When I first experienced anxiety in high school, I didn’t understand what was happening to me. Why was I always so sad? Why did my heart beat so fast? Why was I worrying all the time and why couldn’t I breathe? When I was able to put a label on it, go to therapy and figure out how to deal with it, it was so much easier to handle my issues. Even though I have come to terms with how to handle my anxiety, for someone who is just experiencing anxiety for the first time (and there’s definitely a lot of people who don’t know how to handle it), it can be a very jarring experience. Something that was really difficult for me to deal with when my anxiety attacks were getting worse, was how to deal with the anxiety in a public place. I knew how to handle myself when I was home, in my own space but when I started having anxiety attacks in public: in class, in the bar, at work… it was a real problem. But, I’ve learned there are ways to handle anxiety in situations that are always going to help – especially when panic attacks strike.
1. Remove yourself from any situation that triggers you.
When you feel an anxiety attack coming on, the first thing you should do is remove yourself from whatever situation you’re in. Clearly, what you’re doing or where you are is what therapists call “a trigger.” Whether that’s at the office, out with friends, or at a party, just get out of where you are. Your anxiety could be made worse by the crowd surrounding you or the situation you’re in so it’s best to step aside. Once you feel as though you’re in a safer environment, your mood and anxiety will shift.
2. Try the 4-2-4 breathing method.
The best breathing exercise for anxiety is four in, hold two, four out; inhale for four seconds and hold it in for 2 seconds, then exhale for four seconds. Once you have the rhythm going, you’ll feel much better and be able to think a little more clearly. Focus on your breathing and how your body feels. Even focus on your stomach as the air goes in and out. Getting your mind off of whatever is worrying you and focusing in on something will be helpful.
3. Get some fresh air.
While you’re removing yourself from the situation, the best thing to do is get some fresh air. Go outside, take a lap around the corner, just breathe in fresh air to really clear your head. If you go for a walk, the endorphins from the exercise will also be good to combat your anxiety.
4. Feel tears? Let them out.
When I feel really anxious, sometimes my emotions are so pent up I have to cry it out. It’s not about being sad or angry, it’s about just letting the emotions out and getting your feelings out there. If you feel like you need to cry, just do it. It doesn’t matter if anyone sees you, it’s what you have to do to be better. Once you cry, you will feel so much better and really help you think better.