Anxiety attacks can be one of the most disruptive symptoms of an anxiety disorder because they involve intense, irrational fear and a sense of detachment from reality. If you frequently experience anxiety attacks, you might start limiting your activities to avoid anything that could be a trigger, which will severely impact your overall quality of life.
When you experience a racing heart, chest pains, sweating, shaking, and shortness of breath, having a few go-to grounding techniques can help you stop an anxiety attack.
What Is Grounding?
Anxious people often have an overactive amygdala, which is the brain region responsible for regulating your body’s instinctive fight-or-flight response. During an anxiety attack, this reaction to a perceived threat goes into overdrive, initiating changes such as muscle tension and a rapid heart rate. Ironically, these can be additional stressors in the anxiety spiral because they’ll leave you feeling physically and emotionally drained. You can use grounding to break the cycle and stop an anxiety attack from getting worse.
Here are three grounding strategies to try. It’s wise to practice them when you aren’t anxious or panicky so they will begin to feel familiar. Then, you can immediately start implementing the technique that works best for you the next time you feel an anxiety attack coming on.
1. Use Ice or Cold Water
If you feel uncomfortably hot and sweaty during an anxiety attack, putting a cold, damp washcloth around your neck can cool you off and give you a new sensation to distract you. You might also try holding an ice cube in your hand and focusing on the sensation as it melts.
2. Repeat Affirmational Phrases
Some symptoms of an anxiety attack mimic those of a heart attack, especially for women. Wondering if you are experiencing a medical emergency can compound your panic. In these cases, it can help to have a few coping statements you can repeat to yourself, almost like a mantra. Concentrating on these phrases can take your mind off your symptoms and help stop an anxiety attack. For example:
- “This feeling is uncomfortable, but I am not dying.”
- “I can get through this.”
3. Control Your Breathing With Exercises
Shallow, rapid breathing is one of the most frightening panic attack symptoms if it makes you feel out of control. If you’re trying to stop an anxiety attack, breathing from your belly instead of your chest is one way to settle down. Controlled breathing is an exercise you can do almost anywhere, so it’s especially valuable if you’re having an anxiety attack in a public place.
- Start by placing one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest.
- Take a deep, slow breath from your belly, mentally counting to four as you breathe in.
- Hold your breath for a slow count of seven.
- Exhale fully as you silently count to eight. Try to empty your lungs of air by the time you finish counting.
- Repeat this pattern until you feel calmer.
Prioritizing Your Mental Health
If anxiety attacks are preventing you from enjoying your life to the fullest and you frequently use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, you can benefit from professional help to end your reliance on addictive substances and manage your symptoms. A diagnosis of addiction with a co-occurring mental illness requires a comprehensive treatment approach.
At Lakeside-Milam, we understand the importance of expert care tailored to your needs. As the largest accredited rehab facility in the Pacific Northwest, we provide evidence-based therapies that help our clients recover their health and happiness. Contact us today to learn more about our residential, outpatient, and long-term treatment options.