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Anxiety and panic attacks are very common, especially during the stressful years of college. As someone who has dealt with anxiety and panic attacks, I’ve learned that coping with the actual attack gets easier, the feelings that come after it are the more difficult part to deal with. After having multiple panic or anxiety attacks, you start to find out what methods and strategies help you through them, and how to prevent them in the first place. If you’ve just started getting them or have only had one before, though, it can be really scary and tough to figure out how to deal with them. 

First, you should know the basics about anxiety versus panic attacks. Anxiety attacks start slowly and are built up by anxious thoughts or feelings throughout the day, a few hours, or even minutes. Anxiety attacks are preventable. If you feel that you are becoming more anxious about something followed by an increased heart rate, sweating, difficulty breathing, etc, there are things you can do to prevent the anxiety attack from coming on. Find a safe space, practice breathing exercises, meditate and calm your body down in any way you can. Panic attacks are sudden, shorter, slightly more intense and normally happen randomly with little to no trigger. These attacks are harder to prevent, but learning how to get through these attacks will make them less scary. The symptoms for anxiety and panic attacks are similar; increased heart rate, lightheadedness, sweating, difficulty breathing, chest pain, mental detachment and derealization. They’re dealt with in a similar way, but knowing which one you are experiencing can help you figure out how to deal with them.

My favorite coping method for panic and anxiety attacks is the “54321 method”, and other grounding techniques like it. Most people who’ve had an anxiety or panic attack have heard about this method, and I’ve found that it works really well for me. Name five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Other grounding exercises might be to name as many yellow foods as you can, as many states as you can, spell all your friend’s names, etc. Anything you can think of to get out of your own head and bring yourself back to the room will help. 

The same techniques won’t work for everyone, but the key to coping with anxiety and panic attacks is to be informed, and learn what works for you. Everyone shows different symptoms and will respond to different solutions, but being prepared is the best thing you can do for yourself. Speaking realistically from my own experiences, anxiety and panic attacks suck, but my best advice is to know that they’re only temporary and you will get through it.

Junior Psychology major at University of New Hampshire.
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