For those with anxiety, it’s inevitable to experience an overwhelming sense of panic and despair under certain situations. Here are 5 steps to help lessen the reaction and get back on track.
If you’re someone with an anxiety disorder, you’re likely familiar with ‘the freak out’. When a situation doesn’t quite go the way you plan, you immediately feel the physical sensation of your stomach doing an actual somersault and lodging itself directly under your lungs.
Yeah, it’s no joke.
The next time it happens, here’s what you can do about it.
Step 1: Freak out.
Allow yourself to feel your anxiety, and your mind to catastrophize. While they’re not pleasant experiences, ignoring your problem and pretending things are OK will not help the situation. Allow yourself to feel that horrible pit in your stomach, and acknowledge your terrifying thoughts. Acknowledge your physical sensations, from the pain in your chest to the tension in your shoulders.
Step 2: Breathe, strategize, & accept
Now, take 5 deep breaths. After those breaths, you’ll notice right away that your stomach will start to relax and settle into its normal human position. The pit may still be there, but notice if your breathing has improved.
Now, identify what you can do about the situation, and what you can’t. Acknowledge what you can do and what you don’t really have control over. Do what you can to accept that your anxious feelings will linger until the issue is resolved.
Step 3: Self-care
Go about your life as you normally would, but with a little more TLC. Pour yourself a glass of wine at dinner, watch some Netflix, take a warm bath, or read your favorite book. If cleaning the kitchen makes you feel more relaxed, go ahead and clean!
Step 4: Reevaluate the problem later
Taking a break or getting a good night’s sleep can give you distance from the problem, and help you realize that even if your unlikely worst-case scenario occurred, you’ll still be OK. Anxiety has a special way of making the most extreme scenarios seem possible. Cut the severity of your worst case scenario in half and examine what that problem really looks like.
Step 5: Tend to your needs and emotions as needed
Remain extra observant of your mood and self-care needs. Do regular check-ins throughout the day and rate on a scale of 1-10 how intense your emotions and stress levels are. Take the time to pause and assess, and increase your self-awareness of what you need.
What often happens is that most people get stuck in Step 1. While it’s necessary to allow yourself to process and experience the freak out, it’s not productive to stay there. Productivity comes from getting out of your head and paying attention to how your body feels. That’s when you can move on to Step 2 and work towards accepting your crappy feelings.
If you ever feel stuck in Step 1, ask yourself: what am I doing to feed the anxiety? It’s probably an attempt to fix an unfixable situation. So stop whatever you’re doing, and check in with your body. Focus on self-care and accept what you have no control over. It’s OK to let the problem sit there for a bit.
You’ll be able to solve it once the panic goes away.
Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: GABRIELLE COLE
Kelsey Fyffe, MA, LPC is a clinically-trained therapist based in Houston specializing in anxiety and eating disorders. By helping individuals recognize that their anxiety, worries, and obsessions do not have to hold them back from living the life they want, Kelsey helps them learn the skills and strategies needed to calm their mind and feel at ease. Learn more about Kelsey at Live Mindfully Psychotherapy.