Whether you’re an occasional worrier or you suffer full-blown panic attacks, executing a solid action plan means finding your calm place quicker.
Here’s the catch, you have to intentionally practice self-regulation strategies daily. Too often we neglect our calm plan and then scramble to problem solve when we’re hijacked by worries.
No matter if you have generalized anxiety, social anxiety or OCD, the following tenets can help you understand and manage anxiety so it doesn’t manage you. Bonus tip: Tattoo ’em on your forehead, and you’ll never forget. JK!
—Anxiety is over-attention to worries and under-attention to problem solving.
—Anxiety loves drama, procrastination and rumination. Anxiety loathes action.
—The anxious brain is over-active. Accepting this fact is healthier than getting stuck in the ‘why’ cycle of endless rumination. After all, the fearful and often bizarre, irrational thoughts don’t make sense, so it doesn’t make sense to spend more time “proving” to yourself that you’re not crazy, defective, or dying, right?
—Calm is an inside job with three main duties: 1) mind-body relaxation (AKA “brain breaks”), 2) thought examination, 3) DOING differently.
—Panic or anxiety attacks do not happen out of the blue. As scary and random as the attack may seem, in reality, you are unintentionally panicking yourself via unhealthy, exaggerated thoughts.
(The part where some of you roll your eyes and say, ‘who does she think she is? Easy for her to say, she’s not in my situation.’ Or other colorful language 😉 . It’s cool. I write for @PsychologyToday.com. Fairly certain I’ve been called every name in the clinical book)
While there’s no one-size-fits-all Calm Plan, the following steps can get you on the other side of anxiety, especially if you’re prone to panic attacks.
1. Acknowledge the anxiety symptoms. This may seem counterintuitive since we’re programmed to avoid unpleasant situations. However, thought suppression — telling yourself over and again to stop thinking “I’m going to die!,” only increases anxiety. A preferred response is to recognize the uncomfortable feelings and remind yourself that you’re not in danger: “This panic thing seriously messes up my day. Although it’s scary and overwhelming, I’m safe.”
2. Stay in the fray. This step is especially challenging since one of the symptoms of panic is feeling like you’re going crazy. Because your brain’s amygdala (the area which controls the fear response) sends rapidfire signals preparing you to fight or flee, you’ll need to counteract these irrational impulses. Grounding strategies include feeling your feet on the ground, or your hands on the steering wheel, or wp themes bracing yourself against a wall. Of course, leaving is always an option, but try to stay in the situation until your rational mind returns.
3. Be “here.” People do not have anxiety attacks in the present. In reality, you’re reacting to a past action, or to a future event. Being mindful of the here-and-now will help you can take actions to calm down.
4. Act. Now that your mind and body are more calm and present, it’s time to consider actions for riding out this unwelcome wave. Here are a few:
- Breathe slowly and deeply
- Close your eyes to block out overwhelming stimulation
- Drink water to cool down your body temperature
- Do jumping jacks to get rid of excess energy
- Challenge unhealthy thoughts
- Count to 10
5. Repeat steps 1-4. Because panic attacks vary in duration and frequency, you may find yourself starting to calm down, only to meet another episode. “Here I go again — this isn’t working!” Remember that you are not your thoughts, or your uncomfortable feelings, and get ready for Round 2. Practice is the only way to ensure calm habits.
6. Test-drive reality. As scary as anxiety attacks are, your track record for overcoming panic is 100%. There’s always an end in sight, and you will reach the calm side eventually.
The most important tip of all is knowing you don’t have to be possessed by your past, or held hostage by the future. With intentional effort toward doing anxiety differently, you can rewire those synapses sending you into fight or flight mode. Even if your brain would like you to think differently.
Did you know?…Team Happy teaches intrepid mental wellness warriors how to rewire their brain so that positive emotions and healthy relationships take up more mental bandwidth. For information on joining, click here.
Yours in good vibes only,