I’ve learned a few small, quick actions that help me during extreme anxiety, panic attacks, and episodes. They don’t cure, but they help.
- Splash your face. Cold water on your face jolts your system and tries to reset your body to a calmer mode. It also gives you a chance to be by yourself for a minute if you’re in a public situation and need to calm down.
- Take a mindful shower. Trying to tap into the reality of the present moment is the most powerful tool (outside of medicine and professional help) that I’ve found so far. Finding the present moment is an ancient Buddhist practice that western civilization has appropriated and renamed “mindfulness”. To take a mindful shower, do everything in slow motion and take time to notice everything you see, smell, and feel. Do not rush. Try to be as aware as you can that you are in a moment that leads into the next moment, and the next after that. In those present moments in your shower, the water is a certain temperature and it’s falling onto your skin. Your skin is soft and soapy. The soap has a pleasant smell. You are in the forward flow of time. The moment really can be enough to inspire wonder and ease anxiety.
- Read. If your mind is racing, reading will slow you down to one word at a time. This doesn’t always work for me, but if I’m manic I at least try reading before writing it off. When I’m manic I’m soaking up information at half the speed of light, and I’m actually pretty easily engrossed in whatever I read, even though most of the time I can’t concentrate well enough to read for long.
- Fidget toys. Play dough, dice, rubber bands, and anything small and tactile is good for fidgeting. Having something to do with your hands helps ease anxiety. My favorite fidget toy is called a Tangle, and you can find one here.
- Coloring. I had a friend recommend coloring to me, and I immediately wrote it off as childish and boring. I may have been right about childish, but coloring is very calming, and I’m not above doing something childish to make myself feel better. I recommend buying an adult coloring book and some nice colored pencils, just to have this tool in your arsenal.
Anything that can help me lessen the pain caused by bipolar I will try. I wholeheartedly encourage you to try lots of tactics to help ease your anxiety or pain, and when you find something that helps, keep that thing in mind the next time you feel bad. You are going to be the most help to you.
By Emily Harrington, The Goldfish Painter
I am not a doctor or any sort of mental health professional. I am a psychiatric patient with multiple mental illnesses that I have survived for 12 years now. My secondhand knowledge comes from doctors, psychologists, therapists, books, college courses in psychology, and the internet. My firsthand knowledge comes from the feelings, experiences, thoughts, symptoms, problems, and solutions that I have lived through. I know myself well, but again, I am not a professional. The information on this site is not a replacement for getting an actual diagnosis or professional help. Coping skills are fantastic, and I hope you learn some here and that they help you, but please seek and continue real medical treatment if you are struggling with mental illness. I wish you the best. You can do hard things.