A sudden and intense experience of immediate fear.
“Panic attacks are a lot like being drunk in some ways, you lose self-control. You cry for seemingly no reason. You deal with the hangover long into the next day.”
A panic attack can happen anywhere and at anytime, generally without any rational reason. They can be terrifying and most people mistake it for a heart attack or an unknown danger that could likely cause them to pass out, be sick or die. My first panic attack was when I was 17. I experienced daily / nightly attacks for about 6 years until they became a lot less frequent. Now I can experience possibly 1 or 2 a year. A big difference is how I am able to help myself and stop the experience at the phase of anxiety from going into a full blown panic attack.
I wanted to provide a list of things I can find helpful whilst at the beginning, middle or end of the panic attacks I have had.
1. Be kind to yourself
This is possibly one of the most important things to do during and after a panic attack.
Look after yourself, comfort yourself and speak to yourself like you would a good friend
Don’t judge or berate yourself. You are already having an awful experience don’t make it worse.
Examples; “It’s OK, we’ll try again later, there’s no rush, how I feel is important”
“It’s OK to be scared but we will be OK, what do I need right now?”
2. Stop what you are doing
You might be out in a stressful situation, find somewhere quiet.
If you are doing an activity, stop and sit down, taking some time out is not quitting.
You could be pushing yourself too hard.
Your body is signalling that it needs rest or that something is out of balance.
Work on creating slow and steady breathing.
As you inhale gently push out your belly and exhaling gently suck in your belly.
Breath out for slightly longer than you breathe in.
Try ‘nostril breathing’ using the little finger and thumb on your right hand.
Close your left nostril with your little finger and breathe in, inhale through your right nostril. Pause.
Close your right nostril with your thumb and exhale through your left nostril. Pause.
Then do the reverse and inhale through your left nostril. Pause.
Close your left nostril with your little finger and exhale through your right nostril. Keep going until you feel calmer.
4. Focus / Distract
Try and focus on something you can see, you might be in a really busy place which feels overwhelming.
If you can attempt to focus on something close to you look at it’s shape and size, what markings does it have, can you touch it, how does it feel?
If this is too much perhaps close your eyes to shut out all of the intense surroundings.
If you are with someone you feel comfortable around let them know what’s happening.
Let them know what you need, do you need them to talk to you and be reassuring
or do you need them to stay quiet and just be with you?
6. Have small sips of water
Sometimes your mouth can feel incredibly dry and your body is on overdrive.
Sipping water can help rebalance you and give you something else to focus on.
Eating something like a banana can also help give you some energy and naturally calm down your breathing.
7. Walk / Move
This might be the last thing you want to do and depending on where you are may not be possible.
Walking helps to ‘burn off’ the excess adrenaline and because it’s rhythmical exercise
it creates a better connection between the left and right sides of your brain.
8. Write / Doodle
Find a way to express how you are feeling through words or images.
This is a way of getting your fears and worries out of your body and mind.
Once you write things down you may find it easier to manage the thoughts and worries.
9. Listen to music
If you’re able to, listening to music can help to both distract you and help you connect to something else.
Play around with different songs to see which ones tend to help you calm down
Is there something happening today or soon that you could be feeling anxious about?
Sometimes if we can pinpoint why we are feeling anxious it can help accept why we are panicking.
This gives us more control over a seemingly uncontrollable and frightening experience.