Mental Health

5 Simple Ways to Cope with Anxiety Attacks

I’ve talked a lot about my depression, but not as much anxiety. My anxiety doesn’t give me as much trouble as it used to, but there are still days (especially at work) where I start to feel an anxiety attack coming on. Here are a few things I do to stop it so I can get back to what I want to be doing.

1. Text Games

So basically text games are something you can play with a friend over iMessage or text. You can also play it by yourself, or even out loud. It’s a quiet way to get your mind off what’s causing your anxiety attack.

My favorite text game is the alphabet game, where you pick a category (I usually pick animals or food, but you could really do anything) and you go back and forth naming something for each letter of the alphabet. Here’s an example.

Me: A is for Aardvark

Friend: B is for Beaver

Me: C is for Cat

2. Grounding Exercises

This is actually kind of similar to the last one! There are a lot of grounding exercises you can do, but my favorite is another text game that I call 54321. I learned it from, I believe, RecoverYourLife.com, which is a forum for people with mental illnesses, especially those that struggle with self harm.

You can also do this by yourself, but if I play it with a friend we will both do each of the steps. You name:

5 things you see around you

4 things you can feel (like touch)

3 things you can hear

2 things you like the smell of

1 thing you like about yourself

3. Prayer

This one probably should have been first, because I try to pray without ceasing, like we are taught in 1 Thessalonians. Sometimes, especially if I’m having trouble falling asleep because I’m anxious, I lay in bed and pour my thoughts out to God, and that makes me feel better. Even something quick, like “God, please let this anxiety pass quickly,” can help us calm down and redirect our attention for a moment.

4. Deep Breathing Exercises

My favorite deep breathing exercise is one called ‘square breathing’. It’s really easy to do and requires nothing other than you focusing on your breath! To do square breathing, all you have to do is breathe in for four counts, hold your breath for four counts, breathe out for four counts, and hold your breath for four counts. Then repeat until you start to calm down. I’ve read that this works because it calms down your natural sense to hyperventilate when you are having an anxiety attack!

Another breathing exercise you can do is using the Breathe app if you have an Apple Watch. It only takes one minute!

5. Journaling

If you have a little more time to spend, something that can be very helpful to unload your thoughts is journaling. I actually journal with a simple composition notebook and stick pens, because I feel like I have to be perfect if I’m writing in a much fancier journal. But you can do whatever you feel comfortable with! I just tend to write stream of consciousness, talking about whatever comes into my mind. I don’t let anyone (even my fiancé) read my journal, so I don’t feel any pressure to write the ‘right’ thing or censor my thoughts.

What do you guys do to help with an anxiety attack or anxiety in general?

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