Some people can pinpoint a moment in their life when they had their first and only panic attack. I am not one of those people. I’m naturally anxious, live in a constant state of borderline panic, and have had more panic attacks than I care to remember. As it’s something I always deal with, I click whenever I come across a headline that discuss ways to battle anxiety. A recent Real Simple article shares how to calm yourself down when you’re totally panicked. According to psychologist David L. Kupfer, “all living people experience some degree of anxiety.” Whether it’s a promotion you’re trying to get or a big test you have to pass, here are five ways to fight anxious negative thinking.
- Accept your panicked feelings. When I tell a trusted friend or family member, “I’m really nervous about this and am starting to feel panicked,” I immediately feel less anxious. “If your heart is racing, notice your heart is racing. If you’re worried about a financial problem, then acknowledge that you are worried,” Kupfer says. “Just acknowledge it. Observe it from the outside, in a detached, objective, nonjudgmental manner. Before long, you’ll realize those panicked feelings have passed.”
- Focus on something that is happening in the present moment. Stop yourself from traveling to a negative mental space by focusing on the present. What is happening right now? At this very moment? How does the floor feel below your feet? What does the couch cushion feel like against your back? Pay attention to the present, and things will become more tolerable.
- Make a mantra. This is a technique that I regularly employ. “Everything is okay. You are okay.” Repeat that to yourself over and over again. Once you say it enough, you will start to believe it.
- Reframe the situation. When you’re dating someone new who you really like, it can be easy to get anxious. How many times have you started to panic because he didn’t text you back? Assuming that he didn’t text you back on purpose because he doesn’t have reciprocal feelings will make you crazy. However, if you reframe the situation—perhaps his phone died, or maybe he is in an important meeting—you will instantly feel less anxious.
- Flood yourself with fear. If you’re really anxious about an upcoming event, grab a pen and paper and write down all your worries. Or record yourself saying them out loud into your phone. Kupfer says that “in a finite amount of time, I’ll either get bored imagining it, or I’ll realize [the thing I’m worried about] is not all that likely, or that it’s tolerable. The problem becomes solvable. The paradoxical approach might seem gimmicky at first, but it’s actually perfectly logical.”