Panic attacks can be really hard to ride with. Sometimes it catches you out of nowhere like a sudden, overpowering wave crashing down on your one perfectly fine day. The feeling can escalate quickly and have you think you’re spiraling out of control.
It all sounds scary and intense, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I have a few suggestions below that you can try the next time you feel it coming on or find yourself in the middle of it.
1. Deep breathing
You may hear this often, but that’s because it works! If a panic attack causes you to hyperventilate or feel emotions rising, taking in slow, deep breaths can lessen the intensity and gradually make you feel calm.
Focus on your breathing by inhaling through your nose for 4 seconds, holding for 2 seconds, then exhaling out your mouth for another 6 seconds. Repeat as many times as you need to and take your time.
2. Recognize the situation and practice mindfulness
Recognizing that you are having a panic attack takes power away from the situation because you are reassured that it is temporary. Focus on physical sensations to help keep you grounded – texture of clothes, ground beneath your feet, an object in front of you, whatever is available.
What can be even more helpful is giving an object your full attention by listing observations – color, shape, size, feel – this helps symptoms of panic settle down.
3. Close your eyes
Panic attacks are sometimes triggered by overwhelming environments. If you are surrounded by a lot of stimuli, block those out by closing your eyes. This can help you focus on your breathing as well. If you prefer, picture a quiet scenario that soothes you, such as the beach, cabin by the lake, hiking in the mountains, on your couch at home, you get the pattern.
4. Take a short walk
If you can, remove yourself from the overwhelming environment and find a peaceful spot. You can also try to focus on your walking, count the steps you take and feel the ground with each one.
Preventing future attacks
It is helpful to learn your triggers and work out the stress factors involved. In some cases, panic attacks can even result from unresolved issues related to PTSD, addiction, or too much pressure from home and work life.
If you find yourself experiencing one again, it is advisable to talk to a medical professional and unpack the factors present.