Panic attacks can be really scary and people who suffer from them can get caught up in panic just about potentially having a panic attack.
Panic attacks don’t just make us feel highly anxious; they can physically bring on symptoms.
We can feel nauseous, clammy, hot, like we are going to faint or have a heart attack. The most important thing to do is not to allow your fear of a panic attack to take over your life, which I know is easy to say but is possible.
Recognise that your fear of the panic attack can often make it worse. Trying to focus on staying calm is a good place to start.
- Use breathing techniques
Focus on your breath and try to keep it as slow and measured as possible. When we are having a panic attack, our heart rate and our breathing really increases. When you focus on your breath and slow it down, it can give you a sense of control and calmness even if everything else is still going on around you.
- Remind yourself that the panic attack is not going to physically harm you and that it will pass.
Talk to yourself while the attack is happening. Let yourself know, “yes I am anxious, I am having a panic attack but I am going to be OK. I just need to focus on my breath and it will pass”. Try to nurture that compassionate voice – it will be a huge key in helping this pass and helping you feel less scared of it.
- Do some grounding exercises
If you are able to sit on the floor then that’s great! Bang your feet down and also put your hands down on the floor. If it’s not possible to sit, just stamping your feet a little bit and letting yourself connect with the earth will be helpful. You just want to give yourself a feeling of being grounded and any way you can do that is a good thing.
Holding something and trying to focus on the touch and the texture of the item also helps with feeling grounded. (A lot of my clients use crystals).
- Identify your triggers/early indicators
When you feel a panic attack starting to come up, start to learn what your triggers/those early indicators are. When you feel that anxiety starting to rise, see if you can interrupt it. One of the tools I use with some of my clients is counting colours. Look around you and count 5 blue things, 4 red things, 3 green things and so on. This interrupts your brain from being scared of what’s happening to you and also of the anxiety – it gives you another job to do!
Another good tool is meditation but it does take time to develop and time to practice. If you can do it, it will reduce your anxiety and make you feel better. Building some sort of meditation into your day can really help to reduce the frequency of attacks and help you just generally feel a lot calmer.
Quite often, people try and meditate and/or use breathing techniques for an hour but find it really difficult. Of course, it will be! Keep it small – try with a few minutes at a time at first and see if you can gradually build your way up to 10 minutes. There are so many apps out there that can help you to do this so see if you can make this a regular practice.
Don’t be too scared of panic attacks. They are not going to hurt you – they are just not very nice!
You can develop tools for helping you to manage them and decrease the frequency of them or get rid of them altogether.
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