Let’s start with some good news. Anxiety attacks always involve your brain chemistry. And changing your brain chemistry (at least temporarily) is relatively easy. If you’re wondering how to deal with paralyzing anxiety, here are five simple techniques to try in order to snap yourself out of it.
What Is Paralyzing Anxiety?
Anxiety becomes paralyzing when it severely hampers your ability to function in your normal, day-to-day life. I’ve struggled massively in my life with how to deal with paralyzing anxiety, including driving anxiety.
Fortunately, my anxiety about driving is mostly in the past. However, driving anxiety is not the only type of anxiety I’ve struggled with. I am still dealing with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and social anxiety disorder (SAD). Of these, my social anxiety disorder is the most paralyzing.
Paralyzing anxiety takes two basic forms: emotional and physical.
Emotional paralysis due to anxiety occurs when the only thing you can feel is your fear. All other emotions, like happiness, curiosity and joy are completely subsumed by fear and panic. Being emotionally “stuck” in extreme fear is very paralyzing. It’s basically impossible to function or do much of anything in this state.
Emotional and physical paralysis from anxiety are closely related. When emotional anxiety is very intense, it triggers panic attacks. A panic attack is a full-body experience of meltdown. You get dizzy, hyperventilate, and feel like you’re going to pass out. Many people who have panic attacks think they’re having a heart attack or another life-threatening event. Our physical reactions to extreme anxiety can be very intense. And very paralyzing.
5 Simple Techniques to Try
1). Change your physical state – Anxiety is often a very visceral experience that involves your physical body. Increased muscle tension, elevated heart rate, hyperventilating, and changes in brain chemistry are all examples of this. You can often snap yourself out of anxiety paralysis by changing your physical state. Splash very cold water on your face. Do intense physical exercise. Listen to very loud music. I’m sure you’re getting the idea. There are many ways to change your body that can snap you out of anxiety.
2). Breathe! – Breathing exercises are a life saver for me. Breathing is one of the easiest ways to change the physical body. Here’s a video with a couple of easy breathing exercises for anxiety that you can try.
More Techniques to Reduce Anxiety
3). Distraction – There are times when the best way to deal with anxiety is to simply distract yourself from it. We all need to escape painful thoughts and feelings from time to time. There’s nothing wrong with needing to “check out” sometimes. There are many ways to distract your mind from how you’re feeling. Examples of distraction include watching movies, listening to music, daydreaming, playing video games, and reading.
4). Spend time in nature – The well-known author of The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle, says, “We depend on nature not only for our physical survival, we also need nature to show us the way home, the way out of the prison of our own minds.” Research has shown that people who live close to green spaces live happier, healthier lives. Immersing yourself in nature on a regular basis is a great way to reduce anxiety.
5). Ground yourself – Anxiety often induces a spacey, disoriented feeling. We feel disconnected from our bodies and our surroundings. This ungrounded state can lead to our anxiety spiraling even more out of control. There are many different ways to “reground” ourselves back into our bodies and back into the present moment. Here’s a list of 21 anxiety grounding techniques you can try.
How to deal with paralyzing anxiety can be confusing, painful, and may even seem downright impossible. It takes effort and practice to learn how to effectively reduce your anxiety. And not every technique will work for everyone. You’ll have to experiment to find what works for you. The tips above should at least give you a place to start.