Within the last year, I have developed a really bad case of anxiety. I would just be sitting in class when a panic attack would overtake me. I would start to sweat, my heart would race, and there would be a pressure in my chest. It felt like I was having a heart attack every time they happened. The would only happen in one class and all week I would dread that class. I wouldn't know how to stop or prevent them. I would stare at the clock every five minutes and pray the professor would let us out early. I would occasionally get them while driving and they have resurfaced this semester too.
But I have a better grip on them now, and I feel a thousand times better. Here are some techniques I use to reduce my anxiety and prevent panic attacks from escalating.
1. Tap your foot
When I tap my foot, it reminds me that I'm doing fine, and it calms me down. I'm always scared that I'm going to faint when I have a panic attack and continuously tapping my foot grounds me. It reminds me that I'm OK and everything is fine.
2. Take frequent water breaks
Moving a little to get your water bottle, and physically drinking from it reminds your body that it's fine. Plus, you'll be focusing on opening your bottle and taking small sips that the panic will subside for little. It will also cool you down if you feel hot.
3. Focus on one thing in the classroom
Pushing all of your attention on someone's brightly colored shirt, or someone putting their hair up in a ponytail will force you to focus intently on something for a moment. This will help you relax and get that heart rate down a little. Take your time from looking from student-to-student-to-the-professor. Doing this will allow you to go slow and take a minute to recollect yourself.
4. Take deep breaths
When panic seizes your body, your breaths get shallow and don't fully reach your lungs. Taking deep breaths will release the pressure in your chest and help your heart beat slower. It is also a great calming technique.
5. Doodle in your notebook
Making little doodles in your notebook will take your attention off the panic and anxiety that has consumed you and you will focus on drawing. This can calm your nerves and give you something to do during a boring lecture.
6. Remind yourself that everything's fine
Giving yourself a little reminder that you're OK can everything's fine, really helps me. I will look at the other students in the class and see that they're perfectly content and calm on the outside, and it motivates me to calm down and relax.
7. Keep a headphone in and quietly play music
I did this last semester. It makes me feel like a bad student, but if the music is quiet enough, you can still hear the professor's lecture and the lyrics. This one helped me really well, too. Having the lyrics to focus on took my mind off my panic attacks and there were able to subside.
8. Clear your mind
This one can be a little harder. It takes a lot of mental strength to fully clear your mind. But I suggest, not thinking about everything you need to get done that day, or week, because that will just stress you out more. I'm guilty of doing this when I'm panicking, but I have gotten in the habit of not doing it. A clear mind is a stress-free mind.
9. Try to only focus on the class
Listening to every word the professor says will force you to only think about the class and material. You'll be too busy thinking about the class, that your anxiety will be off your mind. You will thank yourself later for this one.
10. Change your seating position
Moving a couple inches might not seem like it'll do much, but it actually helps a lot. Scooting up or lower in your seat is like a little refresher for your mind. It recharges it and you're good to go for a little bit. I do this at least four times during a big lecture hall.
11. Remember that it will only last for a moment
Telling yourself that it'll be over before you know it actually helps. It reminds you that this anxiety will end, and you can carry on with your day. It may feel like it happens over the course of ten or twenty minutes, but it's only for one or two. And that is totally doable.
12. Tell yourself about that nap after class is over
When you go through a panic attack, it drains you. You lose all of your energy and you feel like you could just pass out right there in the class. Reward yourself for going through that panic with a well-deserved nap.