One of my biggest fears is having a panic attack in public, whilst on my own and not being able to calm myself down. This had a massive affect on my life growing up to the point where I wouldn’t leave the house because I felt so worried and anxious about being anxious. What would I do if I had anxiety whilst in public? Now, this post is not just for people with anxiety but also for those who are around people with anxiety. Hopefully these techniques will help you or someone around you to understand how to deal with anxiety in public.
Have a hella awkward picture of me trying to have my picture taken in public! Although I first hand have experienced anxiety I have also witnessed people close to me suffer with anxiety. Both are so different. At least with my anxiety it’s mine I can hide it or deal with it. When it is someone else, it is so hard to know what to say, do or how you can help someone. No one likes to see someone suffer or struggle, so hopefully these techniques will help you!
Beat the fear
A huge part of this is beating the fear. It’s all good and well giving into fear to stop your anxiety but in the long run you can’t hide. Sometimes, the hardest thing is finding what your fear is! I spent years trying to find what was my fear/triggers for my anxiety. I have found mine are always changing from public spaces to the unknown. But, by identifying my fears I can focus on dealing with my anxiety in these places. A lot of the time I like to put myself in the places that cause me fear on a purpose to help me learn how to cope with my anxiety.
Part of beating the fear is knowing your safe place. For me that was my parents house. When I was there I felt fine. My anxiety was at a minimum but if I left there, I would be anxious and want to take myself back. But I couldn’t stay at my parents house forever. I did try for a month! I was off school in a mess and couldn’t leave my parents house without having a serious panic attack. But, thanks to my parents who took me to school and watched me enter the school doors, I am in the place I am today!
If you can identify your safe place then you will be able to understand when you feel anxious, that as much as you want to go to that place, you don’t need to! You can make it through! It sounds awful and at the time it feels awful all you want to do is go to your safe place and stay there. But, by pushing yourself you will learn that your safe place can come with you. No, matter where you are you can make it into your safe place. Because, why should your anxiety control who you are?
There is nothing worse than a panic attack whilst in public. But, over time I’ve learnt a few techniques to help me. If you have a loved one suffering from a panic attack and they can’t seem to calm themselves down then speak them through this! I know when I’m in a state I need someone to talk me through each of these steps because I just can’t get my mind to focus!
Related Post: 8 Grounding Techniques
Grounding is a great way of reassuring yourself that it is all okay!
1st Step- ground your feet on the floor, if you could find somewhere private like a clean loo or a private area.
2nd Step- tell yourself (in your head) what you can see around you, what you can smell, taste and hear.
3rd Step- has anything changed, is someone taking, what are they saying? can you see anything else?
4th Step- now go back to what you was doing before but remember to keep observing everything around you.
This technique is a favourite for me when I’m in public and I can’t find any private space.
Step 1- take a deep breath in, keep breathing in for 5 seconds. Focus on the air you are taking in.
Step 2- exhale for 5 seconds and imagine you are exhaling all of your worries, emotions and anxiety.
Repeat these steps until you feel a bit calmer. Observe your heart, is it still pounding if so keep breathing until it slows down.
This technique will help to slow your heart rate down, whilst relaxing your muscles and tricking your brain into thinking it is calm.
When I’m in close proximity to others and I can’t use either of the techniques then this is the one. When experiencing anxiety in a public place sometimes, the other techniques just aren’t possible without drawing more attention to yourself. This technique is great for being more discrete. There is something about chewing gum that distracts me from my panic attack. It gives me a focus and I become solely focused on chewing on gum.
Chewing gum is something you can always have on you, in your handbag or a small packet in your jacket pocket. Then you are always ready to quickly distract yourself! Chewing gum has also been proven to release stress and increase alertness and blood flow to the brain.
Positives of panic attacks
Panic attacks don’t have to be all doom and gloom! Yes they suck! Most people fear experiencing anxiety in public places. But, there is so much you can learn from them. Just think back the person you was before your anxiety. Now, think of the person you was during your anxiety. How are you now? I bet you have learnt a lot about yourself?! Do you feel like you’ve come a long way now you are looking back at your past?
Related Post: Positives of Panic Attacks
Panic attacks allow people to learn and develop and although at the time they seem horrible and you just want them to disappear. Even anxiety in public places. But, I know first hand from experiencing them I have learnt a lot about myself and you will too! Your anxiety does NOT define who you are or control you! You control your anxiety!
Repeat after me…
I am amazing!
My anxiety does not define me!
I can control my anxiety!
And I will get through this!
I hope these techniques help you to deal with anxiety in public places! If you do need further help then please contact your local GP or Mind.