The first step in breaking the cognitive and behavioral patterns around anxiety is learning to recognize when it is triggered.
Panic begins with a shaky feeling caused by the release of adrenaline and a tightening in the chest from the nervous system triggering quick shallow breathing.
Dr. Albert Ellis correctly points out that anxiety is rarely caused by the objective situation, and is much more likely the result of the beliefs we hold and the story we are telling ourselves about the situation.
The tension we bring to the new situation as we are caught in imagined futures and past trauma is often enough to create exactly the reaction we most feared, reinforcing the irrational beliefs and giving our negative internal dialogue more power.
An effective way to break this cycle is to move out of the fearful reactive forebrain by focusing on the sensory experience of the situation as it unfolds. What do you see right in front of you when you look at the faces of those around you? What emotion can you hear in the tone and volume of the voices? Notice your body language and try to slow the breathing and relax the parts of your body that are tensed.
With a quiet mind and relaxed body you are able to practice empathetic listening and respond to what is happening in front of you.