Anxiety Attacks and How to Deal with Them
You have that familiar feeling in your stomach, butterflies when you’re excited, churning when you know there isn’t anything to feel excited about. Your heart beats faster and you breathe quickly. You cannot focus on what you are doing. Every time you come back to the task in front of you realise that you have travelled somewhere else in your mind. You even struggle to sleep despite feeling so very tired. Whilst you feel do afraid to do the things you need; you find that you cannot sit still. It is uncomfortable and you want to explode your mind so that you get peace. Peace from the constant over thinking.
What is an Anxiety Attack?
An anxiety attack is different to a panic attack. A panic attack is a feeling of terror that comes on with no clear trigger at an unexpected time. Panic attacks generally last for no more than thirty minutes and feel debilitating. You might hear someone call a panic attack an anxiety attack however it is not a recognised term. An anxiety attack means something different to everyone. For the purpose of this blog I will use the term to mean a period of anxiety.
The symptoms of a panic attack feel so strong that many people think they are dying. It is common to hear stories of ambulances called and transfers into hospital with suspected heart attack. Your heart pounds and beats quicker than normal, often with palpitations. You sweat excessively and shake as you struggle to breathe. Sometimes you have chest pain, dizziness, and sickness. Your body temperature might also change, some people feel chills, others experience hot flushes. In the moment you feel immobilised and rational thought is impossible. The panic attack passes after a short while, though it feels like forever.
What does an Anxiety Attack Feel Like?
Though, as previous mentioned, you might use the terms anxiety attack and panic attack interchangeably and anxiety attack is not the same as a panic attack in medical terms. When you experience anxiety, it is longer term. The feelings last for days, weeks or months. The feelings of anxiety affect everything from your sleep to your work and play. When you experience an attack of anxiety it is frustrating and disruptive. Not to mention uncomfortable, scary, and upsetting.
How to Deal with Anxiety Attacks
It is possible to deal with anxiety. Anxiety is a natural physical response to a situation that your brain perceives as a threat to your life. Read my blog What is anxiety? Learn all about it here and how you can help yourself. to learn what happens internally when you experience anxiety and why you brain switches your body into this natural life saving response. There are some simple techniques you can use to deal with anxiety attacks in the moment. For example, deep abdominal breathing with a longer exhale than inhale will slow your heart rate.
Using a visual reminder such as writing the word STOP on a post it note and sticking it to your desk will remind you to STOP the wandering thoughts and bring your mind back to the present whenever it drifts off. This is something that takes practise. If you struggle to sleep, I recommend imagining yourself walking down a ten-stair staircase. Every time your mind drifts off bring yourself back to the top and start again, numbering the steps as you go. My blog post Two Ways to Combat Anxiety . Improve your life by combatting anxiety will give you some further ideas to deal with anxiety attacks.
How to Stop Anxiety Attacks
If you know the trigger for your anxiety, explore options to change that aspect of your life. I regularly work with people that need to make changes in their life that seem impossible. As we talk through the situation everything that once felt a muddle becomes clear. It isn’t always possible to simply stop anxiety attacks but when you practise stopping the anxiety attack in the moment and using techniques to bring your body back into a calm every day state, it will start to view this state as the default above the anxious one.