I have suffered from generalized anxiety disorder for more than 10 years now. It doesn’t just mean I have regular panic attacks, it also means I am generally anxious about a lot of things. These things include talking to people, being in a crowd, struggling to process perceived pressure and also some days I am too anxious about leaving the house.
It’s not a great way to live, but over the years I have learned many strategies for how to calm the anxiety both in general and when I am having a full blown anxiety attack.
I have also learned ways to manage my life so the anxiety is less extreme and the panic attacks are fewer. These preventative measures I still need to use every day.
5 Senses For Anxiety
This is a great strategy for coping with an anxiety attack as it is happening. The problem we have with anxiety is that when that part of the brain takes over, the logical part of the brain stops functioning for us. This means it is very hard to get out of a highly emotional state by using logic and attacking our thoughts to try to calm ourselves.
So sometimes it is easier to stop fighting the anxiety attack directly, and instead try to focus our minds on seemingly unrelated things.
The 5 senses technique is one such strategy. It is also known as the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. It is also a great way to bring our minds to the present. It simply involves remembering what the 5 senses are (sight, touch, sound, smell, taste) and applying a 5 step strategy. All you have to do is this:
5. take a look at your surroundings and simply name 5 things you can see (say it out loud). They can be anything, what they are does not matter. The main thing that matters is to go through the exercise.
4. Name four things you can touch, and go ahead and touch them. Try to notice how they feel.
3. Name three things that you can hear. This could be the sound of the wind in the trees, cars going past, music, a clock ticking…anything works!
2. Name two things that you can smell. They don’t have to be pleasant smells, they just need to be smells that you can notice.
1. Name one thing you can taste. This could be from something you ate or drank earlier or even a piece of gum.
Once you have gone through this exercise you will notice that the worst of your anxiety attack has passed, and you can now get it under control and think your way through it.
Alternative Technique Using The 5 Senses
Like I said earlier, trying to battle your way through an anxiety attack using your logical brain is very difficult to do. With this strategy, we only need to remember the 5 senses.
How it works is you write down a few things for each of the 5 senses. These will be things that calm you. For example you might like a certain type of music so you would write that down under the sense of hearing. You may like certain aromas and find that they have a calming effect on you, so you would write those down under smell. Try to have a few things written down for each sense, and put the piece of paper somewhere prominent, such as on the fridge or folded up in your wallet.
Now the next time you have an anxiety attack, all you need to do is focus on those 5 senses and the things that you wrote down. So put on that music or light that scented candle and try to focus solely on that. This way you won’t get yourself even more overwhelmed trying to cope with your panic attack by using complex strategies or trying to remember them. Just focus on the things you wrote on your list and let the anxiety attack pass as you calm yourself.
Tips For How To Prevent Anxiety
Here are some tips for things you can do to reduce the regularity and impact of anxiety attacks. These are simple strategies which you can start doing today.
Avoid alcohol – you shouldn’t drink to cope with an anxiety attack because although it may make a difference in the short term, in the long term you will find it will make your anxiety worse. You should also avoid drinking excessively in general, as it is not good for anxiety and not good for your overall health and wellbeing.
Reduce your caffeine intake – excessive caffeine consumption is known to increase anxiety. Like with alcohol, you may feel better in the short term but in the long term it is not doing anything good for your anxiety. So if you can limit yourself to one cup of coffee in the morning at maximum, you have a better chance of keeping your anxiety under control. Soft drinks and so called energy drinks are also full of caffeine, so these should be avoided as much as possible.
Talk to someone who can relate – sometimes it can be quite difficult trying to explain your anxiety to someone who has never experienced it. Often they will simply tell you to calm down and not think like that. Of all the advice you can receive, this rates up there as some of the most useless. You don’t tell someone with a broken bone to simply stop having a broken bone, so telling someone with anxiety not to have it is pointless and unhelpful. Instead, try to talk to people who can relate. Sometimes just being able to let it out can be extremely helpful. Your friend may also offer you support or even have tips they can share with you on how to manage anxiety.
Exercise – going for a daily walk is healthy for you on so many levels, including keeping your anxiety under control. Try to be present when you go for your walk and notice all of the sights and smells around you. It is not necessary to turn yourself into a fitness fanatic, just a decent walk every day will be great for your anxiety, depression, health and fitness.
Practice mindfulness – practicing mindfulness should form a big part of your strategy to fight depression and anxiety. Being able to be present and in the moment and let negative feelings pass by will help to reduce the severity of your panic attacks and also reduce your general anxiety.
In fact, it has been proven that practicing mindfulness regularly is both great for your mental health and great for your overall health and wellbeing.
Write it down – Studies have proven that writing about our emotions can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels. It is also a great way to explore your emotions if you have trouble verbally discussing them. Being able to write them out freely and without judgement can be especially effective.
Shut the world out for a while – set aside some regular time (2-3 times per week is great, daily is awesome) where you turn off the phone, turn off the TV and ignore social media. Shut everything out and just dedicate this special time to yourself. You’ll find doing this removes some of the fuel for your worries and gives you time to think things through in a calm and relaxing setting. Having a bath and using your favorite fragrances while you do this is a great idea.
One program that has been shown to be highly effective against panic attacks is Panic Away. How do I know this? Because I bought and use the product myself. It has definitely helped with my anxiety and is some of the best money I have spent for it.
You can check out the program by clicking here or you can read my full review of it by clicking here
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