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Recover control before an anxiety attack

20 January 2023

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Key points:

  • Anxiety is a normal response to dangerous situations, but if it gets out of control it will affect your daily life.
  • Different techniques can help you regain control after an anxiety attack.
  • It’s good to take a moment daily to help you control anxiety.

Anxiety is a normal response of our body when we perceive danger or fear. Experiencing it moderately will allow you to prepare to react and act, but if anxiety becomes excessive, it will paralyze you, generate great discomfort, and significantly interfere with your life, says Psych. Nadia Paulina Arvizú Martínez, specialist in neuropsychology at ABC Medical Center.

Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive fear and worry and related behavioral disorders. The symptoms are severe enough to cause significant distress or functional disability. There are different types: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (characterized by excessive worry), Panic Disorder (characterized by panic attacks), Social Anxiety Disorder (excessive fear and worry in social situations), Separation Anxiety Disorder (which is excessive fear or anxiety in the face of separation from those individuals with whom the person has a deep emotional bond), etc.1

Different exercises will help you deal with anxiety in daily life:

Focus your attention on the present

If you feel yourself starting to have an anxiety attack, take a break to focus your attention on the present moment. Although feeling anxious makes this difficult, it is important to generate a sense of calm. If you are at home when this happens, you can look around you, contemplate a plant or a painting, walk a little, and pay attention to your surroundings. This is done to return to the present moment and be able to feel a little calmer.

Deep breaths

When we feel anxious we come to experience a physiological over-arousal, which accelerates our breathing and heart rate. To control this, Psych. Arvizú recommends performing a deep and slow breathing exercise, which will allow us to regulate this overactivation and have greater control over the physical symptoms that accompany anxiety.
For this, the following steps are recommended:

  • Inhale air through the nose for four seconds.
  • Hold your breath for another four seconds.
  • Exhale through your nose or mouth for four to seven seconds.

Perform this breathing routine for three minutes. You can do this type of strategy at any time of the day and regardless of whether you are sitting, lying down, or standing.

Relax your muscles progressively

It is common that when we feel tense or anxious our muscles contract. To avoid or reduce this, it is recommended to tense and relax the different muscle groups. This can be achieved in different ways, an example is starting from the toes and progressively working the legs, and torso, until reaching the neck or head, it can also be in the reverse direction, whichever best suits you. Try to perform the tension movements for five seconds and the relaxation movements for 30 seconds.

Practice a visualization exercise

This is another technique designed to distract you from a moment of anxiety and achieve greater control in your life. For this, you must try to imagine a situation where you are very relaxed, it can be a place, a space, or a situation. But you must do it using all your senses, for example:

If you are sitting by the sea, try to visualize the movement of the waves, how does the breeze feel? How does the sun feel on your skin? What sounds are there? and what aromas do you perceive? to name a few.

To perform this type of technique, you may want to go to a quiet place for a moment, where you can sit, close your eyes, and loosen your clothing a bit to make yourself more comfortable.

Question disruptive thoughts

Disruptive thoughts often accompany anxiety, causing us to have catastrophic ideas. At this time, it is recommended that you try to question your thoughts, contrasting them with reality. For example: if you have a fear that something will go very wrong at work or at school, you can try to question it by asking yourself, what evidence do I have that this is going to happen?
You can also resort to statements such as “What happened in the past does not mean that it always has to be this way”.

This is intended so that you can contrast the disruptive thoughts that are usually distorted and exaggerated about the bad aspects that you experience in a particular situation. Thanks to this you can achieve greater control mentally and feel calmer.

Take actions that help you regain control

Taking small actions will help you regain a sense of control during anxiety since at this time it is common to feel a loss of control in our lives. For this, it is advisable to perform small actions that allow you to recover the feeling of achievement and control.

An example of this is answering pending emails, ordering someplace in the house, or taking small actions that you had been putting off. All this will allow you to feel more in control and continue to manage anxiety better.

Additional tips

Lastly, Psych. Arvizú says that an excellent complement to the aforementioned techniques is to lead a healthy lifestyle by:

  • Exercising.
  • Eating healthy.
  • Sleeping the necessary time.
  • Enjoying the company of other people.

At ABC Medical Center’s Neurology Center, we can provide you with specialized care. Contact us!

Psych. Nadia Paulina Arvizú Martínez – specialist in neuropsychology

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