The dreaded panic attack. Such a burden. As if we don’t have enough problems already. Like, we already have to shave our legs, pretend to work at work, and completely fail at navigating the painfully awkward dating scene–and now we have to be overcome by panic about it all, too!? A panic attack is like a
bad boyfriend–it comes when it’s not the right time, stays too long, is driven by irrationality, and makes you feel like crap. But DON’T PANIC GUYS (self-five for that one! Yeahhhhhhh)–I have solutions. Whether you’re prone to completely paralyzing, disruptive panic attacks that stop you from functioning like a normal person in society (not that you ever really do), or more mild, less disabling bouts of anxiety, here’s how you survive them.
It’s such a cliché, but it’s one for a reason, just like stereotypes–it’s TRUE. Focus on your breath–take one inhale and one exhale at a time. Imagine you’re breathing in the aroma of a freshly baked Funfetti cake, or the scent of coffee/salvation in the morning, or the smell of fear as your nemesis cowers in the face of your superiority and fabulousness.
Feel your feet on the ground
If there’s one thing panic does, it makes you feel like you aren’t solidly grounded. But you ARE–stand firmly and focus on the sensation of your feet rooted to the ground. You may feel completely thrown off, but the beauty is that the panic is in your head, and if you can squash it there, it can’t invade the rest of your body. Walk around if you have to–anything to prove to yourself that you’re here, now, and you’re not going anywhere–if only because you don’t weigh an insignificant amount, and as much as we wish we were light as a feather and could just float away like a balloon, we’re more like an anchor. Made of plutonium. The size of Shaquille O’Neal.
Crying is the best–it’s such a release. Instead of trying to fight it, just let it out. I don’t care if you’re in the middle of a work presentation, or on an airplane, or in line at Starbucks–EXPRESS YOURSELF. Everyone can deal with it. Just wail. You literally feel like you’re dying, so get that overwhelming sensation out of your mind and body. Get it out, and eventually it will subside. And, bonus–if you happen to be in a public place, people will now think you’re extra psycho and will go even more out of their way than they already were to avoid you. #WINNING
Think of something funny
You’re going to find it hard to sustain your panic if you recall the time you ripped your pants sitting down at your desk first thing in the morning and had to spend the rest of the day walking backwards, or the time you spelled your own name wrong when submitting it to your college registrar for your diploma, or the time you showed up for a blind date and mistook the waiter for your guy, so when he came to your table to greet you, you stood up and hugged him.
Run in place
Similar to crying, this is a good way of expelling all the pent up energy that panic attacks entail. Plus, we never exercise, so we’re really killing two birds with one stone here. I’m really proud of our efficiency. It’s commendable, frankly.
Perhaps my favorite coping mechanism, denial is a proven, trusty, reliable fail-safe. Just start pretending that everything’s fine, and there’s no need to panic, and nothing is wrong. Take a page out of your parents’ book and act like there’s no problem that needs addressing and everything is perfect and everyone is happy and it’s Christmas goddammit so SMILE AND ACT LIKE YOU LOVE YOUR FAMILY. Talk yourself through the process out loud if you have to–“You are panicking–but don’t worry, there’s no need to. You didn’t completely just fuck up that assignment, your boss isn’t going to notice, your frenemy didn’t overhear you shit-talking her at lunch even though she was standing right behind you in line to order, you don’t have AIDS despite the fact that you slept with a questionable (at best) guy last night whose name you don’t remember but you feel like it definitely started with a ‘G,’ and you’re not sure you used a condom but, hey, it’s the 21st century–people do this all the time, right? and like ok, so you accidentally sent that confidential email about someone who was never supposed to see it to that person, but we’re all going to die one day anyways, so does it really matter?”
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