Madelaine Petsch Shared the Easy and Effective Way She Alleviates Panic Attacks

"If you haven't used this method before and you struggle with anxiety like me I highly recommend you give it a try."

Renowned Riverdale actress, Madelaine Petsch is among the estimated 11 percent of American adults who experience a panic attack yearly, as reported by the Merck Manual. Recently she gave an account of her personal struggle on Instagram, minutes after an actual occurrence.

Taking to her Instagram Story, Petsch posted a selfie from her airplane seat saying, "I had such severe anxiety today I almost didn't board my flight. Out of nowhere, I had a meltdown in the middle of the airport and had to collect myself to hone in on my senses."

In the following slide, the 27-year-old shared an infographic about the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique. This popular mindfulness method employed by behavioral therapists aims to utilize all five senses to anchor you in the present moment and help dissipate anxious thoughts. Terri Bacow, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist based in New York City affirms that the technique is not only fairly straightforward to execute, but it can also be performed anywhere, anytime.

According to Bacow, when panic or anxiety sets in, the initial step is to take a few deep, slow breaths. This is particularly vital if you're hyperventilating or experiencing shortness of breath which often accompanies acute anxiety. Doing so aids in calming your nervous system and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby allowing sufficient oxygen flow throughout your body. She explains that anxiety induces shallow breaths which in turn increases carbon dioxide intake. In contrast, slow and full breaths allow more oxygen to enter our system, thereby regulating the 'fight-or-flight response.'

Bacow further suggests, "halt what you are doing, unwind, and adjust your posture (e.g., uncross your legs, unclench your fists). If necessary, you can loosen your clothing. This prepares you for a mindfulness exercise such as the 5-4-3-2-1 technique." The next steps involve acknowledging—either aloud, by writing down, or to oneself—five observable things around you and then four tangible objects.

Begin by acknowledging five things you can see. It may be the traffic outside, your colleague working on their computer, and so forth. Then, note down three sounds that are present in your surroundings. These could be the hum of an air conditioner, the ticking of a clock, etc. Next, try to identify two things you can smell, which might be a little challenging if you're indoors. However, it could include the scent of your perfume or a sanitizer nearby. Finally, recognize one thing you can taste. This could be the aftertaste of your recent meal, your last drink, or the minty freshness of your toothpaste or mouthwash. Once done with this acknowledgment process, take another slow, deep breath.

The simplicity of this mindfulness technique, also referred to as a "coping strategy" by Bacow, does not reduce its effectiveness. It diverts our attention towards experiences involving all our five senses (taste, touch, smell, sound, and vision), thus relieving stress and anxiety. "It provides a comforting, grounding shift of focus that calms the nervous system," she explains.

This anti-anxiety method was highly recommended by Petsch, who successfully overcame her travel-induced anxiety with it. In her Instagram post, she wrote, "If you have never tried this method before and, like me, you struggle with anxiety, I strongly suggest you give it a shot. It was the only thing that helped me today."

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