It is the best tool i’ve got. If I could give someone one piece of advise for what to do in a panic attack it would be distract, distract and distract.
I know you are supposed to ultimately face your panic attacks and try to work through them and feel your feelings and fight the battles in your head and tell yourself there is nothing to really be afraid of. However, if you aren’t in a place to fight I would say use distraction. This is easier in the short term.
iphones are the best thing you have for distraction. You can call someone, listen to some music, listen to instructions on deep breathing, look at your notes (where you made notes for yourself on what to do/say during a panic attack), look at your favorite apps to take your mind off things (my personal favorites are about celebrity gossip) or pretend someone is calling you and you need to leave the room (if feeling stuck is what is making you anxious). Hell you can use your phone to google what to do in a panic attack. I had anxiety in the pre-smartphone era but at least I had a cell phone to call my mom to talk me off the ledge (not literally). I believe the invention of smart phones made a huge difference for people with anxiety.
I have had numerous panic attacks while driving and having a smart phone is very useful. The first thing I might do is call my husband or my mom. They know the drill, they tell me everything is going to be okay and then they talk to me about anything else to distract me away from my feelings of panic. There have been times when I have pulled over and started using my phone to distract myself. I will look at emails, check the weather, look to see what is going on in the world of celebrity gossip since the last time I checked (probably not more than a couple hours if I’m being honest).
You don’t need an iPhone to distract yourself. Flying is a guaranteed panic attack for me. I am always on Xanax when I fly but I still feel anxious especially when I first get on the plane and during take off. I hate flying and I hate that they make you turn off your phone. This is when I need it the most!!! So what do I do?? I bring my gossip magazines with me and I try to read them like the flight attendants are going to quiz me on what celebrities are banging before I can get my diet coke. I also try to read a book (note- start the book before getting on the plane and get to a part that really intrigues you and then wait to keep reading when you get on the plane). I have done coloring books and crossword puzzles. If I have someone with me then I talk to them. I try to focus on something I am really excited about in the future. We are always doing work on our home so I will focus on a project in our house and write down the things I need to do and draw my design for the room. I also listen to relaxation and breathing exercises on my ipod even though they tell you not to have your electronic devices on during take off. Sorry flight attendants but I think you would rather me have my iPod on than have me lose my shit on this flight 🙂
If you are driving and feeling anxious I think it helps to pull over and go into a store. Just being around other people and focusing on everything in the store helps to take my mind off feeling anxious. You can get all wrapped up in your own little world of anxious thoughts and it helps when you immerse yourself in society and you stop fousing so much on yourself. Hopefully it is a store or reastuarant that you like but any place will do when needed.
Treat yo self! Well since you’re in a store you might as well treat yo self! If the items in the store aren’t your thing then you can get out your phone and buy something online or plan to treat yo self later. When I am entereing a situation that I know is going to make me anxious I will tell myself that I will buy myself something when I make it through the situation. You don’t need to break the bank here. I am talking about getting an ice cream, a t-shirt or a whatever it is that gets you excited. You know your bank account, do what you gotta do to treat yo self without going into debt.
If my kids are with me I focus on them. Just looking at their cute little faces and talking to them makes me feel better. It also reminds me that I don’t want to be the crazy mom and I don’t want to traumatize my kids with my anxiety. It gives me motivation to keep my shit together in front of them and also just seeing their innocent faces reminds me there is nothing to really panic over.
If you don’t have anxiety but know someone who does please remember this the next time they are having a panic attack. One way to help them is to try and distract them. Talk to them about something you know that they love. They may do well answering questions or they may just want to hear you talk. Follow their lead and don’t get upset if they tell you to shut the hell up. I would keep trying different ways to distract them unless it is making them very upset. If they tell you they just want to be left alone then I would respect their wishes. When the panic attack is over you can ask them if they think you could try distracting them the next time and ask them what they would want to talk about.
I would also like to give an honorable mention to Xanax but it doesn’t help you right away. It can take time to kick in and when the panic attack is coming you don’t have time to wait for it to start working. So sorry Xanax but you need to work on getting into my bloodstream faster! My husband told me to let it dissolve under my tongue to get it to kick in faster. I usually feel better as soon as I take it because just knowing it’s in me and about to take effect helps calm me down. I don’t mean to sound like a drug addict but I highly recommend it when needed.