Tips to deal with an anxiety crisis or attack

An anxiety crisis can take on various forms and symptoms that can even be confused with other situations, generating a very uncomfortable and frightening experience. If you are going through one, I offer you, my solidarity. Ideally, always seek emergency healthcare services if you are unsure of what is happening or if you are uncertain about being able to handle it alone. 

I understand that you may be in need of support and immediate relief techniques for various reasons, which is why I am providing this text with some information that can help you alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of your anxiety more immediately. 

The treatment of dysfunctional anxiety (the type that causes distress and/or discomfort and disrupts our lives) includes therapy, possible use of medication, and recommendations for lifestyle changes. Additionally, fortunately, there are evidence-based techniques that can help alleviate anxiety and prevent or manage anxiety crises, and I will share some of them with you in this text. None of them is an instant cure for anxiety (because that doesn’t exist), but if used correctly and persistently, they can be very helpful, especially at the beginning of a crisis. The closer you apply the techniques to the onset of crisis symptoms, the more effective they will be. 

It’s important to keep in mind that, like any activity, the more we practice, the greater the chance of gaining proficiency and seeing results. In your initial attempts, you may not see as much result as you would like, but that might just mean you need to keep testing. 

An important part of the discomfort caused by an anxiety crisis comes from the feeling of losing control over the intensity of our emotions and physical sensations, and a great starting point can be simply trying to focus on identifying or mentally listing what you are feeling during the crisis. But it’s okay if you can’t do that, as we have other possibilities like breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and visualization. 


Breathing Techniques for Dealing with an Anxiety Crisis 

Breathing plays a central role in the development and control of an anxiety crisis. Breathing control and attention techniques can be very effective in dealing with the symptoms. 


Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing involves taking deep breaths through the nose, expanding the abdomen, and feeling the air descend into the diaphragm instead of the chest. Then, exhale slowly through the mouth, emptying the air from the diaphragm and contracting the abdomen. Repeat several times, focusing on the sensation of deep breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing helps reduce heart rate and blood pressure, which can help calm the mind and body.


Square Breathing

Square breathing involves inhaling through the nose, counting to four, holding the breath for a count of four, exhaling through the mouth for a count of four, and then holding the breath again for a count of four. Repeat several times, maintaining the same count during each phase of breathing.


Alternate Nostril Breathing

Sit in a comfortable position and use your right thumb to close your right nostril while inhaling through the left nostril. Then, close the left nostril with your left ring finger and exhale through the right nostril. Repeat several times, alternating the nostrils you use for inhaling and exhaling. 


Muscle Relaxation 

Muscle relaxation can alleviate physical and mental tension, reducing anxiety symptoms. When we are anxious, our bodies tend to become tense, with contracted muscles and a rigid posture, which can generate discomfort and worsen anxiety symptoms. 

Relaxation can reduce heart rate and blood pressure, contributing to reducing the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing heartbeat and shortness of breath. 

It is ideal to practice relaxation regularly so that its effects can be perceived in the long term. 


Jacobson’s Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This technique involves tensing and relaxing each muscle group in the body one at a time, starting from the feet and working up to the head. To perform the technique, lie down or sit comfortably, take a few deep breaths, and focus on each muscle group, squeezing it for a few seconds before completely relaxing it.


Diaphragmatic Breathing with Muscle Tension

This technique combines diaphragmatic breathing with muscle tension to promote relaxation. Start by taking deep breaths through the nose, then pause for a few seconds before exhaling slowly through the mouth. While exhaling, tense the muscles of the face, neck, and shoulders. Then release the muscle tension while inhaling again and repeat the process.


Guided Imagery

This technique involves mentally visualizing relaxing and tranquil scenes, such as a beach or a garden. To perform the technique, lie down or sit comfortably, take a few deep breaths, and imagine yourself in a peaceful and serene place. Focus on every detail of the environment and let your mind relax. 


Visualization Techniques for Symptom Relief 

Visualizations are based on the principle that the mind and body are interconnected, and that imagination can have a direct effect on emotions and physical sensations. When a person is experiencing an anxiety crisis, they tend to focus on negative thoughts and worries, which increases the sense of discomfort and panic. 

These techniques can help shift the focus from negative thoughts to more positive and relaxing images. They are capable of calming the mind and helping the body relax, reducing the “fight or flight” response that occurs during an anxiety crisis. 

For example, if a person is having an anxiety crisis related to a future situation, such as a work presentation, visualization can help them imagine themselves performing successfully and receiving praise from the audience. This can help reduce anxiety related to the situation. 


Tranquil Garden

Imagine a tranquil and serene garden in your mind. Visualize every detail – the flowers, the trees, the sky. Imagine yourself walking through the garden, feeling the sun on your face and the breeze in your hair. As you walk, feel your breathing becoming deeper and calmer. Imagine that with each inhale, you are absorbing the serenity and peace of the garden. As you exhale, imagine that you are releasing all your worries and fears.


Serene Ocean

Visualize a serene ocean in your mind. Imagine yourself sitting on the beach, watching the waves gently move towards the shore. Focus on your breathing and imagine that with each inhale, you are absorbing the calmness of the ocean. As you exhale, imagine that you are releasing all your worries and tensions. As you concentrate on your breathing and the gentle movement of the waves, you feel your mind and body relax.


Protective Bubble

Visualize yourself surrounded by a protective bubble in your mind. This bubble is strong and resilient, capable of repelling any source of stress or anxiety. Imagine that the bubble completely surrounds you, protecting you from all sides. As you inhale, imagine the bubble expanding, becoming stronger and more protective. As you exhale, imagine the bubble contracting again, enveloping you in a comforting and protective embrace. Feel safe and secure within the bubble, knowing that nothing can disturb you while you are inside it. 

These guided visualization techniques can help calm the mind and reduce the symptoms of an anxiety crisis by focusing on soothing and comforting images and deep breathing. 


The techniques I have taught in this text do not constitute a treatment for anxiety, mainly because its causes are diverse and require psychological and possibly medical supervision for effective treatment and lasting effects. In a therapeutic process of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), we can understand your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that may be triggering harmful anxiety processes, and together we can find ways to modify them using CBT techniques. 


Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

2 Comentários

  1. An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I do think that you should publish more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people dont speak about such subjects. To the next! Cheers!!

    1. Thank you for your contribution! I will! Did you check my other articles? There’s more about managing anxiety. 😊

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