Do you feel you have anxiety and experience anxiety attacks? Are you too nervous to see a therapist?
Everyone experiences anxiety differently, but there are common symptoms that people can experience. Some people describe anxiety attacks by its physical symptoms:
- rapid heart rate
- sweaty palms
- rapid breathing/ shortness of breath
- face gets flushed
- stomach aches
- blurry vision
- feeling dizzy
- tingling or numbness in fingers
These are some physical symptoms you might experience during an anxiety attack. It's important to note that if you are experiencing these symptoms then you should bring it up to your primary care provider first so that you can rule out anything medical.
After you rule out anything medical, then it is most likely you are experiencing anxiety and have anxiety attacks. The next step would be to seek help from a therapist who specializes in anxiety.
On top of the physical symptoms, there are some ways you may feel anxiety mentally:
- racing thoughts
- fear of something bad happening
- constant worries
- feeling a lack of control
If you have experienced an anxiety attack, you are aware how scary it feels. It may feel like what you are experiencing is never ending and that you will feel this way forever. People who have experienced an anxiety attack in the past may develop anxiety about getting another anxiety attack in the future.
The fear of getting an anxiety attack in the future causes avoidance. For example, if you got an anxiety attack randomly while riding on the train then you may avoid going on the train again. You may choose a different mode of transportation like a ferry, bus, or car. By avoiding trains you feed into your anxiety that you will get an anxiety attack again. This may be the most comfortable solution for you because it feels good to avoid those anxious symptoms.
However, if you find yourself wanting to be able to ride trains again then keep reading for some ways to prevent an anxiety attack. So that you can successfully ride on that train again.
3 ways to prevent an anxiety attack:
1. Practice, Practice, Practice!
- A lot of students say they have anxiety about taking exams. They may feel they need to study every minute of every day leading up to a test. If they take a break, they may feel guilty for taking a break and that they could've used that time to study. This is a common anxiety and stressor for a lot of students.
- This is where practice comes into play. You want to feel confident and in control when you walk into that exam. You also want to feel as relaxed as you can. This means that you need a good nights sleep the night before. So you should not be cramming more information in while staying up late the night before.
- An example of why you should practice relaxation techniques daily: pretend you are on your school's basketball team. Your basketball team would meet for practice daily after school so that you do well at the big games. Now imagine if you never met for practice with your team. Then you went to the games only. How well do you think your team would do? Not very well most likely since you're not prepared.
- This above example is similar to when you have anxiety about an exam coming up (or when you have to ride that train, etc.). You want to practice relaxing techniques for at least a few minutes daily. By practicing these techniques, you will know exactly what to do when the exam time comes to help you relax.
2. Relaxing Techniques:
- There are many different techniques you can do to feel more relaxed. Everyone's different therefore different things will work for each person.
- You can seek a therapist who specializes in anxiety to help you figure out exactly what works best for you.
- The first thing you can start to practice on your own is to notice what is happening for you mentally and physically when you become anxious. Notice what you feel within your body. How do you know an anxiety attack is coming on? Once you can identify the start of an anxiety attack, then you can use a calming technique to help you relax before that panic increases into an anxiety attack.
- Simple breathing techniques can go a long way. There are many different ones, but give this a try right now. Take a deep breath inhaling through your nose and slowly count to 4 in your mind. Then slowly release that breath with an exhale for 5 seconds. Repeat this 3 times. These deep breathes can re-align your nervous system and help slow things down.
- Use an App for extra guidance. There are many Apps out there that help you relax, such as the popular "Calm" App or the "Virtual Hope Box".
- Try guided meditations. You can find free ones on Youtube and the Podcast App. You can also find a therapist who specializes in mindfulness and does guided meditations in session to help you feel more relaxed.
- Get moving! Just going for a walk can help clear your mind. Yoga can help you in every way as well- breathing techniques, exercise, guided meditations.
- Once you know what helps you feel more relaxed, then you should practice it at least a few minutes daily. A therapist can help you figure out what is the best relaxation technique for you to practice.
- Practicing these relaxation techniques will help you so that when you start to feel anxious and an anxiety attack coming on, then you are already prepared and know exactly what to do to prevent it.
- It's important that you practice these relaxation techniques daily (even on the good days!) so that you are ready for game day or exam day. The more you practice, the quicker you can find your place of calm and clear your mind.
3. Change your thinking:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a great way to decrease your anxious thinking. A therapist who specializes in CBT can help you change your thinking so that you feel more in control of your anxiety. CBT is a theory that our thoughts cause our feelings and then behaviors.
- An example is that if we have a thought "What if I get on that train and it gets trapped underground forever and I die." -> This thought can make you feel anxious. -> This anxiety could then cause you to avoid going on that train at all. You have to take the bus instead which makes you late for work.
- CBT starts with those thoughts and challenges the reality of them. "What if..." thoughts are usually just worries that you create in your head. Typically they are not realistic and can be ignored. The hardest part is training your brain to actually ignore these thoughts so that they don't impact your life.
- I teach my clients that you can imagine your thoughts like clouds passing by outside of an open window. You are looking out at these thought clouds and noticing them. You are noticing that the clouds are outside of yourself. They are not apart of you. They are passing by.... and are now gone. They have no effect on your life and mean nothing. They were just passing. Watch these thought clouds as they pass by and fade away. Now you can notice from where you are looking out from inside of the window. What does your surroundings look like? This is a type of guided meditation that you can easily do when you notice you are experiencing anxious thoughts or those "what if..." thoughts.
Anxiety attacks are real and can be scary. If you are experiencing anxiety and possible anxiety attacks then it can greatly help you to reach out to a professional counselor for some help. You may feel nervous about reaching out to a therapist since you feel your problem may be strange/ unrelatable/ not significant enough/ too late to help etc. But I can tell you that reaching out for help is the hardest and most important part. Once you speak to a therapist, you will see that they are there to help you decrease your anxiety. They are trained to help you do this. They also see people who experience very similar problems to you so that you will not feel alone.
About The Author:
Courtney Glashow, LCSW
is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Jersey City, New Jersey. She specializes in children and adolescent issues, and young adult counseling.