacks, tackle it by trying these five simple tips, and it won’t feel so overwhelming or debilitating. Good luck, you’ve got this!