According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), an estimated 40 million Americans have anxiety disorders, suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorders, panic attacks, and other anxiety-related health problems. Many of these people suffer from panic and anxiety attacks, which can be frightening and debilitating. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, panic attacks and anxiety attacks are slightly different: Panic attacks are usually sudden, intense experiences that often include physical symptoms such as sweating, shortness of breath, heart palpitations or chest pain, trembling, dizziness, and an extreme fear of dying or losing control. Panic attacks come on suddenly, but they also tend to go away fairly quickly. Anxiety attacks, in contrast, are characterized by many of the same symptoms as panic attacks, but these symptoms are less intense and may be more prolonged. Anxiety attacks can last for a long time, and can also cause sleeplessness, fatigue, and problems with concentration.
Although panic and anxiety attacks can be upsetting and scary, there are things you can do to help yourself feel better, including deep breathing exercises and grounding. Although panic attacks, especially, can feel very frightening physically, it’s important to remind yourself that the symptoms you’re experiencing—increased heart rate, chest pain, and so on—will not actually harm you. Eventually the attack will pass, and you really will be OK. It can be a good idea to show the people around you how to help you cope during a panic attack or high-anxiety situation. However, there will be times when you panic and your loved ones aren’t there to help you through it. In these times, it’s good to have a plan in place of how to deal with your anxiety, and the following videos—outlining breathing, meditation, and other self-calming methods—might be able to help.
To be clear, I am not a medical doctor, and these videos are not medicine or therapy or magic solutions. If you’re having frequent anxiety issues or panic attacks, take the time to visit your doctor. He or she may be able to help you significantly through suggesting lifestyle changes, therapy, and/or medication. The best thing you can do is to work with your doctor and/or therapist to develop strategies for diffusing anxiety before it becomes debilitating.
As you check out these videos, keep in mind that everyone experiences anxiety differently, so what works for one person might not be the best fit for someone else. The key is to keep trying things out and keep seeking help until you find a system for relieving anxiety that works for you.
Deep, slow, controlled breathing can help to relieve feelings of anxiety and can slow the quick, shallow breaths that tend to come with a panic attack's fight-or-flight response. This video will guide you through some yogic breathing:
This video from the National Institutes of Health will lead you through a breathing exercise, along with a body scan that may help relieve muscle tension:
This 20-minute video leads viewers through a slow body scan and guided relaxation.
Acupressure and Self-Massage
Some anxiety sufferers report finding relief through using acupressure points or massage. This video features an acupuncturist who shows how to relieve anxiety through two different points on the wrist:
This video from eHow Health shows how to use two pressure points on the head.
This video from Jason Stephenson leads viewers through a guided meditation with breathing guidance and visualization.
Here's a 10 minute guided mediation from Positive Magazine:
As the host of this video, Summer Beretsky, suggests, you don't always want to rely on distraction to get you through a panic episode. The best thing in the long term is to learn to how to cope with your feelings and anxiety. But distraction can help, and sometimes it's necessary to get through an attack and move forward. Beretsky explains six simple things you can to do distract yourself, from simple number games to folding paper:
Err ... Bob Ross
OK, I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but I find watching old episodes of Bob Ross’s The Joy of Painting to be the most soothing thing ever. (There are a lot of whole episodes on YouTube.) Something about his calm voice describing happy little trees and the sound of his brushes sweeping the canvas is hypnotizing for me. I think the fact that the show makes me feel nostalgic childhood days of watching PBS is part of it, too. I’m not saying that everyone will have that reaction to Bob Ross (although he is undeniably awesome), but it may help you to think about the things that maybe uniquely calming to you as an individual. Does the ocean always make you feel free and relaxed? Try lying down and listening to wave sounds when you're anxious. Does your cat sitting on your chest help you feel calm? When you’re not at home, try chilling out to purring sounds. It couldn't hurt, right?