//Ris Adams;

How to Cope With Panic Attacks

Cover image for How to Cope With Panic Attacks.

If you suffer from panic attacks, then you understand the sheer fear that you face in the moment of an attack. Feeling powerless to stop it is one of the worst parts. Even if you despair that this constraint has become a part of you, take heart.

You can learn to cope with, reduce, alleviate, and perhaps even eliminate your panic attacks for good! There are specific actions steps you can take to help you overcome this challenge.

Where Do You Start?

You can learn a lot about panic attacks simply by studying why they occur. You can also try to discover the root of your panic attacks. Keep in mind that you should always seek help from your physician.

Panic exists because it’s a way for you to deal with a threatening situation. When you’re in danger, your body releases adrenaline that enables you to think and move quickly in order to escape the threat.

Panic attacks occur when you find yourself reacting to a situation with feelings of panic, even though there may not be an actual threat. In your mind, though, the threat is real.

For example, if something terrifying once happened to you at the mall, future trips can still set off a panic attack, even if there are no threats. Alternatively, you can even feel panic in certain situations without being able to figure out exactly why.

Whether you’re consciously aware of the reasons for your panic attacks or not, it’s good to know that there are still strategies that can help you overcome them. It also may help for you to know that panic attacks generally cause you no physical harm. When a panic attack strikes, you will get through it and things will return to normal soon.

How to Cope During an Attack

Once an attack is taking place, you might feel powerless. Instead of allowing your panicked thoughts to take over, focus on your body and methods of relaxation. Deep breaths can counteract the panic since a panicked state forces you to take quick, shallow breaths.

When the attack starts

  • Focused Breathing Techniques: Engage with deep, slow breathing to help calm the nervous system. Techniques like the 4-7-8 method (inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds) can be particularly effective in managing rapid breathing and heart rate.
  • Grounding Exercises: Use sensory engagement to stay present. This can include techniques like the 5-4-3-2-1 method, where you identify 5 things you can see, 4 you can touch, 3 you can hear, 2 you can smell, and 1 you can taste. This helps to anchor the mind in the present moment and detract from panic.
  • Positive Self-Talk and Affirmations: Replace negative or frightening thoughts with calming, affirmative statements. Remind yourself that the attack will pass and that you are safe. Phrases like “I am in control,” “This is temporary,” and “I am strong” can be helpful.
  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Practice mindfulness to observe panicked thoughts without judgment, letting them pass like clouds in the sky. Simple meditation practices, focusing on breath or a calming visualization, can also help ease the intensity of an attack.
  • Physical Anchors: Engage in gentle physical movements like rubbing your hands, tapping your feet, or slowly stretching. This helps to release some of the physical tension that comes with a panic attack and can provide a feeling of grounding and stability.

Long-term Strategies

  • Regular Exercise and Physical Activity: Engaging in regular physical activities like walking, yoga, or swimming can help reduce overall stress levels and improve mood. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters, and can increase a sense of well-being, making you less susceptible to panic.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Regular practice of mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation techniques can help you maintain a calm state of mind. These practices train your brain to stay focused on the present, reducing the likelihood of worry that can lead to panic attacks.
  • Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Maintaining a balanced diet, ensuring adequate sleep, and avoiding stimulants like caffeine and nicotine can significantly impact your overall mental health. These choices help regulate your body’s natural rhythms and stress responses.
  • Journaling and Self-Reflection: Keeping a journal to track your thoughts, feelings, and the situations that lead up to a panic attack can help you identify patterns and triggers. This self-awareness is crucial in managing and preventing future episodes.
  • Recognizing Early Warning Signs: Pay attention to early symptoms such as increased heart rate, shortness of breath, or feelings of dread. Early recognition of these signs can allow you to implement coping strategies before a full-blown attack occurs.

Why You Shouldn’t Avoid Panic-Inducing Situations

It’s natural to want to simply avoid situations where you might feel panicked. However, this usually isn’t the best solution. For instance, you can’t avoid elevators, crowds, or the doctor’s office forever.

If you tell yourself that you can’t do these things because they’ll give you a panic attack, you’re just reinforcing the behavior. Rather than helping yourself prevent your panic attacks, you’re more likely going to feed the fear and make the attacks even stronger. Although it’s difficult, when you continue to engage in activities that may induce panic, you’re actually giving yourself many opportunities to overcome your challenges.

Natural Methods for Coping with Panic

There are natural methods you can use and changes you can make to your routine that have the power to ease anxiety and panic.

Meditation is one helpful method. Meditating can help you become more relaxed and in tune with your body and mind. These benefits can aid in understanding, preventing, and coping with your panic.

Lifestyle changes include the use of regular exercise. Most of us don’t realize that exercise is not all about helping your body; it has some great power in balancing your mind too! You’ll also be doing yourself a favor if you pay attention to things like your diet and sleeping habits. All these factors can have an effect on your panic attacks.

With research, self-reflection, and anti-panic strategies such as those mentioned here, you can begin to get a handle on your panic attacks. Know that you can have power over them! With knowledge and practice, you can be free of the fear of another panic attack.

Seek professional help

Seeking professional help is a crucial step in effectively managing panic attacks and should be considered a strength, not a weakness. Mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors, are trained to understand the complexities of anxiety disorders and can provide personalized treatment plans. They can offer a range of therapies, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is highly effective in treating panic disorders. These therapies help in understanding and changing the thought patterns that drive panic, as well as developing coping strategies to manage symptoms.

Professionals can also determine if medication might be beneficial in conjunction with therapy. In some cases, medication can help to reduce the intensity of panic attacks or help to manage underlying conditions that contribute to anxiety. Remember, each individual’s journey with panic attacks is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another, making professional guidance invaluable.

As for resources, here are a few that can be helpful:

  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA): Provides a wealth of information on anxiety disorders and offers a tool to find therapists specializing in anxiety disorders across the United States.
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Offers comprehensive information on panic disorder, including the latest research and clinical trials.
  • Psychology Today: Features a therapist directory where you can find mental health professionals in your area, filtered by expertise and insurance.
  • Online therapy platforms that connect you with licensed therapists for virtual sessions, providing flexibility and accessibility. If you have health insurance, these services may also be covered.

Seeking help is a proactive step in taking control of your mental health, and these resources can be a starting point in your journey towards recovery.