Seeing as close to 15 percent of Australians suffer from anxiety disorders, that’s more than one in ten of our fellow countrymen who find themselves experiencing unwanted feelings of panic and stress.
There are tried and true tested methods of helping to manage panic disorders, ideally including the help of a medical professional. But those suffering from anxiety often find their own, additional ways of coping that can be immensely useful.
We asked six Mamamia staffers who suffer from anxiety to describe the slightly usual ways they help themselves stave off panic.
“I shave my legs”.
“When I have bad anxiety, I just have to take control of everything I CAN control and make better in that moment,” Polly says. “So it can be washing my hair, shaving my legs, putting entirely clean clothes on, tidying stuff. Sounds really basic, like I’m telling someone with depression to go get a manicure. But I swear it works for me as 1. It occupies my mind, and 2. I feel more in control”.
“I do colouring and crosswords”.
“When I’m feeling stuck in an anxiety rut, I turn to creative things to take my mind off the tide of swelling stuff in my head. It’s going to sound so cliched and “mindfulness schmindfulness”, but adult colouring-in books are the bomb,” Adam says.
“Especially if the patterns are complicated and make you focus on what’s in front of you. You pick the colours you feel like working with, it’s all in your control. I once started a pattern with dark, stormy colours because I was feeling overwhelmed, and it progressively got lighter and lighter as I felt the load slowly lifting a bit.”
“Recently my cousin got me a book of colour-in mandalas and sudoku…yep, that’s peak mindfulness for you. The other thing I love is crosswords – regular or cryptic. They make my mind focus on one of the things I love most…words!”
"I force myself not to speak".
"I have a weird form of anxiety where it is like a stream of extremely negative self talk, so I have a rule that I don't verbalise/express any of the things I'm feeling in the moment I'm feeling them, because it creates a vicious cycle and is like pouring petrol on it," Michelle says. "Not verbalising my negative thoughts makes them eventually fade away. I just observe how I'm feeling as if I'm on the outside, acknowledge that it's probably not true and is irrational, and let it pass."
"I squeeze putty".
Jessie finds her Thinking Putty useful. She squeezes it when she feels anxious instead of grabbing her phone. "I even do it at the movies," she explains, adding that the putty has replaced reaching for her mobile phone, which can be the opposite of a good distraction. She also waits 90 seconds for her feelings to change, giving the anxiety time to dissipate, and does breathing exercises.
"I take a stroll".
"I tip drawers out".
"The key to stopping myself from having a full-blown panic attack is engaging my mind with a very heavy distraction. It takes just a minute or two to switch gears from my flight or fight response going off to my brain realising I'm safe, everything is okay, and I need to focus on the task in front of me," Marta says.
"The fastest way to do this for me, is to just tip out a drawer full of stuff on the floor or bed and re-organise it. Any menial organisation - the pantry, my perfume drawer, my accessory cabinet - works wonders. I refocus and the panic vanishes on it's own. Arranging something pretty you can play with, like lipsticks or trinkets, is all the better. "
"Another tip that's changed my life, is when I start getting the palpitations (racing heartbeat) that often come with anxiety, I hold my nose and blow till my ears pop. I have no idea why this works, but it always slows down my heartbeat after a few goes. It's saved me from countless acute panic attacks just in time".