How To Stop An Anxiety Attack When You're In Public
Having an anxiety attack can be challenging enough on its own, but having one in public can add a whole new level of difficulty. Perhaps the first step to stopping an anxiety attack in public can be knowing how to identify when you're having one. The symptoms of an anxiety attack typically include overwhelming fear, a racing heart, difficulty breathing, chest pain, dizziness, nausea, tingling in the body, and hot flashes or chills. Strategies you may employ include controlling your breathing, practicing mindfulness, loosening your muscles, and escaping to your happy place. Working with a licensed therapist in person or online can also be helpful for managing anxiety.
Control your breathing
When an anxiety attack starts, it often begins with shortness of breath. When you feel like you are having difficulty breathing, your anxiety may worsen, which can lead to other symptoms as well. When you first realize you are experiencing shortness of breath, it's generally recommended that you begin to control your breathing to stop the anxiety attack from worsening.
Experts typically advise people who experience anxiety attacks to prepare for this situation by practicing breathing exercises on a regular basis. This way, you may be familiar with the process when anxiety strikes. Taking deep breaths can calm your mind and body, which may stop the symptoms from progressing. Here are the steps you can practice:
- Breathe in deeply through your nose. Make sure that you are filling your lungs completely, not just the top portion. When people are in the habit of shallow breathing, they are usually only filling their lungs partially.
- Once your lungs are full, hold your breath while you count to three in your head.
- Open your mouth slightly and exhale slowly through your mouth.
Taking a moment to do these breathing exercises might be just what you need to stop an anxiety attack. It can also be a simple thing to do when in public without drawing a lot of attention to yourself. Consider stepping away from the crowd for a minute and focus on your breathing.
Practicing mindfulness usually means paying attention to what you are thinking about. You may observe your thoughts without judgment and focus on the current moment. You can choose which thoughts to focus on instead of letting them be carried away by your emotions. This practice can be challenging at first, but it can also be helpful when trying to stop an anxiety attack. Consider taking steps to calm your mind, and your body may follow.
Practicing mindfulness can help you better control a situation when anxiety is starting to overwhelm you. This may keep anxiety attacks from progressing further. In some cases, it may prevent them altogether. In essence, this practice can help you recognize the signals of an attack so that when you are in public, you will know what to do to regain control.
Make a friend aware
If you're going to be in a social setting with a friend, and you are worried about having a panic attack, it may be a good idea to make them aware of your concern. You can help them understand your situation by letting them know the symptoms you experience and how to recognize when an anxiety attack may be beginning. You might also want to let them know about things that can trigger anxiety for you so they can recognize them in a public setting as well. When the person you are with is aware of the situation, they may also quietly remove you from the public setting if necessary.
Loosen your muscles
Anxiety usually causes us to tighten our muscles. This can lead to pain and numbness throughout your extremities. If you can feel your body starting to get tense, you can start working to combat this, even if you are in public, by focusing on tightening and loosening the muscles in your body, one area at a time. Work from one arm to the next, and then focus on your feet and legs as well. This may help you relax your body and give your mind something specific to focus on. If you do this while also controlling your breathing, you may stop anxiety attacks in their tracks.
Face Your Fears
We often have anxiety and fear over things that are likely never going to happen. While it may seem a little backward, you can reduce your anxiety by confronting your fears. Often, the thing we are most afraid of is simply the idea of the thing. Once we take action in that area, we usually find there is nothing to be scared of. If you can get yourself to face your fears and jump in, then you may find there is nothing to have anxiety over after all.
Shut out the world around you
If you are in a busy environment surrounded by a lot of people, noise, and chaos, you may start to feel like your anxiety has been triggered. One way to overcome this may be to take a moment and close your eyes. This can help you shut out the world around you. It can also help you to focus on your breathing, relax your muscles, and practice mindfulness. Sometimes, just being able to close your eyes for a minute or two can help you regain control.
Still, it may not always be possible to shut your eyes when in public. If you are in a position where you are unable to do that, you can simply find a steady object to focus on instead. As you look at this item, try to focus on the details of the object. Put all your attention on this item. This can redirect your focus by taking it off your anxiety and placing it onto a mundane object.
Escape to your happy place
Most everyone has a particular place in the world where they feel the happiest. When you start to feel your heart racing and fear creeping in, take a moment to picture yourself in your happy place. It might be watching the waves roll in over the white sand at the ocean, or maybe it's a serene cabin in the woods. Wherever this place is, try to take a moment to picture the details of it. What does it look like, smell like, sound like, and how do you feel when you are there? This technique can remove your thoughts from the subject of your anxiety while replacing them with calming sensations.
Over the past decade, the use of essential oils as a natural remedy for different ailments has generally become popular. Lavender is an essential oil that's often known for helping to relieve stress and promote relaxation. Consider keeping something lavender-scented with you during the day, such as hand lotion or an oil roller. If you start to feel anxious, you can apply the lavender scent for a calming remedy.
Choose a phrase to repeat
It may be easier to control racing thoughts when you have a specific thought to focus on. For example, you might pick a simple phrase or saying that you can memorize. When you start to feel tense, simply repeat the phrase to yourself over and over. Make sure it's a comforting phrase that reminds you that things are better than they seem.
Don't try to ignore it
When you acknowledge that you are starting to feel anxious, you can attempt to do something about it. If you simply try to pretend that it isn't happening, though, it could make things worse. The same idea often applies to physical ailments as well. For example, if you have a headache, you usually won’t ignore it and expect it to go away. Instead, you may take the steps that you know work to alleviate your pain. You may want to handle anxiety attacks the same way. That is, you might learn what helps you alleviate the symptoms, and then be prepared to address them when they arise.
