10 Unique Tricks in My Self-Help Toolbox to Stop Panic Attacks

Racing heart. Shaking hands. Shallow breath. Have you been there lately?

Earlier this week, I felt the anxiety seeded in my belly grow up into my chest and lungs. I knew I had nearly 10 sacred minutes to de-escalate my anxiety before it manifested into a panic attack. You know: the ugly, sobbing kind? I checked the time. 4:30 a.m. I quickly opened my iPhone notes app and reviewed the mini self-help toolbox I created when the world was filled with bright rainbows, sunshine and sparkles.

“I have choices. I have choices. I have choices.” I reminded myself as I reviewed the list:

1. Text the team.

One of the most difficult aspects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, etc. is how isolating the battle can feel when you’re all alone. Sending a quick and transparent message to trusted members of your inner circle invites people in to love and support you when you’re most vulnerable. Sometimes just knowing your lifelines are ready to help can put your catastrophic thoughts at ease. What do you need? Who can you ask to stand by your side?

2. Productive procrastination.

My panic attack symptoms typically reach their peak within 10 minutes before my body exhausts itself and calms down. How many hours have you wasted watching cute animal videos online? Exactly. Cue the YouTube and wait out the beast that is anxiety.

3. Spontaneous solo dance rave.

If your heart rate is rapidly increasing, why not make it… fun! Blast your favorite music and bring out the dance moves. It’s difficult to feel two contradictory emotions at the same time. If dancing makes you smile, you’ll find it hard to frown.

4. Perfect that bar trick.

Let’s get down to business in learning a new skill. There isn’t time now to magically perfect that meditation breathing exercise, but how about that creative bar trick meant to diffuse your social anxiety? Assuming all my friends with cool bar tricks practiced theirs while avoiding a panic attack, too…

5. Send adorable spam.

Which friend likes teacher memes? Who is obsessed with vintage wedding dresses? Which new restaurant will we try for our upcoming date night? Find the answers to life’s most important questions and send them out to the respective loved ones.

6. Research a favorite friend’s favorite interests.

Food. Wine. Music. I’m aiming to impress them with how much I cared to research these topics that I know so little about. These topics are broad enough to take a few minutes, right?

7. Engage in the self-love trifecta.

Three words: Bath. Wine. Chocolate.

8. Make a middle school mixed tape.

When’s the last time I listened to “Ride Wit Me,” “Sk8er Boi” and “Get Low?” Make a playlist. Immediately refer back to idea number three.

9. Emergency 25 dollar fun fund.

Is Target open? No. OK! Online Shopping it is! Google a BuzzFeed list of great buys on amazon and fill up a cart! This isn’t a great solution, but heck, it might take a while to find the right combination of items exactly under 25 dollars.

10. Craft the world’s best love letter.

When your brain, heart and lungs are racing down a deep, dark road, remember that love is the best cure. Open your email and address a message to “you know who.” Think, “what is your favorite memory together,” “what is their best quality,” or “what is something I always wanted to tell them?” Eh! Why not answer all three? Write. Stream of consciousness of pure love. Just click send. Daydream about the incredibly thoughtful response you’ll find in your inbox.

These tricks can be useful to stop a panic attack when you are alone. However, nothing quite substitutes professional help. Most importantly, when you’re feeling good, it’s a great time to engage in proactive measures to reduce stress and decrease the likelihood of future panic attacks. A few of my favorite examples of self-care are meditation, exercise, sleep and journaling!

This piece was originally published on The Odyssey

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Unsplash photo via Elijah Henderson

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