Strategies for Getting Through a Panic Attack
If you suffer from panic attacks, then you’ve been there before.
You experience difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate, muscle tension, and dizziness.
These physical sensations are often accompanied by negative and frightening thoughts.
You may even fear losing control of yourself and quite possibly your sanity.
Despite these overwhelming feelings, there are ways you can regain a sense of control when panic strikes.
Below are some simple tips you can use to help ease common symptoms of a panic attack.
Take a Deep Breath
Panic attacks can literally feel like they are taking your breath away.
You may feel like you are hyperventilating, choking, or experiencing shortness of breath.
Managing your changes in breathing can be the key to reducing panic symptoms.
During an attack, try to bring your attention to your breath. Mindfulness, being present in the moment can make a big difference.
Become aware of your breath and begin to direct it:
- Start by breathing slowly and purposely
- This will counteract the shallow breathing characterized by most attacks
- If possible, place your hands on your stomach and fill your belly with breath
- When you inhale, you will feel your center rise and expand
- As you exhale, it will then contract inward
- These deliberate breaths will assist in soothing your body and mind
It may also be helpful to count each breath. Such as counting your first full breath in and out as one, the next breath in and out as two, and so on. This will not only help you breathe better, but it will also help you feel calmer by distracting your mind.
When panic sets in, you may notice pain, numbness, and overall tensions throughout your body.
By spending a few moments trying to relax your body, you can start to improve some of your physical discomforts.
Letting go of this strain will also help relieve your anxious thoughts!
If you have experienced a Progressive Muscle Relaxation session, with a Hypnotherapist, you may be able to go to that calm, relaxed place, simply by using an anchor or keyword, which your therapist provided.
If not, the following may help to relax your tense muscles and lead to a more calm state.
- Start at your fingers and work your way up, your entire arm
- Tightening and loosening each set of muscles, moving from the hand to the forearm, and up to the shoulder
- Then switch to the other arm
- Do the same for your legs, starting with your right foot and toes
- Continue to focus on separate muscle groups, including your back and shoulder, until you have worked your way all the way up to the top of your head
- Pay attention to the shoulders as we carry a great deal of tension in these muscles, work them until relaxed to release that built up tension
- Don’t forget to relax your facial muscles, as there is often a lot of tension held there
- Soften your forehead muscles, relax your jaw, and ease your neck
Change Your Mind
Even when in full-blown panic mode, you may logically recognize that your fears are exceeding what is warranted by the situation. Despite wanting the panic to stop, your thoughts may try and prevent you from feeling calm.
When faced with negative thoughts associated with a panic attack, try to distract your mind and refocus. As the panic attack takes its course, divert your attention to more pleasant thoughts. Instead of fearing the situation you are in, try thinking about the positive aspects of your life, such as a loved one, a beloved pet, or a favorite leisure activity.
It may be helpful to think about something that makes you laugh or to visualize a tranquil scene. You can try to think of a funny joke or imagine a beautiful sunset.
Use positive affirmations, say statements, such as the following, to yourself
- “I am okay”
- “I am safe”
- “This will pass”
- ” I am in control”
Over time your negative thinking pattern will begin to give way to more encouraging views.
One of the most effective ways to control panic attacks is to persistently face your fears. If your attacks are situational, such as being in crowds, try not to avoid these situations. Such exposure will help you to work through panic and will send the message to your fears that you are ultimately in control of them.
If your panic attacks are unpredictable, meaning that no particular triggers bring them on, you will also need to tackle the panic as it comes. Remember that by becoming self- aware during a panic attack, even when it comes on unexpectedly, can help you cope with its symptoms.
Remain aware of how you’re feeling and remind yourself that the anxiety will not overtake you.
You have the ability to control your reactions …
Follow Treatment Recommendations
Your physician or health care provider may recommend medication to help treat your panic attacks.
Anti-anxiety medications, known as benzodiazepines, can provide fast relief for panic symptoms. Frequently prescribed benzodiazepines include Xanax (Alprazolam), Ativan (Lorazepam), Valium (Diazepam), and Klonopin (Clonazepam). Such medications can be taken for immediate relief or shortly before a panic-inducing situation, such as prior to boarding an airplane. Benzodiazepines are generally prescribed during the initial treatment phase as a short-term remedy for panic attacks.
Antidepressants, such as Prozac (Fluoxetine), and Zoloft (Sertraline), are a commonly prescribed type of medication used in more long-term prevention of panic attacks. These medications are often taken daily to help alleviate one’s overall feelings of anxiety. Over time, the strength and duration of panic attacks will be weakened. Since antidepressants can take several weeks to be effective, it is important to take them consistently to improve your symptoms.
Strategy to deal with the next one …
The next time you are met with a panic attack, apply the techniques outlined above so that you can begin to regain some sense of control.
Practice these strategies over time, even when you are not in a state of panic. By rehearsing them, they will be easier and more effective as they become more ingrained in your subconscious mind. With practice, they will be there when you will need them the most, automatically.
You may also want to write them down the affirmations, keeping them with you at all times so they can be used in times of stress or anxiety.
With patience, perseverance, and consistency, your panic attacks can be managed.
You are most likely much braver than you think you are and over time, you will begin to recognize your own courage as you continue to conquer panic attacks.