Experiencing anxiety or panic attacks may be more prevalent during these difficult times than ever before. Here you will find some ways you can learn to manage or overcome anxiety and panic attacks. In order to manage these two undesired experiences, it may be helpful to understand the difference between the two.
Panic vs. Anxiety: The two terms are usually used interchangeably. But, there are some distinctions between the two concepts. In order to be considered a panic attack, the presence of physiological symptoms must be present. Panic attack involves an intense rush of adrenaline along with physical symptoms that may be experienced throughout the body. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-V), the key difference between the two is the duration. Panic attacks last at peak intensity for approximately 15-30 minutes.
However, those who struggle with anxiety might experience heavy thoughts, ruminations, dreading, and even fear for long periods of time without experiencing the above mentioned physiological symptoms. During a panic attack anxiety-provoking thoughts may be magnified.
Ways to Overcome Anxiety
Understand that thoughts are powerful: Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) are likely to be one of the leading causes of anxiety. When faced with “all or nothing thinking”, disqualifying the positive, negative self-labeling, or spending hours ruminating over the past or concluding to the most extreme outcome (Catastrophizing), then of course one is likely to become anxious.
Cease: When experiencing these automatic negative thoughts, it is important to become conscious of them and to consciously STOP them from perpetuating. A good way to stop focusing on the negative is by becoming distracted. For example: Do something creative like write, dance, or an activity like trying to say your ABC’s backwards.
Calm: Once you’ve stopped the thought, you want to calm yourself. Different ways to find your calm place may include, doing deep breathing exercises, listening to calm music, burning candles and incense, or oils, or visualizing yourself in a place that brings you peace.
Change: You have recognized the power of these negative thoughts, you have consciously stopped thinking them, you have calmed yourself down, and now it is time to reframe by changing your perspective on the situation, perspective often has a powerful way of shaping one’s reality.
The above techniques can be used to help manage anxiety, next you will find ways to help manage a more extreme form of anxiety, panic attacks. The same methods apply as dealing with anxiety, however a little more work may need to be done to help manage panic attacks. Often times people who deal with panic attacks fear the onset of another panic attack. This is where the cease, calm, change technique comes in handy.
Here are some other ways to help manage panic attacks.
Keep a thought log: For Example:
|Thought||Distortion||Is it actually true?||Is it actually a problem?||More realistic interpretation|
5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise: The idea of this exercise is to “get you out of your head” and out of the future, and bring you back to the present moment. In order to practice this exercise, you do the following:
Name 5 things you can see right now.
Name 4 things you can hear right now.
Name 3 things you can touch right now.
Name 2 things you can smell right now.
Name 1 thing you can taste right now.
Talk to Someone You Trust or Talk to Your Therapist: Often times, people who deal with anxiety keep it to themselves. This makes them feel alone, and as if no one can understand their struggles. However, talking or venting about the issue may be a helpful way of coping and just letting it out can be a liberating experience.
Although a panic attack and normal anxiety can have their differences, the two share in that they both may cause severe discomfort in the mind, body and soul. Utilizing your sources, and knowing how powerful your thoughts are in the matter are key ways to deal with these unwanted experiences.
By, Ashley Vazquez, MFT, EAP Counselor