A 10-Step Guide To Coach Someone Through An Anxiety Attack

A 10-Step Guide To Coach Someone Through An Anxiety Attack

Anxiety attacks are scary and brutal. Knowing how to coach someone through it can make a monumental difference.

456
views

In the United States, anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses and affect more than 40 million people ages 18 and older alone (this is 18.1% of the country's population). Additionally, there are many types of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, phobic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), separation anxiety disorder, and more I am most likely forgetting. Yet, only around 37% of people diagnosed with any of these anxiety disorders receive treatment.

As someone living with GAD, I've had my fair share of anxiety attacks, both in public and privately. Additionally, I've helped others get through their anxiety attacks. From this, I've made a 10-step guide to coach anyone through an anxiety attack. Let it be noted that I am not a medical professional in any way; I'm just a girl that wants to help as many people as possible.

Believe me, I know that helping someone through an anxiety attack is intimidating beyond belief. Hopefully, this guide makes the stressful process just that much easier for you.

1. Educate yourself

I'm not saying you need to write a 50-page research paper on anxiety, but at least educate yourself on the symptoms of anxiety and how to help relieve them/cope with them. Symptoms of anxiety include, but are not limited to:

-feelings of nervousness

-having a sense of impending danger/panic/doom

-increased heart rate

-rapid breathing (hyperventilation)

-sweating

-trembling

-feeling weak/tired

-difficulty concentrating

-trouble sleeping

-gastrointestinal issues

-chest pain/tightness

-chills

-numbness/tingling sensations

-derealization (feelings of unreality)

-depersonalization (being detached from oneself)

-fear of losing control

-difficulty controlling worry

-having the urge to avoid anxiety triggers

This is just scratching the surface of anxiety symptoms. The best thing to do is figure out what your person's symptoms are and read up on those symptoms specifically, especially if you don't have much time. If you can somehow understand the symptoms that they're feeling, then it gives you the opportunity to better connect with them and understand them from an empathetic point of view.

2. "Talk to me."

If someone comes to you (or texts you) saying "I think I'm having an anxiety attack" or "I'm feeling really anxious," tell them to talk to you and ask what they're feeling (mentally, physiologically, emotionally, etc.).

3. Try to figure out what may have triggered it.

The sooner you can figure out what may have triggered the attack, the sooner you can help them end it. Triggers can be anything from an event, a sound, a word, a conversation, and more. If you figure out the trigger, help them rationalize their thoughts. Most likely, the trigger sent them down an infinite tightening spiral of thoughts, so do your best to help them slow down. Also, ask why it made them feel that way because it will help them pinpoint the reason behind the trigger themselves rather than you just telling them.

4. Remind them to breathe deeply.

Physiologically, anxiety occurs from the chest (the lungs) up. Asking your person to breathe in deeply and slowly (like breathing into their stomach) forces them to operate beyond the chest. Doing this makes it physically impossible for their heart rate to accelerate, forcing it to slow down and decrease the intensity of the anxiety.

5. Validate their feelings.

Just because someone has an anxiety disorder, that doesn't mean that their feelings and thoughts are bullsh*t. When having an anxiety attack, there's nothing worse than feeling invalid and misunderstood. Like yes, I already know that my thought process is quite corrupt and irrational, but that doesn't take away their validity. So just keep an open mind while they're talking to you, and be as empathetic as you can. If you relate to any of their thoughts, make that known; it helps to normalize them. It will make your person feel much safer, and it will help ease their mind.

6. Once again, help them focus on their breathing

It's really important, guys. Not only that, but it also helps to center their thoughts on one thing rather than like 80 trillion things.

7. Let them know that this is going to pass.

When you tell them this though, make sure you aren't doing it in a way that makes them feel invalid. For example, do not say, "Calm down, this is temporary." Telling them to calm down makes them feel insecure, invalidated, and misunderstood, which is what we don't want them to feel. Instead, say, "I know that you're not okay now, and that's okay. Just know that this moment is going to pass, and when it does, you're going to be okay."

8. Stay by their side, no matter what.

The worst thing you can do is leave your person alone with their thoughts. With you by their side, I can guarantee you that they'll be 80x stronger and safer. Even if they tell you to leave, don't (it's most likely the anxiety talking). You don't have to be talking to them the entire time either; your presence is enough for them.

9. Try engaging in a conversation about something that makes them happy/calm.

Slowly/casually start bringing up a topic that piques their interest. This will lure them away from their feelings of anxiety and capture their interest. Hopefully, you can even score a few laughs and smiles.

