When you’re in the throes of panic—your heart is racing, beads of sweat are dripping down your forehead, and you feel like you can’t breathe—it can seem like the end of the world. The physical symptoms of anxiety only provoke more anxiety, and the terrible cycle keeps perpetuating itself. “Thinking ‘something is horrible and I need to stop it right now’ only adds pressure to the situation,” says Michael Wheaton, Ph.D., assistant professor at Yeshiva University and adjunct faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center.
Instead of attempting to force yourself to calm down (which many times doesn’t work), try simply acknowledging and accepting your feelings, says Kupfer. “If your heart is racing, notice your heart is racing. If you’re worried about a financial problem, then acknowledge that you are worried,” Kupfer says. “Just acknowledge it. Observe it from the outside, in a detached, objective, nonjudgmental manner.” Before long, you’ll realize those panicked feelings have passed.