I’m on the subway staring into space. I’m at my desk writing a story about corn. I’m at a friend’s birthday dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. I’m zoned-out or focused or happy. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, I’m overcome with anxiety. Anxiety about what? Your guess is as good as mine.
As someone who had her first panic attack at the age of six (I was at an amusement park wearing purple gingham shorteralls and jelly sandals), I know how this goes. It’s neither my first rodeo nor my last. Not now, I reprimand my brain. I don’t have time for this.
Whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, random panic can happen to pretty much anyone. For me, sometimes that moment of panic turns into a full-blown panic attack. Other times, I can stop the feeling in its tracks using a super-simple trick I learned from a therapist I used to see.
Basically, you just observe your surroundings and start describing things—in your head—in increasing detail.