We know that the physical and emotional impact of living with a chronic condition like PsA isn’t easy. Given the burden of the condition, it’s unsurprising that 37% of people with PsA suffer from anxiety, over twice the typical number of adults (click here if you’d like to read more about the link).
If you experience anxiety you’ll likely know that it can often lead to panic attacks; a horrible experience which, by nature, occur at the worst possible moments.
The trick to dealing with panic attacks is often being able to stop them before they begin, so we’ve listed some potential ways to help ward them off before they can properly get started. You probably don’t want to try all three of these techniques simultaneously (you may get some pretty odd stares!) but experiment with each of them as you’ll likely find that some are more effective than others.
1. Look and say:
First, take a deep breath. Then look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, name three things that you can physically feel. Whenever you feel your brain going 100 miles per hour, this mental trick can help center your mind, bringing you back to the present moment and helping to calm you down.
2. Know your A,B,Cs (our your C,B,As):
Another simple technique is to try saying the alphabet backwards. Again, this is all about distracting the brain and focusing your thoughts on a challenge which (although totally achievable) requires a little thought.
3. Stretch it out:
A physical symptom of anxiety can often be to protect our upper body (where our heart and lungs are located) by hunching over. It can often be instinctive, but try to fight against the natural reaction; pull your shoulders back, stand or sit with your feet apart, and open your chest. This can help your body start to sense that it’s back in control.
4. Put your headphones in:
‘Heart racing’ isn’t just a turn of phrase – when we’re anxious or worried our heartrate increases, which can make us feel even more stressed ; it’s a vicious cycle which can feel near impossible to break. But one way of helping to slow your heart rate down to a slower and calmer level is to listen to music with a rhythm of 60 bpm (or beats per minute). There are loads of tracks out there at this tempo, so have a google and add your favourites to a new playlist.
5. Positive mantras:
People can sometimes describe the feeling of panic or anxiety as ‘drowning’, and feeling the need to reach a life raft to help bring them back to a good mental state. That life raft can sometimes be something as simple as a positive mantra which is repeated in your head. Think of something that makes you happy or secure, and say it to yourself slowly and calmly.
If you do experience an anxiety attack then as soon as you feel able to, try writing down everything that happened to you in the build up to the attack. You may find it easier to identify triggers to avoid, and it’s a useful picture to start building up if you feel it would be helpful to chat to your doctor. And remember, this is totally normal and you most definitely should not suffer in silence.