Updated: Mar 23, 2020
How to deal with panic attacks
If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you know it can be debilitating. For some, it can be mistaken for a heart attack, which should never be taken lightly. If symptoms of a heart attack occur, one should always err on the side of caution by seeking medical attention to rule out any medical conditions.
Here are some specific tips on how to cope with panic attacks:
1. Know the Physiological Signs
Sufferers often feel a burst of intense fear and may experience the following:
sweating, shaking, increased heart rate, choking feeling, shortness of breath, chest pain, feelings of unreality, fear of dying, feeling detached from yourself, dizziness, nausea, chills or heat sensations
2. Slow, Deep Breathing
Gently and slowly inhale air through your nose (4 seconds), hold the air in your lungs (4 seconds), then exhale slowly through your mouth (6 seconds).
3. Muscle Relaxation
You can achieve a powerful feeling of relaxation by tensing and relaxing different muscle groups throughout your body. For example, make a fist and tighten the muscles in your hand, hold the tension for ten seconds, then release the tension. Notice how the feeling of relaxation differs from the feeling of tension. Do this for other muscles throughout your body, and practice regularly to improve effectiveness.
4. Redirect Focus and Ground Yourself
Find objects in the room to fixate on and think about what they look like, feel like, smell like, etc. Pay attention to every detail. Look for 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, and 1 thing you can taste.
5. Connect with Someone
Reach out for help and contact someone who is a natural support for you. Positive supports may include parents, siblings, friends, a significant other, etc. Sometimes you just need some reassurance from a friend or the sound of a familiar voice to slow down your heart rate and deescalate.
6. Logic and Positive Self Talk
Give yourself permission to feel anxious about whatever may be bothering you and use positive self-talk dialogue to talk yourself through the difficult feelings. For example; “It’s just anxiety”, “It won’t hurt me”, “I’m okay”, “This will be over soon”, “Nothing is wrong with me”
7. Calming Scents
Keep a calming smell on hand, such as essential oils or other pleasant smells that you associate positive and relaxing feelings with. Take this scent out and focus on it during times of distress. Some scents that are known for their calming and stress-relieving traits include; lavender, lemon, chamomile, and rosemary.
There are times when panic attacks may be too difficult to handle on your own. It is recommended that you seek the help of a licensed professional to help manage and overcome chronic anxiety and/or panic attacks.