Anxiety and panic attacks
Explains anxiety and panic attacks, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
How can I help myself?
Living with anxiety can be very difficult, but there are steps you can take that might help. This page has some suggestions for you to consider.
For tips on coping with panic attacks, see our section on what helps to manage panic attacks.
Talking to someone you trust about what's making you anxious could be a relief. It may be that just having someone listen to you and show they care can help in itself. If you aren't able to open up to someone close to you, you could call the Samaritans.
Getting it off my chest seems to help relieve some of the pressure.
Anxiety can make it really hard to stop worrying. You might have worries you can't control. Or you might feel like you need to keep worrying because it feels useful – or that bad things might happen if you stop.
It can be helpful to try different ways of addressing these worries. For example, you could:
- Set aside a specific time to focus on your worries – so you can reassure yourself you haven't forgotten to think about them. Some people find it helps to set a timer.
- Write down your worries and keep them in a particular place – for example, you could write them in a notebook, or on pieces of paper you put in an envelope or jar.
I try to accept that this is how I feel at the moment, but it won't last forever.
- Try to get enough sleep. Sleep can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences. See our page on coping with sleep problems for more information.
- Think about your diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. See our page on food and mood for more information.
- Try to do some physical activity. Exercise can be really helpful for your mental wellbeing. See our pages on physical activity for more information.
I find going for a walk great, even if I can't go far. I walk around the garden and eat my lunch outside.
Breathe… always remember to breathe. Take time to inhale. It's the simplest thing, but is forgotten in panic attacks.
Can mindfulness help with anxiety?
Mindfulness is a way of giving your full attention to the present moment. Some people find mindfulness helpful for coping with certain anxiety disorders, but other people say it makes them feel worse.
One of the reasons for this is that some people find noticing their negative thoughts too intense, and it can make them feel worse. If you try mindfulness and still feel unwell, ask your GP or therapist about other things you could try.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the organisation that produces guidelines on best-practice in healthcare – says that mindfulness is not recommended for social anxiety. Read more about social anxiety (sometimes called social phobia) in our page on types of phobia.
See our pages on mindfulness for more information.
Now I look for natural ways to control the panic and anxiety, including meditation, exercise, breathing exercises, mindfulness and diet.
It might help to make a note of what happens when you get anxious or have a panic attack. This could help you spot patterns in what triggers these experiences for you, or notice early signs that they are beginning to happen.
You could also make a note of what's going well. Living with anxiety can mean you think a lot about things that worry you or are hard to do. It's important to be kind to yourself and notice the good things too.
I keep a photo diary of all the things I've managed to do! Makes me think 'I can do this'. So when I go and sit in a café, or go for a walk, I take a pic, and look back when I feel scared… It encourages me that maybe I can do something again if I've done it before.
Peer support brings together people who've had similar experiences to support each other. Many people find it helps them to share ideas about how to stay well, connect with others and feel less alone. You could:
- Contact a specialist organisation. For example, you can find details of support groups, forums and helplines on the Anxiety Care UK, Anxiety UK, No More Panic, No Panic and Triumph Over Phobia UK websites.
- Join Side by Side, Mind's supportive online community.
- Contact Mind's Infoline and ask about support groups near you. Alternatively you could find your local Mind and contact them directly.
See our pages on peer support for more information about what it involves and how to find a peer support group to suit you.
If you're new to online peer support you might also find it helpful to read our information on how to stay safe online.
You may find that complementary and alternative therapies help you to manage your anxiety.
There are many types that you can try, to see what works for you. These include:
- herbal treatments
- Bach flower remedies
Some people find that one or more of these methods can help them to relax or sleep better.
Many chemists and health shops stock different remedies and should be able to offer advice.
For me, it's a hypnotherapy CD. I laughed when my husband brought it home; now I use it myself. Very calming.
This information was published in February 2021. We will revise it in 2024.
References and bibliography available on request.
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