Well, it’s happened again. I’ve had another anxiety attack. Weirdly, this time I didn’t even notice it until it was over, and my face hurt. My face hurt, because my anxiety attack came in the form of me subconsciously scratching my face while my heart raced. I scraped off all of my makeup, and with it, a lot of skin.
Gross, right? I’ve had anxiety attacks where I can’t stop touching my face, but this is the first time I’ve scraped it to the point of causing damage. Luckily, it seems to be healing well, and without scarring.
It was so scary to see the aftermath of what I had done without even knowing it. Anxiety attacks come in a variety of forms, but I usually feel a lot more symptoms at once, so this was odd. I chalk it up to my medication. (You know, Rexulti can cause or exacerbate compulsive behaviors. Maybe that’s it.)
Anyway, I wanted to get some tips for how to spot and handle anxiety attacks, and decided to share with our followers who might need the information.
Anxiety Attack Symptoms
- Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- Feelings of choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
- Chills or heat sensations
- Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
- Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
- Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
- Fear of dying
How to Handle an Anxiety Attack
1. Acceptance and recognition -Remember that they pass, and this panicked state will not last forever.
2. Deep breathing -Breathe steadily, counting to four breathing in, and then out.
3. Inhale lavender -Lavender has calming qualities, which may help to relieve some symptoms of anxiety.
4. Medication -If you are experiencing anxiety attacks, medication may help to slow the symptoms, control them, or help you relax. Talk to your doctor, and keep your meds on you if you need them.
5. Limit stimuli -Find a peaceful spot with dimmed lighting, or turn the lighting off. (I go into my windowless bathroom with the lights off, and curl up on the cool tile floor, usually.) Loud noises and bright lighting can exacerbate an anxiety attack.
6. Learn triggers -Anxiety attacks can often be triggered by the same things. Avoiding triggers can help you decrease the frequency or intensity of an attack.
7. Light exercise -Exercise releases endorphins, which relax and lift your mood. A light walk might help to calm the anxiety attack.
8. Mindfulness exercises –
- Look at five separate things, thinking about each for some time.
- Listen for four distinct sounds, and examine what is different about each one.
- Touch three objects. Consider the texture, temperature, and uses.
- Identify two different smells. Do they trigger any memories?
- Taste something. This could be a fingertip or a piece of candy.
9. Focus on an object -Concentrating on one specific thing in front of you can help relieve some symptoms of anxiety attacks. For example, I will often stare at the flame of a candle if I feel symptoms develop.
10. Try muscle relaxation techniques -Muscle tension is a major symptom of anxiety attacks, relieving that tension can help lessen the pain and breathing difficulties.
11. Picture a happy place -Close your eyes and picture a place that makes you feel happy and secure.
12. Repeat a mantra -The repetition can have a calming effect. I use the mantra regularly: “You are strong, you are confident, you are beautiful, you are intelligent, you are unique.” Feel free to steal it, if these are things you also struggle with accepting.
13. Tell people -Tell people your triggers or patterns, so that they can better help you in the future.