10. Make sure they know that you're ALWAYS there for them.

This gives your person a sense of security, trust, and calmness. It reminds them that even if anxiety tells them that they're alone, there's no possible way that they are. Additionally, it will let them know that it's okay to talk about their anxiety; there's no need to be embarrassed by it.

Cover Image Credit:

123rf

Popular Right Now

To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
1711576
views

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Fight And Flight, How I Conquer My Emotional Battles

In times of high threat and peril, science says our innate response usually follows one of two paths: fight or flight.

snele1
snele1
18
views

Like almost any other concept related to humans, the idea of "fight or flight" boils down to either/or, one over the other, choice A or choice B. This seems logical, as science also says we can't actually multitask as humans. We may think we can manage multiple tasks simultaneously, but we're inevitably occupied by one thing at a time. Now, depending on each person, the response to any given situation might vary. Someone might feel courageous enough to stay and "fight," while someone else may deem it wiser to make like a bird and take "flight."

Regardless, this concept revolves around a definitive choice, a choice of just one response, not both.

While I agree with this concept as it is, I've come to think that, in some areas of life, we can manage both. We can fight, but we can also take flight. Although fight or flight generally refers to physical threats/obstacles, I think the fight and flight apply on an emotional/mental front.

This past weekend was quite a whirlwind, blowing my emotions in all kinds of directions, which is really what prompted me to think about my emotional response to the weekend as a whole. As a bit of important background, I'm not a crier by nature. I just don't cry in public/ in front of others. Don't get me wrong, I don't see anything wrong with crying in public. It's a perfectly human response. No book, movie, song, or the like has ever moved me to tears. (Well actually, the movie "The Last Song" with Miley Cyrus did cause a stream of tears, but that's literally one out of a decade.)

Enough about that for now, though, I'll make mention of it again later.

I think this past weekend's deluge was an unassuming foreboding of the flood of emotions that came pouring in on Sunday. The day began like any other Mother's Day, we opened gifts with my mother before heading to my aunt's for a family lunch. Only once we arrived, I was informed that my other aunt, who's like a second mom to me, lost her beloved Shih Tzu of 14 years, Coco. We all knew that Coco's time was likely limited, but it still seemed sudden. I was a bit rocked by the news, but ultimately knew she had given life a run for its money. After all, I like to joke that if I come back, it'd ideally be as a house dog.

Needless to say, the suddenness of it all wouldn't really hit me till later that afternoon.

Fast-forwarding to the evening, we decided visiting my other grandmother would be a nice gesture on Mother's Day. Although she was still out and about, my house-ridden grandfather was there, and so we decided it'd be nice to stay and visit with him. A bit more background, my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a few years ago, so we've unfortunately watched him slowly decline since the diagnosis. As such, this is where things went on a steep downhill slide. We arrived mid-nap, which subsequently meant waking him from his nap to visit. In hindsight, it seemed like a very poor choice, as when he awoke he seemed completely disoriented and largely still asleep.

It was as if his eyes were awake, but most everything else about his body remained asleep.

We stayed only but 12 or 15 minutes, as it didn't prove useful to stick around any longer. Enter the flight of my emotions. I've known my grandfather wouldn't be the same every single time I visited. I've dreaded but prepared for the time when he wouldn't remember us, or wouldn't be able to communicate with us the same. As much as I thought I'd be unphased when it happened, I wasn't. At the time, I tried to shuffle through other thoughts. I tried to jump to the upcoming things for the week and what I needed to take care of next. I wanted my mind to float off till my emotions wouldn't be so strong.

That's where I believe the flight response happens for me. When I'm face to face with an emotion-laden experience, whether it's sadness, frustration, or whatever, I try to shift my thoughts away from what's stirring them up. My mind takes flight. Maybe, that's why I don't cry in public. I don't allow my mind to focus long enough to conjure up a physical response.

My mind never stays in flight for long, though. I wouldn't say I'm scared of the emotions, rather I just need them to calm down or settle before I can pick them apart. I tend to process my feelings internally, but they never go unchecked or un-analyzed. That's why, even though I typically don't show my emotions in public, my throat still tightens up and my eyes still become glassy behind closed doors.

Nevertheless, this is where the fight response shows up. Except, I wouldn't say this is so much a fight, even if the situation can be a sort of emotional battle. It's more of a coming-to-terms. I know that I can't outrun my feelings, and I don't ever intend to. At some point, I let them catch up to me, and then the sorting process can begin. It's usually not that tumultuous like a real fight would be, but it doesn't mean that the emotions don't present a challenge at times.

snele1
snele1

Related Content

Facebook Comments