Panic attacks are surprisingly common. If you have ever suffered from these distressing occurences, you are not alone. From our experience in helping clients to manage panic attacks and intense anxiety, we have come up with some top tips. If you’ve got an added idea, let us know.
What is a Panic Attack?
A Panic attack is a build up of anxiety or fear that can sometimes occur “out of the blue”. You experience a wave of fear or anxiety and you may also experience physical symptoms such as shaking or trembling, sweats or a hot flush, difficulty breathing, feel like your heart is pounding or even experience chest pains. Some sufferers report that they lose touch with reality or experience an out-of-body sensation, others feel like they are having a stroke. Panic attacks often leave a sensation of panic and anxiety, and can build up into a fear of having another attack – sometimes classed as an ‘anxiety or panic disorder’.
Managing a Panic Attack
There are a number of strategies people use to manage these attacks; being aware of these strategies and finding the ones that work best for you will help you manage a panic attack if one does occur, and knowing how to manage a panic attack will also reduce your fear of them occurring again or of the situations in which they occur.
Your first strategy is –
Focus on your breathing
The onset of a panic attack is often accompanied by rapid shallow breathing, so focus on slow deep breaths. By focusing on your breathing, you help divert your attention away from the situation that caused your anxiety.
Ground yourself in reality
Often when a panic attack strikes your mind starts racing and your thoughts spin chaotically from one thing to another, so, close your eyes if you can and focus on the physical things you can feel, your clothing touching your skin, the floor under your feet or the chair in which you are seated, if you are close to an object touch it with your hands and become aware of its texture and temperature. By becoming aware of your physical environment, you will begin to focus on reality, rather than your emotions.
Not what you wanted to hear, right? Sufferers report that when they experience a panic attack, they find that their whole body, or sometimes one particular part (e.g. their jaw muscle) tenses up – we can all probably visualise the point in the movie where the character breaks their pencil because of the stress they are feeling. So, when you feel a panic attack coming on, consciously relax those muscles you might usually tense up, then slowly also release the tension in the rest of your body.
Do something physical
This may be difficult in certain situations, but the tension and anxiety associated with a panic attack often results in a surge of adrenalin in your blood-stream. You’ve heard that adrenalin is the fight-or-flight chemical, so put the adrenalin to use if you are able to, walk about or pace up and down, this works well in many situations where people experience milder forms of anxiety as well. If the situation permits it, you may even be able to “walk away” for a short while; just ask or explain to someone what you need to do.
Practice positive thinking
This can also be linked to repeating a phrase to yourself such as ‘I can do this’, or, ‘I am in control’. Remember a time when you successfully negotiated a stressful situation and think about how you felt, then imagine how good you will feel once you have successfully negotiated the current situation.
Go through each of these strategies and practice them, then decide which will work best for you, or even in which order you will use them in a given situation. Everyone is different so don’t be afraid of finding your own strategies too.
Try and practice some of these techniques when you are feeling more relaxed and have the time, practising them at these times will help you to remember to do them if a panic attack starts.
Here at Horizon, panic attacks and anxiety are regular issues which we help our clients to face, and we are able to draw on our experience in numerous techniques in order to tackle them. If you would like dedicated support, and assistance in managing such symptoms, please contact us for a completely free no-obligation initial consultation. Help is on the Horizon.