This is one of the most popular questions I get asked as a therapist specializing in anxiety during pregnancy and the postpartum period. For many women who were accustomed to taking a rescue medication to help ease their panic previous to pregnancy, they may no longer feel comfortable doing so or have been advised by their doctor to avoid use of the medications while pregnant (but please remember there are safe and effective medications for anxiety during pregnancy-talk with your doctor!). Or, perhaps you have never experienced a panic attack prior to being pregnant and have no idea what to do when it happens. The good news: there are things you can to do to manage the panic attack
Most Mommas have good success in reducing the severity of a panic attack when doing these 5 things:
1. Use Grounding Techniques
Grounding techniques help your anxious mind and body come back into the present moment. One of my favorite grounding techniques is the Five Senses or the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. You can name these out loud or do so in you head if you are out in public.
This technique uses your senses to help bring you back to the present and quite literally, ground you! For example, "I feel the chair on the back of my thighs, I feel my feet on the ground, I feel my hands holding my phone. "
Look: Name 5 things you can see around you
Feel: Name 4 things you can feel
Listen: Name 3 sounds you can hear
Smell: Name 2 smells near you
Taste: Name 1 thing you can taste
2. Connect to Your Breathing
I'm sure you might be thinking yeah yeah, we all know this one. You're right. We all know it but we don't all remember to do it, and to do it correctly! Deep breathing is one of the fastest ways to bring calm to our nervous system.
How to deep breathe:
Place one hand over your heart and the other on your stomach.
Breathe in and count to 5, hold briefly, and exhale to 10
Repeat for ten breaths
3. Get Outdoors
There is nothing like going outdoors to get fresh air and new scenery while in a state of heightened anxiety. If you've ever seen a crying baby stop crying the second his mother takes him outside, then you know it's true! (this is also a great time to practice your 5 Senses grounding technique!)
4. Move that Body
Even if you are ready to pop, get yourself moving (except if you are bed rest or have any complications of course!) Walk around the block or turn on a prenatal yoga video (YouTube!) Taking a brisk walk (or doing any other exercise you like to do) triggers your body to release a chemical called endorphins, also known as the feel good chemical! Let's take advantage of this all natural chemical to help ease our anxiety.
5. Get Distracted
Were you shocked that I said the word distract? I know a lot of times in the counseling world we like to "sit with" and be "present" with our emotions, but there are situations in which it's appropriate (and effective) to distract yourself! Call your partner or friend. Turn on your favorite show, break out pencil and paper and start drawing, or do whatever you like to do it when you like to relax or zone out!
Try these techniques the next time you feel panic creeping in.