Thursday, 30 July 2015

How I Deal With Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Around this time last year I let you in on a little secret which I had been hiding from the Internet for quite a while. I was terrified, and I didn't like talking about it, but even now I'm still getting tons of emails from people around the world telling me that my post on anxiety and panic attacks helped them. And you have no idea how much that means to me.

Along with peoples' own mental health stories, it is constantly requested in these emails that I write a post on how I deal with my anxiety. Because, lets be honest, my original post was an emotional mess and, at the time, I didn't really have any solid ways of coping.

I'm far from being better, but I've come a long way since that first blog post, and in that time I've discovered a few things that work for me.

Listening to music

Sometimes I like to do this, and sometimes I don't. It depends on how I feel at the time, and if I do choose to listen to music, I either pick kickass tracks with empowering lyrics to get me in the zone, by artists like Sia and Jessie J, or I'll listen to less intrusive music, like Lorde and Troye Sivan. I also really like this remix of Midnight by Coldplay. Mostly, I think it's about finding songs with lyrics that speak to your particular situation.

Blowing on my thumb

This sounds weird, but stick with me. I got this one from Carrie Hope Fletcher's book, All I Know Now, and it works. When she's nervous before a show, she blows slowly on her thumb to regulate her breathing. A similar tip is to breathe in for 4 and out for 7, making sure your stomach is rising more than your chest. It helps to lay down for that one, so I prefer the other tip as you can do it anywhere.

Thinking ahead

Say I have an exam this afternoon and I'm really anxious about it. To help, I'll think 'this time tomorrow it will all be over and done with.' Imagining the situation over and out of the way really helps me and is actually something I've done since I was little.

Thinking positively

With anxiety, it's very easy to slip into the mindset that you can't do this, that you're rubbish and you'll never be able to do anything. Picturing myself doing successfully whatever it is I'm anxious about has helped me in the past.

Taking time out

I guess you could say that, until maybe a year ago, I didn't take much care of myself in the way that it never occurred to me to take a break every now and then. These days, I am a firm believer in self-care. If I have a lot to do but I'm feeling rubbish, I'll 'take the day off' and relax - or try to, at least. It's important to take time out when you need to, because if you're feeling like crap - whether you have anxiety or not - that's probably a sign that you need to stop for a while.

Distracting myself

I write about every blog event I attend. There are always more than enough photos, lots and lots of notes, and sometimes even a vlog of the day. Why? Because being at an event is extremely nerve-wracking for me, and the only way I can ever get through it is by distracting myself by completely focusing on the end result, aka the blog post. I'll film clips, take photos, and write notes about the event, and this always helps to make me more comfortable.

Making my lock-screen positive

Like a lot of people, I always have my phone on me. So, I picked two inspirational tweets which I liked, made them into one photo, and set it as my lock-screen. Whenever I'm anxious I'll read it and really let it sink in.

Remembering that lots of people feel the same

Right now, someone in the world is having a panic attack. Right now, someone in the world is sat talking to their therapist. Right now, someone is taking their medication for the day. At YALC earlier this month, I was comforted by the fact that I knew there were lots of other people there with anxiety. Lots of people are dealing with the same things as you, and you're not alone. It helps to remember that every now and then.
These are all things that can help me to feel a bit calmer. However, just because these help me sometimes, doesn't mean they'll help you - I'm not a doctor! Hopefully they do help, and there's no harm in trying, right?

On a different topic entirely, I love it when some of you send in blog post ideas, so if there is anything you would like to see on The Mile Long Bookshelf, let me know via my contact form and I might just do it. :)

Do you have any tips on dealing with anxiety?


  1. This is so helpful. As you know, I've had severe Anxiety for nearly 5 years, but my panic attacks only started just over a year ago, and I've never really worked out a way to deal with them. Music helps, but that can't always be used because I get migraines frequently.
    When i'm panicking, I struggle to think about a day from now, or other people, I just feel this need to get out of the situation. I'm definitely going to try the lock screen and blowing on thumb techniques xx

  2. As someone who has Generalised Anxiety Disorder and also Borderline Personality Disorder I have found it is not easy to deal with mental health issues as you don't know how much to share with people yet want to make sure they know what you go through and you want to educate them so you can help them as much as possible. You are doing an amazing job by being open as that is the biggest step to take and sharing as much as you can on how you deal with things as this is how the conditions become more widely known and accepted.

    Hopefully you can continue to learn and share as you are doing amazing things and are an inspiration to many.

  3. My son deals with anxiety. I'm going to share this post with him, so he can see he's not alone. I don't think he gets that other people deal with this as well. Thank you for being willing to share!!!!

    1. That is nice. I think so. We are never alone if we can bring up something like anxiety. Those can be the first steps for others to learn to accept this phenomenon.

  4. Hi Amber,
    It is nice to know someone also struggles with this. I also suffer from extreme bouts of anxiety and believe me that can easily lead into bouts of horrible depression. I agree! Music for whatever weird reason can affect your mind and body enough to relax you. I really recommend this music artist called TK from Ling Tosite Sigure. His music is like a natural tranquilizer.

  5. This is such a helpful post. I'm still not good at dealing with mine but music always helps! Sometime I just watch a video which will never fail to make me laugh. What I find surprisingly relaxing is watching people do their makeup, Tanya Burr is probably ny favourite because her setting is so homely.

  6. Wonderful post, Amber! What I do when I'm anxious is I try to notice my surroundings so that I don't get caught up in the panic. Like, I look at the way the trees are moving, or look at how blue the sky is and small things like that and it really slows down all those rapid thoughts that fly through your bran! I, like you, also picture the next day or so when the event will be over, like when I had my exams I thought to myself, this time tomorrow my exams will be over. Picturing when the anxiety-inducing moment is over definitely helps!

  7. All really great tips and pointers, I do quite a few of these. I also find that a lot of my panic attacks come on at night when there isn't anything happening to distract myself with. This is where audiobooks come in for me (although I listen to them for pleasure lots too) and I put them on so there's something to focus on, for someone else to 'be there' and distract me. It really helps me to calm down and head the panic attack off before it gets too big. Such a good post though, thank you for writing is and sharing. :)