Handling a Panic Attack: What to Do When It Happens
If you've ever suffered from a panic attack, you know how terrifying it can be. Even if nothing is wrong with your physical health, a panic attack can feel like a heart attack. Sometimes, a panic attack can even cause someone to fear that they are dying.
It’s a frightening experience, and if you’ve been through it personally, you’re probably afraid that it could happen to you again. Thankfully, there are helpful techniques you can use to handle a panic attack if you notice one coming on.
While you may not be able to prevent them from occurring, you can navigate these situations with these effective strategies.
Exit the Overwhelming Situation
If you’ve realized that you’re having symptoms of a panic attack, it could be partially because you’re in an overwhelming environment. You might be in a crowded room, at a loud party, or driving on a busy highway.
If possible, it’s best to exit the situation when you can. For instance, if you’re driving, look for a safe place to pull over. If you’re at a social gathering, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom or step outside for a moment.
Even if you can’t make your exit immediately, try to find a quieter space if possible so that you can have a little more room to yourself.
Take Deep, Slow Breaths
Calming yourself down during a panic attack starts with your breathing. Take slow, deep breaths and simply focus on your breathing. Aim to make your exhales longer than your inhales.
This will allow you to soothe yourself and alleviate the worst of your symptoms. Turning your attention to the rhythm of your breathing will give you a chance to center yourself.
Sometimes, simply grounding yourself in the present moment can help you avoid a serious panic attack. Use each of your five senses to get a feel for your surroundings and create a sense of stability.
What can you see? Do you smell anything? What textures do you feel with your hands or under your feet? What do you taste? And finally, what can you hear? Go through each of the five senses one at a time.
Within a few minutes, you may feel calmer and more relaxed.
It may sound strange, but walking can help to stave off a panic attack. Moving your body releases endorphins, and going for even a quick stroll can give you the chance to work off the nervous energy that is building up.
If you’re at work, see if you can get up from your desk for a minute and walk somewhere else in the building. If you’re home, you can head outside and walk around your backyard or go for a walk around the block.
Even if you aren’t able to go for a walk, stretching or moving your body in general can be beneficial.
Focus on an Object
When you have a panic attack, it’s because your brain thinks that you are facing a threat. Sometimes, finding a way to prove to yourself that you are safe can ease this fear.
You may be able to shift your attention to an object and narrow your focus for a few minutes. Is there an object in the area that can help counteract this feeling and make you feel safer? This could be anything from a piece of decor to something you’re wearing, like a bracelet or watch.
Focusing on a single object can help you silence the noise.
Are you suffering from panic attacks? Talking to a therapist can help. Reach out to me today to discuss your options for scheduling your first session.
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