Chances are, you or someone you know has suffered from an anxiety attack at least once in their lifetime. No need to stress though, it’s totally normal and happens to millions of people. Nonetheless, it can be really scary to witness loved ones enduring such intense bouts of pain, so I have assembled some do’s and don’ts of supporting someone through an anxiety attack to make it a little easier on both ends.
- Don’t make assumptions.
Every person handles anxiety in different ways, so never make an assumption about what works for them. For example, many people desire physical touch, but for others, this becomes overwhelming and triggers more panic. Ask what works! Figure it out together.
- Don’t belittle their feelings.
I can tell you right now, if someone said, “Just calm down” while I was having a panic attack, it would make the situation infinitely worse. Instead, acknowledge how the person is feeling and provide the emotional support necessary to get them back to a state of internal peace.
- do make your presence known.
As stated before, some people crave physical touch as a way to keep them grounded in their emotions and thoughts. Hold their hand, hug them gently, rub their back in soothing circles. Any form of physical comfort works (if that is the kind of support they need). If they don’t want to be touched, just be present and let them know you are right there!
- do take their mind off of their anxiety with conversation.
What helps me most during a panic attack is a lovely little thing known as a distraction. Start talking about your day, current celebrity gossip or the newest show you’ve binged (yes, Squid Game can help with panic attacks, who knew?). By turning their mind away from the anxiety and towards a new subject, their panic levels can drop significantly. Better yet, try and get them engaged in the conversation too!
- do give words of comfort.
Oftentimes a positive affirmation or mantra will help soothe the overwhelmed mind of someone suffering from anxiety. Repeat phrases out loud to them such as, “You are strong, you are enough,” or “I am here for you, you are not alone.”
- do try breathing exercises.
One of the main symptoms of a panic attack is struggling to breathe. Victims feel like their chest is tightening up and they cannot get enough oxygen into their lungs. This can be overwhelming and very frightening, of course, but simple breathing exercises can combat it within seconds. Breathe in five seconds, out five seconds. In, out. Repeat as many times as necessary.
- do remove triggering stimuli.
Anxiety attacks occur from an extended build-up of anxious feelings, whereas panic attacks happen randomly and (sometimes) without a trigger. In any case, remove any negative stimuli that could perpetuate feelings of anxiety or uneasiness. Too many people? Go somewhere private. Too loud? Turn off the television or close Spotify. Too bright? Turn off any artificial light. Make the environment as calming as possible; soothe don’t stress!
Mental health is a serious subject that is unfortunately still working towards de-stigmatization in today’s social climate. But remember, it’s okay to not be okay, and seeking help is not a sign of weakness. You are not alone, we are all in this together! #mentalhealthmatters