Let's talk about panic attacks! - Some tips to help you drop the struggle

Did you know that panic attacks are extremely common? The following article has been created to provide some helpful tips that you can use when experiencing a panic attack. However, if feelings of anxiety and frequent panic attacks is something that you struggle with often, it is important that you consider seeing a mental health professional. There are many effective treatment options available that you can explore with your therapist to find the right treatment approach for you.

What is a panic attack?

There are many ways that people can experience a panic attack, and the duration and severity of symptoms can also vary. Panic attacks can last anywhere from a few minutes to up to half-an-hour. Although these symptoms can be quite unpleasant and for some, and even frightening, it is important to remember that they cannot harm you and they will eventually pass. Here are some common symptoms:

- Feelings of intense fear

- An overwhelming thought that you are dying or in danger

- Feeling like you cannot breathe, or that there is not enough air

- Dizziness

- Sweating

- Trembling

- Increased heart rate

- Feeling faint

- A sense of no control

What triggers a panic attack?

Different things trigger panic attacks for different people. For some people, they know exactly what can trigger a panic attack, such as particular smells, memories, or surroundings. For others, however, it can feel as though the panic attack just comes out of nowhere.

What can I do if I experience a panic attack?

Below is list of suggestions that you can try to do during a panic attack. The purpose of these is to not help you fight the panic attack, but to help you deal with it while it is happening. Think of your panic attack like a giant wave out at sea. If you fight the wave, the struggle becomes worse, however, if you embrace the wave and learn to surf, you will eventually be brought back to calm waters.

It is important to remember that we are all different. Some strategies are helpful for some people, but not others. If any of these strategies are making your panic attack more intense, stop doing it and try something else.

Tip #1: Breathe

Try to shift your attention to your breath. Begin by taking a deep breath in for three seconds, hold it for two, and then breathe out for five. Repeat this as many times as you need to. This strategy not only shifts your attention away from your panic attack, but it can be effective in slowing down some of the physiological responses that are happening in your body.

Tip #2: Ground Yourself

Start by focusing on your feet, notice how they feel on the ground, wriggle your toes and notice the sensation. Then, slowly move your attention up to different parts of your body. Try rubbing your hands together and notice how it feels, stretch your arms above your head and feel the stretch in your shoulders. Play with different movements and notice how they make your body feel.

Then, slowly begin to shift your attention away from your body and to your surroundings. Think of 5 things that you can see and four sounds that you can hear. Then, notice if there are any smells in the air that you can sense.

Tip #3: Remove yourself

If there is something in the environment that you feel is making you anxious, it may be a good idea to temporarily remove yourself from that situation, if appropriate, until the panic attack has passed. For example, if you are in a crowded room, it might be a good idea to step outside and get some fresh are.

Tip #4: Self-talk

During a panic attack, sometimes it helps to remind yourself that you are not in any danger. Tell yourself that this is just a panic attack and that you are going to be ok. Try repeating a comforting phrase over and over, such “I am safe, and I am going to be ok”.

Tip#5: Have a plan

If you know what often triggers a panic attack, sometimes it helps to have a plan before exposing yourself to the situation. For example, if you know that being in crowded public spaces can sometimes cause you to have a panic attack, perhaps have an exit strategy before you arrive. Or tell a trusted friend that you may call them if you start to get anxious so that they can talk you through it.

Tip #6: Practice

I highly recommend practicing these strategies while you are calm instead of trying them for the first time during a panic attack. Notice how the different strategies make you feel. Do they make you feel more calm or more anxious? Do they feel good, or not so good? If these techniques are well practiced, then it is much more likely that you will remember them when a panic attack strikes, and they may be more effective.

How can counselling help?

If you struggle with panic attacks, it is a good idea to see a counsellor. A counsellor will explore your panic attacks with you through a range of strategies. There are many different treatment approaches and techniques to help manage anxiety and panic attacks, you can explore these options with your therapist to find the best approach for you. The important thing is that you find a qualified therapist that you trust and feel comfortable talking to.

Note: This article can be freely shared/distributed only in it’s entirety, provided the author and originating source is cited using: 'Written by Bianca Brewer,'.