MY COPING TECHNIQUES & STRATEGIES FOR PANIC ATTACKS
I have now been through three lots of therapy: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Counselling and Counselling for Domestic Abuse Survivors. I am currently waiting to start Dialectal Behavioural Therapy soon as well!
Through my time in therapy, there was always a lot of talk about coping mechanisms and distraction techniques to help calm my social anxiety. Which is fab. However, I think that everyone responds to these techniques in different ways and I found that they never really put an emphasis on this. I assumed that because these coping techniques didn’t work for me, that there was something wrong with me or I did it wrong (which triggers the whole self blame side of my BPD.) Another side that I struggled with was that because of my BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), my brain goes from 0 to 100 in a few seconds which doesn’t leave me a lot of room to “calm” my anxiety before it gets to boiling point.
As a result of this – I ended up learning a few of my own techniques which I found to be a bit more useful for me personally. I think a big part of this is recognising what triggers your anxiety. I know that big crowds, with a lot of noise overwhelms me and sends me into a mad panic. If I am too warm, it makes me feel claustrophobic and I panic.
What I have found helps me is ensuring that I am able to take layers of clothing off if I can feel myself getting too warm. I have been known to be stood outside in a vest top and shorts while it is snowing so that the cold air grounds me in moments of panic. This obviously takes a bit of forward thinking which lets be real, for me to be going anywhere has been planned waaaay in advance.
I also have a couple of packets of chewing gum in my handbag. This tip has been a LIFE SAVER for me. Chewing gum gives your brain something else to focus on without having to do anything. Pop a bit of chewing gum into your mouth doesn’t take as much thinking as other grounding techniques which is amazing in moments of panic. I do tend to need at least three packets on me when I am going out as I go through them so quickly (I am aware that too much chewing gum can ruin your teeth/upset your stomach), but it is not as though I go out very often. To be honest, anxiety causes my stomach to hurt anyway so it doesn’t really make too much of a difference to me.
If I can, I will take myself outside for a cigarette, not exactly the most healthy of techniques but I find that it helps regulate my breathing while I am having a panic attack. It also gives my brain something else to focus on without doing too much, similarly to the chewing gum. Disclaimer: I am not recommending that you should take up smoking just to help regulate your breathing mid-panic attack. I am however planning on quitting which means that I will need to learn how to cope without.
Everyone has different tips, strategies and coping techniques when it comes to social anxiety. My coping techniques are a little bit more obscure compared to what I have learned through therapy. But I guess, if they help – then they help! What are your tips for dealing with those awful rush of panic?