5 Strategies for Preventing Anxiety Attacks
by Sophie Letts
Anxiety is a state of uncertainty or fear that occurs in the anticipation of a threat. When periods of panic start to interfere with your daily life, you may suffer from an anxiety disorder. Because attacks can often happen at random times, it’s important to understand what’s going on inside your brain. You may not be able to stop your feelings of stress altogether, but you can curb some of your panic attack symptoms.
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Tip #1 - Know Your Anxiety Triggers
Not everyone who suffers from panic attacks experiences the same triggers. If you can recognize your stressors, then you can take precautions to mitigate the damage to your psyche. For example, if your anxiety worsens before a test or job interview, you can implement calming techniques that work for you. A few common anxiety aggravators include nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol. If you are prone to panic attacks, consider making lifestyle changes that don’t aggravate your mental strain in stressful moments.
Tip #2 - Start a Breathing Practice
One of the most common symptoms of an anxiety attack is hyperventilation. While you may think this deep, rapid breathing will help you regain control of your body, it actually prolongs your suffering and worsens your fear. Studies show that a more relaxed breathing technique combats the body’s natural stress response. When you feel panic coming on, try taking slow, diaphragmatic breaths to calm yourself down.
"Anxiety happens when you think you have to figure out everything all at once. Breath. You're strong. you got this. Take it day by day." – Karen Salmansohn
Tip #3 - Snuggle Under a Weighted Blanket
During an anxiety attack, your natural fight, flight, or freeze response is activated. By using deep pressure, you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system, allowing you to calm down sooner. Weighted blankets are a proven deep pressure stimulation tool for people with sensory issues and autism spectrum disorder, and some professionals recommend them for anxiety sufferers as well.
Tip #4 - Let Others Help You Calm Down
The worst thing you can do for your anxiety is trying to hide it from those around you. When your friends and coworkers understand how stress affects you, they can approach tough topics in a way that won’t push you over the edge. Additionally, when they recognize signs of panic coming from you, they can give you the space you need to diffuse the bomb inside your head. Leaning on your support network helps you relax without fear of being judged for your anxiety disorder.
Tip #5 - Seek Counseling or Therapy
Your intense anxiety may seem like an uphill battle that you’re fighting alone, but part of overcoming your panic disorder is understanding why you have it. Consulting a licensed counselor, therapist or life coach gives you a safe space to be vulnerable and discover the root of your struggles. A psychological evaluation can determine if a specialized therapeutic approach such as cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, or interpersonal therapy can best serve your needs.
Fear is a natural human defense mechanism and a certain level of unease is completely normal. However, overwhelming anxiety can be debilitating. Even with extensive therapy and medication, coping with an anxiety disorder is a lifelong struggle. These relaxation strategies along with a structured routine can help you navigate each day with confidence and calm, but you may occasionally still have moments of distress and difficulty. It’s important to prioritize your overall wellness, including your mental health, so you can overcome stress and move on with your life.