6 Life Hacks For Anxiety Attacks That Strike At The Wrong Moment


There never is a good time for an anxiety attack. They seem to strike at the exact worst possible time and interfere with you living your best life.

Luckily, you can begin to take control of and stop an anxiety attack by using the following life hacks:

1. Make sure you are having an anxiety attack.

The symptoms of an anxiety attack can be confused with the symptoms of a heart attack. So, it’s important to be clear about which you are experiencing. According to the American Heart Association, the top symptoms of a heart attack (listed in the table below) can come on suddenly or slowly.

Top Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
  • Pain or discomfort in chest
  • Discomfort or pain in arm, shoulder, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, and believe you could be having a heart attack, you should call 911 or have someone take you to the ER immediately.

And here are some common symptoms of an anxiety attack. The important thing to know is that you don’t need to have all the symptoms to experience the sheer terror of out of control anxiety.

Common Symptoms Of An Anxiety Attack
  • Palpitations, pounding or racing heart
  • Sweating or chills, trembling
  • Tightness in chest
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness or tingling
  • A sense of terror, fear you might die
  • Blurred vision
  • A sense of losing touch with reality or going crazy

(You’ve probably also noticed that some of the symptoms of an anxiety attack are the same as for a heart attack. That’s why it’s so important that you get clear on which you’re experiencing.)

2. Get to safety.

If you have ruled out the possibility of a heart attack, know that you are safe. What you are experiencing is a full-body terror.To help you feelsafe, you may want to move to a safe place. It could be the floor, your bed, the bathroom. And if you’re in public, you can find safety in a place to sit or lie down.

3. Become aware of your feelings without fighting them.

Anxiety attacks are fueled by fear – your fear of the fear response itself. (This is also known as secondary anxiety.) And, if you try to ignore or fight the feelings, you will only increase your vulnerability to panic.But the opposite it true too. The less you resist your anxiety, the less anxiety you will feel.Any time you have an anxiety attack, it’s uncomfortable and unpleasant. However, when you put this life hack into practice, you’ll notice that it doesn’t have to be scary,

You canhandle this. And when you believe you can, you will begin decreasing the symptoms of your anxiety attack.

4. Observe the present.

Anxious, racing thoughts tend to draw your attention to the future. But if you focus on the present moment through a grounding technique, you’ll likely find that your anxiety begins to decrease.One of the most popular grounding techniques is the 54321 “game.”

    • Name 5 things you can see around you right now and describe them.
    • Name 4 things you can feel with your body.
    • Name 3 things you can hear right now.
    • Name 2 things you smell or enjoy smelling.
    • Name 1 thing you like about yourself.

5. Control your breathing.

Now that you’re safe, your relaxation response needs to take over in order to calm your stress response.One of the best hacks for doing this is by slowing your breathing and taking deep belly breaths. Deep, slow belly breathing calms your autonomic nervous system. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 5, hold for 1-2 counts, and breathe out through your mouth for a count of 5. Your goal is to have your belly rise and fall with each breath and to have no more than 8 breaths per minute.

6. Be patient with yourself.

The worst part of an anxiety attack generally lasts for just a few minutes. However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll feel back to normal as soon as it passes. It can take longer for your body to fully recover.Everyone has a slightly different experience of panic or an anxiety attack. You can best help yourself recover by being patient with yourself and your anxiety. Your symptoms will The kindest thing you can do is continue to be present while they dissipate. (This life hack is one that you can use throughout your day-to-day experiences and not just when you’re dealing with an unexpected anxiety attack.)

These life hacks can help you deal with an unexpected anxiety attack. And, with practice during non-terror times, they may help you prevent your anxiety from attacking.


For more help with managing anxiety, check out my new book, Hack Your Anxiety, register for my free mini-ecourse by signing up for book bonuses here, or check-out my anxiety and relationships blogs.  

Photo by Marina Vitale on Unsplash

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD