When you’re feeling anxious, or like you might be slipping into panic attack territory, using techniques to re-focus your attention away from the panic and onto something else can prove helpful.
One such way to do this is by grabbing an ice cube out of your freezer and holding it in the palm of your hand with your fingers around it. Try to hold the ice for as long as you can. It might sound overly simple but mental health care professionals swear by this hack as a means of distraction.
“By holding the ice cube, your system will want to focus on the coldness in your hand rather than whatever may be causing the panic,” psychotherapist Edie Stark, LCSW, MSc, told Bustle. “The discomfort from the cold will also act as [an] intentional distraction.”
The severity of your anxiety at that moment will dictate the success of the ice cube technique, but it’s a good tactic to keep in mind for when you need to recentre yourself. Counselling service Symmetry Counselling in the United States also recommends using the ice cube method for those experiencing trauma and dissociation.
“Anytime you are feeling a dissociative episode coming or you are recognising you just experienced a dissociative episode, grab an ice cube and hold tight,” Matthew Cuddeback, LCSW, wrote for Symmetry Counselling.
“This small act can help to ground you in the present and allow you a moment’s reprieve from struggling with the effects of trauma, it can give you the breath you need to keep moving forward and this small step can give you the footing you need to then make more progress.”
Other experts also recommend popping the ice cube into your mouth to achieve a similar outcome. Putting the ice in your mouth will not only distract you from what is happening — or what is going through your mind — but it will also counteract dry mouth, which is a common occurrence when the body enters fight-or-flight mode.
“Sucking on an ice cube is therefore activating the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in, which can have a calming or distracting effect,” Uma Naidoo, M.D. told mindbodygreen.
Half the struggle sometimes is bringing your mind out of that place of panic and something as simple as squeezing a cold ice cube in your hand could be enough to do just that.
If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs support, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14, both of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7. You can also speak with someone confidentially at Headspace by calling 1800 650 890 or chat online here.