Panic attacks can be really scary. With symptoms including dizziness and a tightening chest, a panic attack can easily mimic scary medical conditions such as heart attacks. In the midst of everything it may be challenging to figure out how to get through a panic attack. Keep in mind, panicking about having a panic attack will only exacerbate symptoms. Here is a checklist of things to do to calm down and get through a panic attack.
Step number one to getting through a panic attack is to recognize that you are having one in the first place. It is important to rule out all medical conditions. For example, if you are someone who has heart issues, make sure your symptoms are not heart related. Panic attacks have a wide range of symptoms. These include a rapid heart rate, a sense of danger or doom, sweating, difficulty breathing, and more. Any one of these symptoms are terrifying on their own, but when combined, it can feel catastrophic. Once you analyze the symptoms and figure out you are having a panic attack, you can proceed to taking the steps to get through it.
Focus on Your Breath
During a panic attack it is so important to focus on slowing down your breath. The body’s natural response is to hyperventilate which will only make symptoms worse. Start slowing the breath down by inhaling for a count of three. Then hold the inhale for a count of three and let it out through an exhale for the count of three. At the end of the exhale hold it for another count of three. The counting gives the mind something to focus on other than the panic attack and allows the breathing to slow down. If you are feeling better inhaling and exhaling while counting to three, slow it down even further with counts to four or five.
Relax Your Muscles
During a panic attack the body’s muscles can become very tight and strained. This muscle tension makes it difficult for the body to get rid of stress hormones, thus, making the panic attack last longer. The first step to relaxing muscles is to make sure the tongue is relaxed on the bottom of the mouth. Dropping the tongue immediately reduces the tension of other muscles in the body. After that, try laying down or sitting somewhere comfortable where the muscles can naturally relax.
Another way to get through a panic attack it to get moving. This can be as simple as taking a slow walk around the neighborhood. Another great form of movement is yoga. The practice of yoga is not only a wonderful physical workout, but it also has huge calming benefits as well. During a panic attack, moving may feel like the last thing you want to do, but in the end it can help calm you down and release stress.
Go to a Happy Place
Going to a happy place is another way to help yourself get through a panic attack. This happy place can be a physical location or imagined. For example, maybe a garden in the backyard is a calming place. During a panic attack go out in the garden and try to relax. Sometimes a happy place is based on a past memory. For example, you could have a wonderful memory about a beach vacation you took as a child. Find a quiet spot to lay down and imagine you are back in this beautiful place. Imagine the sights, sounds, and smells and make them as vivid as possible in your head. During calm times, focus on a happy place that you can use during times of panic. If you already have a pre-planned happy spot, it will make it much easier to go there in person or in your mind during a panic attack.
The key to getting out of a panic attack is forcing your mind to think about something else. Calling a friend or family member is a great way to distract yourself. Share your worries and then get lost in conversation. Conversing with others is a great way to get through a panic attack. There are plenty of activities to do alone that can also help take attention away from the panic attack. If you have a pet at home, spending time playing or snuggling with the pet is a great way to take the mind off a panic attack. Pets help humans reduce their anxiety. In fact, studies show that petting a dog can raise levels of oxytocin, beta endorphins, and dopamine which are all hormones that make people feel better. Another way to distract yourself if with a good book or TV show. Getting lost in another world whether it be a novel or sitcom can help stop the mind from panicking. Any other hobby you have can serve as a distraction to help get through a panic attack. Whether it is knitting, painting, or playing the piano, pick something that makes you happy. If you are someone who is prone to panic attacks, take time when you are feeling calm and happy to make a list of things to distract you next time panic sets in.
Use Essential Oils
Aromatherapy is a quick way to reduce anxiety and help get through a panic attack. Lavender is an essential oil known for its relaxing properties. In the midst of a panic attack, put lavender oil on the back of the neck and on the wrists. If you have a diffuser, you can also diffuse it throughout the room. Other essential oils that promote calmness include patchouli, ylang ylang, and Melissa. If your panic attacks tend to strike at night, diffuse relaxing essential oils in the bedroom and place them on your wrists before going to sleep. This can help you stay calm as you fall asleep and hopefully stay asleep until morning.
Drinking tea is another great way to help get through a panic attack. Chamomile tea creates a sense of calmness and peace. Do not drink a tea that has caffeine in it. Another benefit of drinking tea during a panic attack is that it can calm the stomach. Nausea and general stomach distress are symptoms that can go along with panic attacks. Drinking warm chamomile or peppermint tea can settle the stomach and help you get through the panic attack.
The Panic Attack has Passed… Now What?
While panic attacks sometimes feel as if they will last forever, typically they will be finished within 10-30 minutes. After the panic attack finally passes, there are a couple things left to do.
First, journal about the experience. Write down every detail about the panic attack. What were you doing when it started? How were you feeling right before? Did you get enough sleep last night? What were some strategies that worked to get you through the panic attack? What didn’t work? Providing this documentation will help to identify patterns with the panic attacks. For example, you may start to notice that you are prone to having panic attacks when you get less than 6 hours of sleep. As you start to notice patterns, you will better be able to prepare for and deal with the panic attacks as they come. The documentation is also extremely important if you ever go see a medical professional.
Establish a Meditation Practice
Meditation is such an important wellness tool that aids with many different types of disorders and issues, including panic attacks. While it can be difficult to meditate in the middle of a panic attack, it is important to meditate every day during calm times to reap the benefits during moments of stress. Try to meditate twice a day for 20 minutes each time. Sit quietly in a comfortable position. Don’t judge your racing mind or any of your thoughts. Instead, accept everything and understand that meditation allows the mind to process hidden emotions to help cope with anxieties. If meditating on your own seems too intimidating, there are guided meditation apps available for download such as Headspace.
Consider Getting Help
If you are someone who chronically experiences panic attacks, consider getting professional help. Psychologists and psychiatrists can help people who experience panic attacks. These professionals can work with you to find the root of the anxiety that is causing the panic attacks. They can also give you coping mechanisms and further ways to get through the panic attacks when they happen. If the strategies alone are not working, a psychiatrist can prescribe medication to help you feel better. Research professionals in your area that can help you to deal with the panic attacks.
Panic attacks can be very scary. The sense of panic and feeling trapped in one’s own body can be debilitating. Rest assured knowing that there are strategies to call upon to help you get through a panic attack. Keep a checklist of the above strategies with you at all times so you easily know what to do when the panic sets in.
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