5 Tips to Survive an Unexpected Anxiety Attack

Girl with bangs, head down, kneeling in front of sketches of clocks
1. Sour Candy

Did you know that sour candy can help you during the onset of an anxiety or panic attack? When you begin to go into a fight-or-flight mode, your body focuses on the perceived attack in front of you. When you introduce a sour candy, you are essentially shocking your senses to no longer focus on what previously sent you into the attack. The sour candy acts as a much needed distraction. You no longer fixate on the physical symptoms of anxiety, as your senses are occupied by the tart flavor. Next time you feel your anxiety ramping up, make sure you have some candies on standby to try this tip out.

2. Cold water

Another shock to the system! When your central nervous system is upregulated (aka in fight-or-flight) your body needs a swift distraction to pull you out of that mode. Have you ever been told to take a cold shower when you feel anxious or worked up? Well, turns out there is a little bit of science behind this idea! Cold water helps increase endorphins, which can then ease symptoms of anxiety. It also slightly decreases cortisol, which is the stress-inducing hormone. Next time you feel your anxiety levels on the rise, grab a big bowl, and fill it with ice and water. Make sure your hair is tied back and your sleeves are rolled, because things might get a little messy. Submerge your face in the bowl for 10 seconds at a time. You may need to repeat 3-5 times for the optimal effect. By the end of this, you may notice your anxiety symptoms have decreased! This is because you are literally shocking your system by making it focus on the cold. A cold shower works just as well, but the bowl method can be done any time, anywhere. 

3. Reset breath/Meditation

Take a deep breath in. Now hold for 5 seconds. Deep breath out. Repeat a few times, careful not to make yourself too light headed. A running theme in this article is tricking our brain to reset from fight-or-flight mode. When you take a deep breath and hold it for these 5 seconds, your brain recalibrates itself. Unlike my other tricks, this is one that takes more practice and diligence to master. It might not help 100% of the time the first few times you try it. If you practice a few times a day, both when you do and do not have anxiety, it will become more natural when you need it during a time of distress. Meditation is a great addition to breathwork. Youtube and other sites will have guided meditations (and guided breathwork) that will be easy to follow. I recommend finding one you like and bookmarking for easy access in the future.

4. 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding

Grounding is a technique to help you detach from the craziness in your mind, and ground yourself in the physical world. It can be done in various ways, but the most common is the 5-4-3-2-1 method. With this activity, you should locate...

5 things you can see- What is around you that your eyes draw to?

4 things you can touch- Physically that you can reach out to and touch with your hands or body.

3 things you can hear- focus on what noises are around you.

2 things you can smell- is the air fresh or stuffy? Is someone making cookies next door?

1 thing you can taste- It may be your tea that you’ve been drinking, or a piece of gum. Maybe it’s the taste of the coffee you drank in a rush earlier.

Once you’ve grounded yourself, you may notice a decrease in your anxiety levels. Being able to ground yourself out of your anxious thoughts definitely takes practice. Don’t beat yourself up too much if you struggle to find the 5-4-3-2-1 for each category. With time and practice, you will be able to master this method, and maybe even suggest it to others who could benefit!

5. Removing yourself from the environment

Easier said than done…and cannot always be done. BUT if you can, it can help. Sometimes we know going into a situation that we might get triggered. If you are in a location where you feel an anxiety attack coming, and have the opportunity to remove yourself from where you are at, GO FOR IT! Taking a walk can make a world of difference. You will no longer be directly in the anxiety-inducing environment. The movement will also benefit you, both mentally and physically. When you walk away, you are also giving your mind and body time to down regulate, breathe and reset. This is so important, especially when you have a busy day ahead and ‘can’t afford to break down’ (I mean, who really CAN afford to?). If you can’t remove yourself from a situation, you can always set your boundaries. If you’re talking to someone, and they are triggering your anxiety, vocalize it: “This conversation is making me a little nervous right now. Let’s talk about it again another time, when I’m in a better headspace.”  If you want to be less forward, try gently veering the topic of conversation, or simply saying,”Hey, can we talk about something else right now?” Again, easier said than done, but when you put up a vocal boundary, it’s harder for the other person to disregard your well-being. This method gives you more control over the situation (and thus your anxiety!).

Anxiety can be tough to deal with. It’s a chronic condition that pops up at the most inconvenient times. Use these tips when times get tough, and remind yourself: You are in control of how you cope! Extra tip: Write these down in your phone or on a piece of paper in your wallet so you have something to refer to when you need it most. 

Written by: Emily Schwerdtfeger

Instagram: @emily_schwerdt

1 comment

  • Kathleen Ann Gardiner

    Great ideas. Sometimes, though, I get diarrhea, and can’t control it. Sometimes I can’t move, and sometimes I pass out or throw up. Any ideas how to cope with that?

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published