What can I do before an anxiety attack?
Psychological tips to know how to react to an anxiety attack.
Anxiety attacks are a reality as common as it is annoying. However, human beings are not totally unprotected against them.
In this article, we will review some strategies and guidelines that you can follow when you notice that you are having an anxiety attack.
What is an anxiety attack?
An anxiety attack is a fact of experiencing, for a relatively short period, levels of anxiety significantly higher than normal, to the point that in certain circumstances it can constitute a problem.
And on the other hand … what is anxiety? It is a set of physiological symptoms (that is, related to the automatic and unconscious biological mechanisms of our body, closely linked to the segregation of hormones) and psychological (that is, pertaining to our emotions, thoughts, and behavior patterns) that predisposes us to be alert and to have the ability to react quickly to the first signs that something is wrong or that we may miss a key opportunity for us.
Although we normally associate anxiety with an unpleasant experience, the truth is that it is part of the normal functioning of the human body; For hundreds of thousands of years it has helped us to survive and adapt to the environment, and today it continues to do so even if our way of life keeps us away from the predators of the animal kingdom and we do not expose ourselves too much to the danger of being physically injured; guides us towards solving urgent problems, makes us keep important aspects of the social interactions in which we participate on our “radar”, and so on.
However, no product of biological evolution is infallible, and this is true of anxiety as well. Sometimes, this gives rise to problematic behavior patterns that we internalize without realizing it, and can even lead us to generate additional problems to those that are affecting us. For example, under certain circumstances, anxiety can contribute to not studying enough for an exam, by dint of postponing study sessions so as not to have to think about the day of the test.
Something similar usually happens with anxiety attacks. Sometimes, our anxiety levels skyrocket for several hours making us have to deal with a challenge added to the one that has produced that emotional reaction.
To this, we must add that sometimes we get very anxious without there being a specific trigger or an easy to identify the cause. And this predisposes us to continue reinforcing the anxiety attack, as it is difficult for us to direct our actions towards the resolution of a specific problem beyond how bad we feel. By becoming obsessed with stopping feeling bad, we pay more attention to anxiety, thereby perpetuating those kinds of situations. making it difficult for us to return to a “resting” psychological state.
Is it the same as a panic attack?
An anxiety attack is not exactly the same as a panic attack, although both phenomena involve a number of common physiological and psychological symptoms and it is common to confuse them with each other.
In short, a panic attack is part of psychopathology, while an anxiety attack is one of the ways in which we can feel anxious, something completely natural and that does not have to involve the fact of having developed a diagnosable psychological disorder.
In addition, while panic attacks last several minutes and produce a very intense discomfort that goes hand in hand with radical alterations in the way in which the person thinks and perceives their environment, the anxiety attack is more variable in terms of its duration, although it tends to develop for a longer time and does not produce such intense symptoms, nor does it lead to such obvious cognitive distortions.
This brings us to the other big difference between panic attacks and anxiety attacks. In the former, the most common is that the person fears for his own life and is afraid of dying, even if there are no objective reasons to assume that he is in danger. For example, the person may believe that they are going to choke or have a heart attack despite not having symptoms.
Thus, for a few minutes, the panic attack induces us into a psychological state in which we believe that what we do can make the difference between life and death, and we perceive our body as something separate from us, which we cannot control and that it is unpredictable (what is known as derealization occurs). Anxiety attacks, on the other hand, are rather a quantitative alteration of the anxiety levels that we experience on a day-to-day basis, and not so much a qualitative alteration of these; Although it can be part of psychopathology, this is not usually the case.
What to do before an anxiety attack?
If at any point you notice that you are beginning to develop symptoms of an anxiety attack, keep these tips in mind.
1. Excuse yourself or go to a quieter place
You don’t have to be obsessed with looking for a place that offers you complete privacy and is totally silent, just go to a space that offers more calm than the one you are in.
2. Focus on your breathing
When we feel a lot of anxiety, it is important not to let our mind lurch, because this will increase our feeling of loss of control and we will feed psychological rumination, which exposes us time after time to a whole series of recurring thoughts that generate disturbances. stress.
To achieve this, something that is often useful is to focus attention on how we breathe, taking deep and slow breaths in and out, without rushing. This repetitive task will help you to “readjust” your emotional state, and it will also prevent anxiety from leaving you with a lack of oxygenation of the blood.
3. Focus on the sensations of the here and now
During an anxiety attack, it is recommended that you direct your psychological activity towards the physical sensations linked to the stimuli of the present, instead of losing yourself in complex psychological processes associated with abstract thoughts. In this way, you will “reset” and, from the acceptance of the here and now, you will be able to think clearly again without giving in to the inertia of fear, obsessions, etc.
That is precisely the purpose of objects such as elastic stress balls, although you do not need to carry an object of these characteristics with you. Just focus on what you play, what you listen to, etc.
What can I do before an anxiety attack?