Anxiety is a subjective state of apprehension and uneasiness that often occurs in a manner disproportionate to the actual source. Others may see the anxious response as an overreaction or the actual source of anxiety may be difficult to determine. It can be generalized or it can be specific (e.g. phobias). Some anxiety can manifest itself as a panic episode. Finally, it may also be associated with recurrent worries accompanied by repeat behaviors (e.g. checking) designed to reduce the anxiety, as in the case of obsessive compulsive disorder. Causes of anxiety can be due to any combination of genetic predisposition, stress, or use of certain substances (e.g. caffeine, marijuana). Treatment often includes medication and/or talk therapy.

Tips on How to Deal With Panic and Anxiety

  • Breathe – Focus on your breathing. Inhale through your nose slowly for two seconds, mentally counting, “1-one thousand, 2-one thousand,” then exhale through your mouth to a mental count of four seconds. Do this for about one minute.
  • Permission – Give yourself permission to feel anxious for a while: “I know what this is and it will pass.”
  • Mindful Awareness and Acceptance – Practice acceptance for what you are feeling without judgment or self-berating.
  • Inner Dialogue / Self Talk – Use positive, comforting dialogue instead of scaring yourself further. “I’m OK, it won’t hurt me and it will go away. I can function perfectly well even if I’m feeling a bit spacey.”
  • Visualization – Visualize yourself in a safe place or recall a time when you had warm positive feelings.
  • Distract – Get busy and do something active to burn off some of this self-induced stimulation. Go for a walk, go on a bicycle ride, or clean out a closet.
  • Relaxation and Comfort – Listen to a relaxation audio tape or tranquil music. Or take a soothing shower or bath.
  • Take care of your body – Make sure you haven’t skipped any meals, avoid caffeine, and avoid alcohol. Consider exercise.
  • Let time pass – Again, there’s no emergency, it’s no big deal, and this discomfort WILL pass.

Noteworthy Point: Those who suffer panic attacks usually fear they are going to have a heart attack or “go insane” but there is no evidence to support this link. Therefore it is important to remember that it is only a feeling and like all feelings the sensation will pass.

Need some help relaxing?

Download our “Relaxation Techniques” handout.