Anxiety attacks don’t wait for your therapist appointment. Anxiety attacks are scary and debilitating. Any complex action basically falls out the window and you have no choice but to sit down and go through the ride.
It’s important to remember that anxiety ebbs and flows between low periods and high. Meaning that no matter how bad your attack is or how long it lasts, it will get better. You just have to survive until that happens.
And it is possible to get your brain in a mindset that will help you stabilize faster. This is called grounding and these techniques will help you reduce your anxiety right away.
Sometimes, especially if you’re hyperventilating, all you can do is breathe. Breathing exercises should be your number 1 go to because the way you breathe affects your entire body. First thing you want to do is make sure your exhales are longer than your inhales. When you’re in an anxiety attack, you often make your exhales shorter than your inhales, creating a lightheaded dizziness in your brain.
Try breathing in for 4 seconds and out for 8. And focus on nothing but your breathing, keeping it as controlled as possible. Don’t focus on where it goes or any other part of your body, just focus on the sensation of cold air coming in, and warm air coming out.
Name All the Objects You See
The goal is to survive until it passes. The way you survive anxiety is similar to surviving pain. Find whatever distraction you can focus your mind somewhere else. In this case, you’re focused on your sense of sight.
Telling yourself to do this simple activity of looking around and naming all the objects you see will buy you a lot of time and takes up just enough focus that it’s easily doable in any state while also demanding your brain’s attention.
Pick Up an Object and Describe it In Detail
In that same spirit, you can also pick up an object and describe it in detail. This is a great backup option if there aren’t that many objects around you, if it’s dark, or if you can’t see well/at all. This option utilizes not just your sight but all of your senses together.
We recommend starting with sight, if you can, by describing the color and shape of whatever object you choose. (If you can’t pick one, choose whatever is closest to you). Then feel it and describe the touch. See if it makes a sound when you rub it or if it has a smell. Be as specific as possible.
If you are able to get up and do some basic tasks, then lighting a scented candle, getting out some essential oils or lighting some incense might be a good way to decrease your anxiety. Your body responds warmly to pleasant sensations, and your sense of smell is too often undervalued. What you smell affects your mood a lot more than you might think.
Bonus: Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is not immediate. You need to arrange an appointment and come to our facility. It is not feasible for ending an anxiety attack. But it is great for sustained anxiety. If you feel like your base level of anxiety is consistently high, then a massage might be the answer you need.
Massage can help feel relieved and more grounded while lowering your sustained anxiety. It’s a short term fix still, so we recommend pairing massage therapy with regular therapy so that you get short term and long term results together. But keeping all of these techniques in mind will help you lower all levels of anxiety.