Talk to a therapist
If you experience anxiety attacks, you may want to consider therapy to get to the root of your anxiety and identify any triggers you may have. A licensed therapist can also provide you with additional strategies to overcome anxiety when you’re alone or in public.
Benefits of online therapy
Sometimes, anxiety can keep people from getting the help that they deserve. You may experience symptoms of anxiety whenever you leave the house, for example, or you might have social anxiety that makes talking to people in person a challenge. Online therapy may prove a more convenient alternative for you. With this form of remote therapy, you can seek professional mental health services from the comfort of your home. You might also be able to save some time since you won’t have to sit in traffic or spend precious minutes in a waiting room somewhere.
Effectiveness Of Online Therapy
Online therapy can be considered an established form of care in the field of mental health. One of the most recent studies probing internet-based therapy and anxiety found that even a brief web-based intervention could be effective in alleviating the symptoms of social anxiety. Researchers have also found that those who seek online therapy for anxiety tend to be more likely to continue with treatment when they receive therapy online as opposed to in a more traditional clinical setting.
How can I calm my anxiety fast in public?
Deep breathing exercises could help you calm your anxiety in public, since they are easy to learn, can be done from virtually anywhere, and can help you feel grounded. One of the simplest methods to try is box breathing. To begin, take a moment to close your eyes if possible and comfortable and become aware of your body. Next, breathe in slowly and deeply as you count to four in your head. Hold your breath for four counts, then exhale slowly and completely for four more counts. Repeat two to three times if you’re trying to figure out how to stop an anxiety attack in public. If you’re looking for tips on managing a panic attack in public, see below.
If you’re prone to panic attacks and are trying to avoid having a public panic attack, the first step is often to get yourself to a quiet spot where you’ll be out of harm’s way. Next, you might try to engage in coping techniques like deep breathing exercises or looking for a distraction. Calling a family member or friend and asking for help from those physically near you if needed may also be helpful in managing panic attacks in public. If you’re looking to form a more personalized plan for coping with public panic attacks, meeting with a therapist may be helpful.
Why do I get severe anxiety in public?
You might feel intense fear or anxiety in public as a result of an anxiety disorder like social anxiety disorder. You could also have panic disorder that’s triggered by crowded spaces, or past trauma related to being in a crowd. In addition, some neurodivergent people such as those with autism spectrum disorder may become overstimulated in public, potentially leading to severe anxiety.
What happens if anxiety is left untreated?
Physical symptoms or emotional symptoms of anxiety will typically not improve if left untreated. They may also worsen and/or come to more significantly affect daily functioning, work, relationships, and well-being. That’s why seeking the support of a therapist is generally recommended. They can provide a safe space where you can process your emotions and learn healthy coping techniques for managing anxiety symptoms.
How long can an anxiety attack last?
An anxiety attack can be generally defined as an intense period or episode of anxious feelings. They can last for minutes, hours, days, or even weeks. If you experience anxiety attacks, meeting with a therapist is one possible way to get support. They may teach you healthy coping strategies for anxiety, such as mindfulness exercises and grounding techniques.
What does an anxiety attack feel like?
An anxiety attack is not a clinical term like a panic attack is, so there’s no set group of symptoms that can define one. In general, however, they may manifest as symptoms of various anxiety disorders that feel heightened or more intense for a period of time, such as an increased heart rate, muscle tension, sweating, feeling a persistent sense of worry or danger, and trouble keeping your thoughts in the present moment, for example.
Do hugs help anxiety attacks?
If you’re feeling anxiety symptoms or having an anxiety attack, receiving a hug may help you feel better. Peer-reviewed studies suggest that this type of physical contact may help trigger the release of mood-boosting chemicals in the brain and can reduce the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system that’s typically associated with stress and anxiety.
Can you tell if an anxiety attack is coming?
There’s no clinical definition for an anxiety attack, so there’s no universal set of signs that could signal one is coming. In general, anxiety attacks can be defined as periods of heightened or more intense anxiety, potentially accompanied by physical symptoms of stress as well. Over time, you may be able to learn how this type of anxiety typically manifests in your own body and mind so you can recognize the onset of an attack. Working with a therapist could be helpful in this regard.
What's the difference between anxiety attack and panic attack?
“Anxiety attack” is not a clinical term. Instead, it refers generally to the experience of heightened mental and physical anxiety that could last minutes, hours, or weeks.
A panic attack is a clinical term that the American Psychological Association defines as “a sudden onset of intense apprehension and fearfulness in the absence of actual danger, accompanied by the presence of such physical symptoms as heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, chest pain or discomfort, choking or smothering sensations, sweating, and dizziness.” It may be a symptom of a mental illness such as panic disorder.
What can trigger an anxiety attack?
All kinds of situations can trigger an anxiety attack—or an increase in the intensity and consistency of a person's anxiety symptoms—and they may vary from individual to individual. Examples could include stress, crowds, tight deadlines, or interpersonal conflict. Learning your unique triggers can help you understand how you might be able to better manage them.
Should I push through anxiety?
Pushing through anxiety can sometimes be helpful. In other cases, however, it may exacerbate your negative feelings and cause additional problems. If your anxiety is mild, it’s generally worth engaging in healthy coping mechanisms like deep breathing and cognitive reframing as needed in order to “push through.”
If your anxiety is severe, focusing on taking care of your well-being and aiming to stabilize yourself are generally the top priorities rather than “pushing through.” Meeting with a therapist could help you understand how to cope with your symptoms, and they can provide you with five tips or more for managing periods of more intense anxiety in particular.
- Previous Article
- Next Article