I have struggled with anxiety for forever! I have PTSD and so panic attacks have come and gone in my life for a long time. Since I began therapy to deal with the trauma specifically they have become much more frequent though. Luckily I have an amazing therapist that has taught me some wonderful grounding techniques.
1) When you begin to feel anxious and panic, take deep breaths in and out. Blow out longer than you breathed in. Pick a specific color that you see in the room around you, then begin to focus on all the things you can see in the room that have that same color. For example, if you see something that is green, look for all the other items in the room that are also the color green. This particular technique is my favorite. I am a very color oriented person and so this distracts my mind. It took some practice at first, but it has become an excellent tool for me to use.
2) Again, begin to take deep breaths in and out, with the blowing out being longer than breathing in. Begin to name the objects in the room. Describe them, such as where you got them or who gave them to you. Think about why it is important to you. This one is still a bit hard for me, mainly because many times I do not have much attachment to the things in my apartment. They were simply bought at a store that I do not remember and not many things that people gave me. But many people have antiques or special gifts from family members, and this could possibly be very good for them to use.
3) Pick a particular object. Use all 5 of your senses to describe it. For example, make a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. (This way you can enjoy it also!) Look at it intently. How does it look? What is its color? Are there swirls in it from stirring? Is the cup warm to touch or too hot to touch? What does it smell like? How does it taste? Is it flavored coffee with a hint of French vanilla, or regular strong coffee? Is it a dark chocolate or milk chocolate flavor? Do you hear anything? Are you stirring your cup? Does the spoon clink against the glass? Or is it simply quiet where you can only here the birds outside or the fan spinning in the room? This is an activity the I enjoy as well. It allows me to focus strictly on what is going on in front of me. Although it is a bit harder to do exactly during a panic attack, I can practice it at other times to help me be more mindful and reduce anxiety on a daily basis.
4) To bring myself out of a nightmare of panic attack and back into the present moment, it has been recommend that I just simply grab a piece of ice. Simple right? Doesn’t sound like it will help? I didn’t think it would do much at first. Supposedly the change in temperature shocks your body into recognizing there is a difference and therefore coming back to the present. So, if you go into a panicked mode, a flashback, or wake up from a nightmare and do not really know what exactly is going on – are scared and frightened and need a way to refocus… simply grabbing a piece of ice or running your hand under cold or warm (not scalding hot) water, this might help to bring you to the present moment. Then once in this place, you can begin to practice one of the other grounding techniques.
Those are a few techniques that have helped me. Everyone is different though and not everything that helps one person will help another. It is important to try things out though. If it doesn’t work the first time, don’t give up, because most times things do not work on the first time and take practice. Talk with your therapist or doctor though to see if they have any ideas as well, as there are a multitude of grounding and mindfulness exercises out there.