My husband’s Aunt gave me a book called The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D. I had no idea that she suffered from anxiety too. Since my husband and I started dating people have told me that they can’t believe how much we are alike we are. I guess so!
Needless to say, I began reading it and came across some tips that I wanted to share with my fellow anxiety sufferers. Some of these I’ve found myself doing already, even before I started working through the book. Hopefully you find these coping strategies helpful to counteract a panic attack at an early stage:
1. Retreat: if you are in a situation in which you feel phobic, simply exit the situation until your anxiety subsides. It’s important to distinguish the difference between retreat and escape. Retreating means leaving a situation temporarily, while escaping is never returning to the situation which will only reinforce your phobia.
2. Talk to another person: sometimes talking to another person, not even necessarily about your anxiety can serve as a distraction from your panic attack.
3. Move around or physical activity: moving or doing something physical let’s you dissipate the extra energy or adrenaline created by the flight or fight reaction. I feel the urge to move often when I have panic attacks. If I don’t move and try to fight it I typically end up having worse panic attack symptoms.
4. Engage in a simple repetitive activity: simple, repetitive acts can distract your attention from your panic attack. Some examples: chewing gum, singing, snapping a rubber band against your wrist, etc.
5. Do something that requires focused concentration: these activities are harder to initiate when you’re feeing anxious but once you’re involved in them they have greater more lasting capacity to distract your attention. For example: reading, solving puzzles, play a game.
6. Express anger: if you can express anger physically onto an object, not just talk about it, you can often abort the occurrence of an attack.
7. Experience something immediately pleasurable: have your favorite snack or meal, take a hot bath, get a massage, engage in sexual activity.
8. Practice thought stopping: this is a behavioral modification technique that may disrupt the pattern of negative or anxious thoughts. For example, say to yourself “this too shall pass”, “I am calm and strong” instead of “I’m going to have a heart attack”, “I’m losing control of myself”, “what of someone sees this happening to me?”.
9. Practice abdominal breathing: breathing slowly from your abdomen can help reduce the bodily symptoms of panic.
10. Practice muscle relaxation: clench your fists for 10 seconds. Tighten your biceps for 10 seconds. Tighten your forehead muscles for 10 seconds. Keep tightening the rest of the muscles in your body one at a time for 10 seconds until you reach your toes.
11. Repeat positive coping statements: say to yourself, “it’s only anxiety I’m not going to let this get to me”, “I’ve been through this before I can do it again”, “I can handle this until it passes”.
12. Use breathing in combination with positive self talk: breathing addresses the physical sensations if panic while positive self talk will give you the methodical reputation of a coping statement.
As I work through this book I’ll try and share some tips that I think may be useful. 😊