You know how they work. You begin to feel tightness in your chest, followed by a shortness of breath. Before you know it, you’re bowled over in the fetal position, your heart racing, feeling like you’re going to die. In reality, you’re perfectly fine, but a panic attack can make you feel like you’re on the verge of the ultimate horror. No one likes them, but unfortunately, some people are plagued with them in their daily lives. Here are five ways of reducing your propensity for panic attacks, and how to alleviate their intensity.
1. Remove Yourself from the Situation
If possible, try to remove yourself from the anxiety-provoking situation. Find the nearest restroom or quiet space and give yourself a few minutes to recuperate. Even if your anxiety isn’t specifically related to a current situation, it’s still helpful to find a place where there is as little outside stimulation as possible so you can fully concentrate on trying to relax.
2. Breathe deeply
This step is key to breaking the seemingly relentless cycle of anxiety. One of the most common symptoms of a panic attack is rapid, shallow breathing. This type of breathing only perpetuates the vicious throes of a panic attack. Don’t despair, however, because you can stop this type of breathing in its tracks by taking slow, deep breaths that originate in your diaphragm. Begin by breathing in, slowly and deeply, to the count of five. Hold your breath and count to five, and then slowly exhale, taking as long as you need. Do this as often as you need until you begin to feel waves of relaxation. Another method of stopping a panic attack is to practice progressive muscle relaxation. While you’re slowly breathing in and out, tense a certain muscle group in your body, hold it for five seconds, and release it. Make sure to note the difference in how you feel when your muscles are tightened, and when they are relaxed.
3. Improve Your Diet
An important way to keep the panic attacks at bay is to make some improvements to your daily nutrition. Make sure to cut caffeine from your diet because as a stimulant, it will only provoke your anxiety. Also, make sure to eat a balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Along with your diet, try to get at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day. This type of exercise can include any type of activity that gets your heart rate up, such as running and dancing.
4. Keep a Journal
Self-discovery is a vital component in your plan to overcome anxiety, so it’s important to learn what situations and thoughts are causing it. Keep tabs on when your anxiety attacks come on, as well as the thoughts you’re having at the time. Another great tool in your anti-anxiety arsenal is stream-of-thought writing. Just start writing your thoughts and feelings and go with the flow, don’t worry about proper grammar and punctuation. You’ll be surprised what you can learn about yourself when you make this a regular practice.
5. See a Therapist
Set up an appointment with a therapist, but not just any therapist. Make sure that he or she uses cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy will help you learn to pick out the distorted thinking that causes your anxiety, and retrain your mind to think in more realistic ways.