By Sara El Halabi J.

One, two, three, four, five… you count in your head before beginning to hyperventilate. What’s the point of coming to a meeting where more than half of the guests are strangers? Now, you must deal with all the negative thoughts crossing your mind while shrinking back into a corner, hoping no one would notice you.

The room becomes smaller, the noise louder, and your hands start sweating. You wonder, “Am I having an anxiety attack?”

Although most people might experience anxiety at a certain point in life, not all cases are the same as what I’ll explain here. In 2017, the World Health Organization reported that more than 264 million people worldwide suffer from anxiety. However, only 36.9% seek treatment.

Symptoms Of An Anxiety Attack

There are several signs that you can recognise as an anxiety episode or panic attack. The most significant ones are:

  1. Constant self-awareness

You think everyone is observing your moves and are constantly judging what you do and say. So, you try to pass unnoticed wherever you are.

  1. Inability to hold a face-to-face conversation

You can be the most avid chatter on Whatsapp or social media, but once you find yourself face to face with another person, you just run out of words.

  1. Easily upset or irritated

You get quickly overwhelmed if something pops up outside your plans. If someone doesn’t agree with your opinion, you might get sensitive because you take it too personally. You experience mood swings daily. Anything can trigger your anxiety and startle you. Such emotional imbalances are part of an anxious personality.

  1. Excess of indecisiveness

Whether it’s for fear of failure, judgement or perfectionism, you have a tough time making a decision. You are always asking others for their opinion because you feel you aren’t a reliable person. So, your choices end up being vague.

  1. Overthinking past situations

You can’t let go of the past. You’re constantly analysing and recapitulating past conversations and events that have affected you in one way or another and overthinking what you could have said or done.

  1. The need to be busy the whole time

You get scared of sitting down and not doing anything because you know the negative thoughts will attack again. So, the best way to escape them—and people—is by barely having any free time.

  1. Negative self-talk and thoughts

As mentioned before, negative thinking and talking yourself down are your worst enemies. You are continuously stressed out for minor inconveniences and in a constant battle with yourself. If something good happens to you, the feeling of not deserving it overwhelms you and then starts your inner negative narrative. If you lack self-love and don’t see the solution or opportunity behind every failure, you’ll always be unhappy.

  1. Trouble falling asleep

Your overthinking, fears and worries don’t let you calm yourself down and relax at the end of the day. Turning the light out becomes a terrifying ghost in the night.

  1. Uncomfortable physical symptoms

You experience some physical symptoms when something triggers your anxiety, such as:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Shaking hands
  • Sweating
  • Muscle tension as a fight or defensive response
  • Clenched teeth or teeth grinding
  • Hyperventilation
  • Eating disorder—eating less or more.

All these symptoms are biochemical responses of the sympathetic system, also known as fight or flight reflexes.

Tips To Cope With Anxiety

You can follow these tips to deal with your next anxiety attack:

  • Relax your muscles: Tense your muscles from toes to face and neck consciously, then let them loose.
  • Breathe slowly: Inhale deeply and mindfully, filling first your stomach, then your lungs. Hold your breath for a few seconds and exhale in the same order.
  • Visualise a place that makes you feel good and safe: Try to smell and see the colours of that place in your mind as vividly as possible.
  • Control your thoughts: Stop thinking others want to judge or criticise you. Replace those negative and unrealistic thoughts with positive ones or affirmations every time they appear.
  • Face your anxiety: Don’t fight, hide or run away from your apprehension. Instead, focus on what happens around you and realise there is nothing to worry about.

People who experience anxiety episodes may need longer periods to calm themselves down after a trigger. A treatment based on psychotherapy and medication can be most helpful for them.

These episodes are stimulated by social anxiety—when going out and meeting people—or the fear that something might happen to them. If they can’t calm themselves down by their own means, they should consider seeking professional assistance.

If you suffer from anxiety disorder and your panic attacks are constant and unexpected, consider becoming more mindful of the present moment and place. By being conscious of your thoughts and what happens around you, you will recognise and block the triggers faster to control and soothe yourself easier.