Those who suffer from anxiety attacks can experience them at any time and in any place. Maybe you’re on the bus trying to get home after a long day of work when your chest tightens and your breathing speeds up. Perhaps you’re taking time to visit family when your throat clenches and you start to shake. When you’re in the middle of this period of high anxiety, it’s hard to think about anything else. Your instinct is to run away, so that no one will think poorly of you. Maybe you want to go somewhere and hide until the symptoms start to fade.
But now what? You can’t just calm down and shake off the anxious feelings that were all encompassing just moments before. An anxiety attack can take a lot out of you. Because your body has been put on high alert, most of your systems will be drained and need to recover. However, many individuals don’t know how to take care of themselves after a period of intense stress and worry. This article will help you learn what to expect after an anxiety attack, and how to deal with it.
How You Might Feel
During an anxiety attack, your body is on high alert. Your mind is working overtime to make sure it doesn’t miss any potential danger. You might feel detached from your surroundings, or you might think you’re going crazy.
As the symptoms fade, what can you expect to happen when you’re no longer in a state of crisis? The anxiety you’re feeling might have gotten less severe, but it isn’t going to just disappear on its own. You can be left with worries, and uncomfortable physical symptoms. Depending on how severe your anxiety attack was, these symptoms can last for days. That’s a long time to try to get out of a funk.
Trying to get better after an anxiety attack might feel impossible. While your intense feelings of fear might have subsided, you still feel empty, exhausted, and maybe even embarrassed.
There also isn’t a lot of dialogue in the mental health community about what happens next, so it can be hard to know what to expect. The worst of it may be behind you, but there are still complications you need to know how to handle.
It’s not uncommon for those who have just gone through an anxiety attack to feel a little keyed up after the worst of their symptoms have started to ease up. You might feel a little jittery and nervous for the rest of the day until you get those anxious feelings out of you. It takes time for all of the stress hormones to leave your body.
Many of those who suffer from anxiety attacks will suffer from what’s called dissociation after their symptoms have improved. This a term for when you feel like the world around you isn’t real, and you feel detached from reality. Dissociation can be a way for your mind to protect itself from things it perceives dangerous, so it makes sense that you might feel detached after experiencing an intense bout of anxiety.
These post anxiety attack feelings can be so unpleasant that some people in the field refer to them as the post anxiety attack hangover. It can leave you drained and exhausted, not knowing how to recover afterwards.
How to Recover
You don’t have to live with the anxiety attack hangover for days after experiencing high stress. There are a number of techniques that will help you reduce the feelings of unease and dissociation that tend to hang around. Using more than one of these methods will help you get back to a more stable place in no time.
Acknowledge Your Anxiety
After experiencing a severe anxiety attack, it makes sense that you would want to forget about your anxiety and try to push it away. However, denial can make future anxiety attacks worse than before, and can make it more difficult for you to recover from what you’ve just been through. Acknowledging your anxiety takes power away from it. Recognizing your symptoms is an important first step in treating them. If you don’t recognize that there is a problem, it’ll be harder for you to address the issue.
Hyperventilation is a common symptom of anxiety attacks. It can leave you feeling like you haven’t gotten enough air, and can also cause chest pain. Returning your breath to a more normal state is a good way to show your brain that you are in a safe place, and don’t need to be anxious anymore. Deep breathing exercises are a great way to reduce your anxiety and bring back a sense of calm by bring your autonomic nervous system back to a place of balance.
Positive self talk is a powerful way to bring your anxiety levels back into balance. Self talk is as simple as it sounds: it is the act of talking to yourself. If you’re too embarrassed to talk to yourself out loud, you can talk to yourself in your head, but it might not be as effective. Lifting yourself up with your words is a good way to distract yourself from all of the negative things anxiety would have you believe about yourself. Types of effective self talk include repeating mantras, using affirmations, and working on solving a problem.
Continuing to focus on your anxiety after your attack has stopped is a good way to make you keep worrying about whatever made you anxious in the first place. Finding a distraction from your anxieties can be helpful, especially if you are anxious about something you have little control over. Good distractions include reading a book, hanging out with a friend, getting some exercise, or working on a craft. You want your distraction to be engaging enough to get your mind off of your worries for a while.
Replenish Your Body
Anxiety attacks can be completely exhausting. As far as your body knows, you’ve just fought off a scary predator that was a threat to you or the ones you love. Activating the fight or flight reflex uses a lot of energy in a short amount of time, and your body needs you to replenish it. Get plenty of fluids, including some with electrolytes, and eat a healthy meal full of nutrients to make sure your body gets the nourishment it needs to keep working.
Change Your Environment
If you’re in a public place, or with friend and family, stepping out to get some air can feel like a major insult. Continuing to put yourself in a place that has caused you anxiety will not make it easy for you to recover from an attack. If you’re in a situation that has caused anxiety attacks before, trying to force yourself to get through it will only increase the likelihood of you having another one.
Being outside is vital for good mental health. Researchers at Stanford have found those who live in the city are 20% more likely to develop anxiety disorders, and 40% more likely to have mood disorders. They found nature to be helpful in emotional regulation, and decreasing the amount of negative thoughts experienced. If you haven’t been outside in a while, chances are good that going outside will help you feel better.
Even though anxiety attacks can take a huge toll on your system, there are many beneficial ways for you to recover afterwards. It can take some time to find a method that works best for you, but once you’ve found something that helps, you can drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to get over an anxiety attack. Spire is designed to help you notice symptoms of anxiety, and gives you reminders to relax and breathe. Check out the science behind Spire to learn how our wearable can help you take care of yourself after an anxiety attack!