There isn't much worse in life than a horrible panic attack. Count your lucky stars if you have been fortunate enough to never experience one. For the rest of us, myself included, panic attacks are scary because of how horrible they feel.
A panic attack can look and feel different depending on the person but generally includes any of the following:
Try the following quick tips for combating panic attacks:
1. Don't make it worse. Most important when having a panic attack is to try and not make it any worse than it needs to be. A panic attack is already a horrible experience, adding more anxiety to an already bad thing spirals things out of control very quickly.
Most of us have the habit of getting anxious about being anxious (say what?). Seriously tho, when we notice that a panic attack is going to happen, we get anxious about the onset of the panic. As most of you can tell, adding anxiety to an impending panic attack is not a great idea.
Try to allow the panic attack to happen – once its started, chances are its going to happen anyway, freaking out about it is only going to make it worse. The only way to feel better once it's started, is to let it finish.
2. Remove yourself from stress. Remove yourself from any stress that might be around you – go to a quiet place such as your room and lie on your bed. If you are in public, excuse yourself and go outside, to your car, or to the restroom.
3. Control your breathing. Your brain speeds up your breathing when you are anxious and it will continue to look to your breathing speed to determine any new threat levels. Keeping your breathing slow and steady will help convince your brain that it's okay to calm down. Try breathing in rhythm with your heart beat; 4 – 6 beats in, 4 -6 beats out, rinse and repeat. Try to keep your mind focused on what it feels like to breathe. This can also take your focus away from the panic.
4. Time is your friend. Try telling this to someone who is in the middle of a panic attack and it doesn't go over well – but it's true. Time is your friend. Concentrate on every passing second, count your breaths, watch a clock, do what you can to notice time passing, and remind yourself that panic attacks don't last forever. With every passing second, every beat of the clock, you are one second closer to being done with this terrible feeling.
5. Live externally. This is my favorite one. Think about it for a second, where do panic attacks happen? I mean, where do panic attacks exist? They don't exist in the external world, you can't touch them or show them to other people. Panic attacks exist internally.
The good news is that if panic attacks exist internally, we can choose to live externally. (Screw you panic, if you want to live in here, I am going to leave!)
You can't just completely remove yourself from being inside your head, but there are some tricks to help get outside of your mind.
Try focusing on something external, especially something sensory. Some great examples that my clients have come up with to help focus externally and distract themselves include
Written by Brad Messenger, LMSW.