- Kim Keys, LCPC
4-Step Panic Management Plan
Did you know anxiety is currently the #1 reason people seek mental health counseling? You’re not alone and it’s very treatable. Anxiety is a physical reaction (it won’t kill you, I promise… even though it feels like it might) to a PERCEIVED stressor. The problem is, there is rarely any logical source. It’s sort of the body’s version of having a wonky electrical system. What we need to do is help our body re-regulate itself so we can feel back in control.
Try these 4 steps
STEP 1: SLOW your breathing. When anxiety sets in, our breathing becomes shallow and erratic. This decreases oxygen to the brain and can lead to a full-blown panic attack. Slow your breathing by inhaling deeply to the count of 5 and holding for 2 seconds until exhaling fully. Do this 10 times.
STEP 2: Diaphragm breathing. Most people don’t pay attention to HOW they breathe. Another way to get control of your breath and to calm your heart rate while increasing oxygen to the brain is learning to breathe into your diaphragm. Start by lying on the floor and placing a book on your stomach. As you inhale, make the book go up. When you exhale make the book go down. Practice this daily so that you can use this in the moment when anxiety begins to set in.
STEP 3: Ground yourself. In times of fear the body’s fight or flight response is in overdrive. For folks with anxiety this body response can happen even when there’s no real danger, so while you’re trying to stay calm, your brain is in ‘flee’ mode and trying to run away. Ground yourself back to your surroundings by naming (out loud) 6 things you can see around you, 5 things you can feel, 4 things you can hear and 3 things you can smell.
STEP 4: Use thought-stoppers! When we become scared, our thoughts can become rapid & illogical. We begin thinking far into the future and making all kinds of assumptions about what terrible things might happen. It’s a downward thought-spiral and it’s important STOP these thoughts from spiraling. One helpful tool is to wear a rubber band on your wrist. When you notice your thoughts spiraling, snap it against your skin. Keep doing it until you can successfully stop spiraling thinking.
If you have tried these steps and are still suffering from too much anxiety, you may need supplements or medication to help you feel calmer. This is especially true if you’ve had a history of trauma or abuse. You may need to talk to a trained counselor. There is help! Give us a call today.