Most of you probably have some experience with anxiety, or maybe even panic attacks. I know I definitely do. My experiences are mostly with agoraphobia. For those of you that don't know what agoraphobia is; according to Google it is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. As someone who has suffered from it for the past three years, I can confirm that. As for me, that place and situation is public transport. Luckily, the longer you have anxiety, the better you learn to deal with it. So here are the 9 ways I have learned to deal with it, divided in three categories, that hopefully can help some of you out there struggling with these same things.

Accepting

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The first tips I will share are about accepting your anxiety. That may sound weird but just let me explain. When I first started getting anxiety and panic attacks on public transport, I felt terribly embarrassed. I felt like I wasn't normal and people thought of me as a freak. But probably the worst thing to do is increasing your anxiety by judging yourself over having anxiety. It doesn't solve anything, in fact it makes everything worse. Here is how I have learned to accept my anxiety for what it is:

1. Remind yourself you are not alone.
I like to remind myself that anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders, with 40 million people suffering from it in the US alone, and worldwide 1 in 50 people suffering from agoraphobia like me. So if I'm on a train with 150 people, statistically there are at least 2 others on board who feel the same as I do.

2. Take the pressure off.
There was a time where my panic attacks seemed to get better. However, during that time, when I did get one, I would beat myself up over it even more. That's because I kept pressuring myself to be 'cured' and 'past the panic disorder' and finally be 'normal' again.
What I have learned to do instead, is to keep reminding myself with affirmations that getting anxiety or a panic attack is not the end of the world. One panic attack on a train won't lower my worth as a person, it won't reverse all the progress I've made in learning how to deal with this disorder or cause a relapse, and it doesn't mean that I have 'failed' in any way. The more you pressure yourself not to have anxiety or a panic attack, the more likely your are to get one. Telling myself these affirmations takes that pressure off, and makes the anxiety and panic attacks a lot less scary.

Preventing

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My next two tips are about prevention. The best way to deal with anxiety and panic attacks I found, is to prevent them from happening at all by preparing for situations where you might get one. The following ways work the best for me:

3. Have a plan.
For me it always helps to plan out situations that make me anxious, like train or bus rides. Say I have to travel by train for two and a half hours. Things I would usually plan to do in that time are reading a book or magazine, writing in my diary, doing homework, watching Netflix or writing a blogpost. I also like to set specific goals for the activity I pick, so for example: read two chapters, finish a magazine, write two pages in my diary, do all the exercises for my English homework, watch two episodes of Gossip Girl on Netflix, or write the first draft of a blogpost. The more specific, the better.

4. Selfcare
Something else that can decrease overall anxiety, is good selfcare. So things like exercise, drinking enough water, getting 8 hours of sleep every night, taking care of your personal hygiene, and eating well (fresh fruits and veg, limited processed foods, limited animal products, decent portion sizes, etc.) But I don't have to tell you how to take care of yourself, you know best how to do that ;)

Intervening

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And finally, my last tips are about how to stop a panic attack dead in its tracks. Even if I have taken all of the steps mentioned previously, I sometimes still start to panic out of nowhere. It is good to have a few tools at hand to help you relax in those situations.

5. Breathing
I'll be first to say that breathing exercises are not my thing at all. But there is one breathing exercise that has helped me a lot. It involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding that breath for 7 seconds and exhaling for 8 seconds.This causes an autonomic nervous system shift from a sympathetic (fight or flight) state to a parasympathetic response. Basically, it tells your body and brain to switch gears to a lower speed, and it works almost instantly every time.

6. Relaxation tools
Just like certain things trigger negative feelings/emotions, everybody has triggers for positive emotions as well. In case of a panic attack it is a good idea to have a handful of those 'positive triggers' readily available. For me, it's a playlist of songs that are attached to happy memories, photo albums on my phone with photo's that bring me back to happy moments, and a list of positive affirmations. Which brings me to my next point;

7. Affirmations
I like to keep a list of affirmations in the notes app on my phone. Some of the affirmations in there are;
It's going to be okay, I have had many panic attacks before and nothing bad has ever happened to me during one of them.
The worst thing that can happen is that I have to excuse myself from the situation which is no big deal.
No matter what happens, I am always in control of myself and the decisions I make, my anxiety/panic disorder is not.
Like every other negatie feeling I've ever had, this too, will pass.

8. Distractions
Whenever I get a panic attack I tend to turn my attention inwards, over-analyzing everything going on in my head and my body, usually only increasing my anxiety. Luckily there are ways you can distract yourself from those sensations. I like to do it with sensory distractions like a tangle (bendy rubber toy that can be fidgeted with), fidget cube, or by running a fluffball key chain through my hands. Chewing gum with a strong mint flavor also tends to help, and of course, looking at cute animal gifs on Tumblr and listening to music are also great distractions.

9. Remind yourself of the facts
During an anxiety or panic attack, our minds tend to run wild. You might think that you are going to choke, faint or even die. Yet try and stick with the facts, instead of getting carried away by these thoughts, as they will only make you feel worse. So instead of thinking 'I'm going to faint' think; 'I'm feeling a bit light headed, because my body is taking blood away from my head and getting it to my muscles to prepare to run away.' and instead of thinking 'I;m going to choke' think; 'I'm having trouble breathing properly, because of the huge spike in adrenaline.' etc, This will keep your mind from running wild, and help you calm back down rather than letting your thoughts get out of hand.

Those are all the tips I have for dealing with anxiety and panic attacks. I hope this helped some of you. Don't forget to follow me and give this article a ❤️