Anxiety attacks can be frightening experiences. In the moment, they can feel like they’ll never end. Because they so often come out of the blue, sufferers of anxiety attacks can develop chronic anxiety associated with having another episode. Learning how to deal with these attacks is incredibly important for those afflicted, but there’s a side to panic attacks that is often ignored: what to do once the attack has passed. Anxiety attacks can leave you shaken, bewildered, and on edge. So how do you calm yourself after an anxiety attack? Here are a few tips.
The most important thing you can do after an anxiety attack is to pause. Attacks can cause debilitating symptomsand many of them (like an urgent need to escape, increased heartrate, and shortness of breath) will continue even after the initial attack has finished. Immediately trying to do something else while suffering these symptoms can lead to another attack, so it’s important to give yourself some time. If you’re in a passive situation (such as being a passenger in a car, at home, or not in a hurry), try closing your eyes and simply letting yourself be for a short time. If you’re active (driving or working), pull over or excuse yourself and take what time you need to recover. If necessary, stand up for yourself. No one gets angry at a person for taking time after a sudden migraine, a sprained ankle, or a big scare. Your anxiety attack is worthy of as much sympathy as anything else. While you’re paused, remember to remain present. Focus on the color of a wall or the tiling of a floor. Explore interesting, soothing sounds or voices. Look at the sky. Listen to your body and try easing up any parts of it that might have grown tense.
Shortness of breath is scary, but it isn’t permanent. You can control your breath. While you’re paused, think about your breath. Breathe in as deeply as you can, hold your breath for a moment, and then slowly release it through your nose. Repeat this as many times as necessary. You might want to consider learning some diaphragmatic (belly) breathing techniques. Practicing techniques like this can be immensely helpful in reducing general anxiety and could lead to reduced attacks.
3. Positive Self-Talk
Anxiety is real and attacks happen. That’s the truth. You don’t need to feel bad about your attacks. In fact, being negative about them might make them worse. Instead, be positive. Talk positively with yourself during and after the attack to reduce the power anxiety attacks have over you. Consider saying things to yourself like:
“It happened, it’s over, and I’m okay!”
“I’m not in any danger. I’m just uncomfortable right now.”
“Hey! This is a great opportunity to practice my coping techniques!”
“It’s okay to be shaken. That’s just a symptom of anxiety attacks. This is normal.”
This stuff might sound silly, but there’s a reason positive self-talk is part of cognitive behavioral therapy. It works!
4. Talk to a Loved One
If possible, talk to a loved one after the attack. Close friends and family, especially those who are familiar with your anxiety, might be able to calm you down following an attack. Talking them through this list and helping them remember it is also useful; they can remind you of what to do!
Once you feel like the initial symptoms are wearing off, try to refocus on something else. The anxiety attack is over and there’s no use thinking more about it. If you can, try doing something you really enjoy (drawing, watching a funny video, etc). If you have any fun plans coming up, think about those. Going for a walk or being part of nature can dramatically reduce stress and anxiety. Try focusing on pleasant times from the past or a compliment you’ve received. If you can’t think of any, try complimenting someone else! You’ll likely get a compliment in return, and it could make you feel better.
Remember: it isn’t your job to stop an anxiety attack. It’s going to end eventually no matter what you do. Your job is to take care of yourself and make yourself comfortable so that you can return to your day. Anxiety attacks are common and natural, and you can learn to calm yourself following them. Stay strong. If you can live with anxiety, you can do anything! You’ve got this!