A panic attack is a feeling of sudden intense fear that can trigger physical reaction even if there is no real danger. Panic attacks are very frightening because one can feel a sense of losing control or mistake it for a heart attack. A panic attack fills you with a strong surge of fear, triggering symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, a racing heart, sweating, or trembling.
In case you or someone you know experience a panic attack here are some ways you can stop it.
Recognize that you’re experiencing a panic attack
Experiencing a panic attack for the first time can be really scary, especially if you’re not quite sure what’s happening. Some people mistake the symptoms for a heart attack, which only makes the panic attack worse.
So what’s the difference between the two? First of all, heart attacks usually (but don’t always) develop during physical exertion, such as when you’re climbing stairs or in the middle of a strenuous workout. Meanwhile, panic attacks can be triggered when the body is at rest. Panic attacks also usually subside within 20 minutes, while heart attacks will continue and even get worse over time.
Recognizing that you’re having a panic attack gets rid of the fear of dying. It reminds you that what you’re feeling is temporary so you can concentrate on your breathing. This is the first step to calm you down when you’re having a panic attack.
Close your eyes
Panic attacks can be triggered by overwhelming environments with a lot of stimuli. If possible, you can move to a more peaceful spot to reduce stimuli. Or you could simply close your eyes to reduce your discomfort and help you focus on breathing and other coping strategies.
Take deep breaths
A panic attack might make it seem easier to take quick, shallow breaths, but try to take deep breaths instead to avoid hyperventilating, which can aggravate your symptoms.
With your eyes closed, put a hand between your bellybutton and the base of your ribs. Inhale deeply through your nose, then gently exhale through your mouth, feeling your belly rise and fall with your hand. You could count from 1 to 5 with each breath to help you concentrate on your breathing.
Find a focus object
Focusing on a nearby object around you can help you clear your mind. For example, you can focus on a building, taking note of its color, patterns, and shape. Let your focus in the object help you stay grounded until the panic attack subsides.
If you experience attacks frequently, you could carry something with you specifically for this purpose.
Use muscle relaxation techniques
One common symptom of panic attacks is muscle tension. To relieve this, do muscle relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation. To do this, tense up a group of muscles as you inhale, then relax them as you exhale. Start with your fingers and continue with other muscles. When your brain senses that your body is relaxing, this can help alleviate your symptoms quicker.
Keep soothing essential oils on-hand
Lavender oil has long been used to relieve stress and soothe anxiety. Though essential oils are no replacement for professional mental health treatments, they can help relieve symptoms. Simply rub a small amount onto your wrist or hand then breathe in the scent.
Think of a happy place
Your happy place is somewhere that makes you feel safe and relaxed. Right when a panic attack is starting, it helps to close your eyes and picture this place. Imagine being there and focus on how at ease it makes you feel. Remembering this will help you calm down and normalize your heart rate and breathing.
Repeat a mantra
A mantra is a word or phrase that helps you focus and find strength. Repeating a mantra can help you ground yourself and come out of your panic attack. It could be something like “This will pass” or “I am not afraid.” Repeat this gently to yourself as you take deep breaths and relax your body.
You could experience a panic attack once or twice and never have them again, but if you experience attacks frequently, it’s a good idea to see an expert.
Have you ever had a panic attack? How do you cope? Tell us below!