The science bit...
Anxiety can feel overwhelming and scary; a sense of impending doom often disproportionate to the reality of a percieved threat. The body engages in a ‘fight or flight’ response triggering adrenalin to pump around the body. This adrenalin creates the physical sense of anxiety.
A fight or flight response requires an instant draw of blood from the parts of the body not required in an emergency (life threatening) situation.
Fight or flight responses come from the oldest (Reptilian) part of the brain - which is not intelligent. The intelligent part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) found on the right side, is where we reason and make sense of the world.
The PFC is affected and is unable to function (goes ‘offline’). The blood is directed to other parts of the body, such as the legs and lungs. We do not need the PFC during fight or flight, we just need to run or fight. When the PFC is ‘offline’ we cannot think straight hence the term ‘not in my right mind’.
Preventing the adrenalin ‘hit’ is the best way to avoid an anxiety attack, however, triggers are unpredictable.
Recognising the triggers and making an early intervention is paramount.
Keep it simple. The following techniques can help.
The empowering bit...
1. Bring yourself into the moment
Repeat to yourself “at this moment I am safe, nothing is going to hurt me, I am safe” whilst focussing on your breath. There is no need to change your breathing, just be aware of breathing in and out. Become aware of your surroundings using your senses. Touch something - how does it feel? Listen - what can you hear? Look - what can you see? Smell - what can you smell? Continue to repeat “at this moment I am safe…….”
Talk to a friend or family member.
Take a hot (but not too hot) shower/bath.
Stroke a pet.
Read a book
3. Challenge negative intrusive thoughts
When the ‘what ifs’ strike ask yourself; “where is the evidence that this is likely to happen?”
4. Be gentle with yourself
Resist the temptation to criticise yourself for feeling anxious. This is counterproductive. Think how you might support a friend and support yourself in the same way. Watch the language in your head that you use about yourself. Try affirming language instead.
It may be the last thing that you feel like doing however anxiety loves an empty stomach! Try to eat a little often if you cannot face a full meal.
6. Avoid alcohol (or other mind altering substances including coffee)
These may seem like a solution however the effect is short lived and actually results in higher levels of anxiety in the long term. Coffee is a stimulant known to increase the symptoms of anxiety.
Working with a therapist can help you to explore triggers and causes of your anxiety, work on solutions and create a recovery plan. There is no need to be alone.
If you would like a free, no commitment call to discuss how therapy might help you please do get in touch via the ‘contact’ page.