Mental Challenges

A Psychologist Shares Her #1 Tip for Dealing With an Anxiety Attack in Public

Photo: Getty Images/SDI Productions
Venturing out your front door and into the world probably feels emotionally taxing right now. With the omicron variant looming over the holiday season (which can be tough even in a "normal" year), you might be dealing with mental unrest. So know that if you do find yourself in the midst of an anxiety attack in public, you're far from alone. And licensed therapist Mariel Buqué, PhD, has a simple, mindfulness-based technique to help your reclaim your calm in moments that feel out of your control.

According to online therapy resource Betterhelp, an anxiety attack is defined as intense feelings of distress, fear, restlessness, and worry that come on slowly, but tend to linger even after the "attack" itself is over. This is different than a panic attack, which comes out of the blue and often manifests as acute fear and detachment from the world around you. The two are not the same thing, so keep in mind that Dr. Buqué's tip is for an anxiety attack. (However, you can find a few tips for managing the panic variety here.)

In a recent Instagram reel, Dr. Buqué shared that if you experience an anxiety attack in public (whether you're at a holiday party, a doctor's office, or in the grocery store), you can distract your brain with a basic technique. "Something you can do that's actually super incognito is mindfully counting the colors that are in the room," she says. "You can count the colors in the room for a period of 30 to 60 seconds, then note how many colors you actually counted. That's actually going to distract your mind and take your mind away from whatever's causing the anxiety." By the time you've ticked off the hues around you ("Emerald. Aquamarine. Ruby red..."), you should be feeling a little more like yourself again.

Dr. Buqué's go-to anxiety attack buster is a great tool to keep in your back pocket. But keep in mind that if you're experiencing frequent anxiety attacks, it's a good idea to bring them up with a mental health professional who can help you develop long-term strategies for keeping your anxiety at bay. You don't have to navigate this one all by yourself.

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