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I’m Having a Panic Attack, Now What?

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

Panic attacks can be a terrifying experience, leaving those who suffer from them feeling overwhelmed and helpless. A panic attack is a feeling of sudden and intense anxiety. Panic attacks also have physical symptoms, including:

  • shaking

  • feeling disorientated

  • nausea

  • rapid, irregular heartbeats

  • dry mouth

  • breathing fast and trying to catch your break

  • sweating

  • dizziness

The symptoms of a panic attack are not dangerous, but can be very frightening. They can make you feel as though you’re having a heart attack, or that you’re going to collapse or even die. Most panic attacks last somewhere from 5 minutes to half an hour.

Therapists and doctors suggest there are several strategies that can help manage panic attacks in the moment. These techniques aim to reduce the intensity of the attack and regain a sense of control. Ride the wave and you will get to the other side.

One effective strategy is breathing exercises, such as belly breathing. This involves taking slow, deep breaths from the diaphragm rather than shallow chest breathing, and holding that breath for a few seconds. Do this as many times as it takes for you to feel more grounded. It could take 5-10 times! This technique can help to reduce physical symptoms associated with panic attacks, such as rapid heart rate and shortness of breath.

Another useful technique is progressive muscle relaxation. This involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups throughout the body in a specific order, promoting a sense of physical and mental relaxation. It can also help to reduce muscle tension, which is often a symptom of panic attacks.

In addition, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques can aid in managing panic attacks. CBT focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to anxiety and panic attacks. This may include identifying triggers for the attacks, saying a mantra to yourself that you and your therapist have come up with, and learning how to challenge and reframe negative thoughts.

Many therapists also recommend creating a toolkit of coping strategies to use during panic attacks. This can include listening to calming music, using grounding techniques such as counting or naming objects in the environment, and engaging in activities that bring comfort or distraction.

It is important to note that these strategies may not work for everyone, and it may take some trial and error to find what works best for each individual. It can also be beneficial to seek help from a trained therapist who can provide personalized support and guidance in managing panic attacks.

In addition to these techniques, practicing self-care on a regular basis can also help prevent or reduce the frequency of panic attacks. This may include getting enough sleep, eating well to stabilize your blood sugar (known to spike anxiety), staying physically active to improve mood, practicing breathing skills so when you need them, you are ready, and engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation.

Remember, seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness. So don't hesitate to reach out for help when needed. Let's work together to break the cycle of panic attacks. Keep breathing, stay present, and know that you are not alone. You can get through this, and you are worth it!

In addition to these techniques, it is important to also address any underlying issues or triggers that may be contributing to panic attacks. These may include unresolved trauma, stress, or other mental health conditions. Seeking professional help can provide individuals with the tools and support they need to address these underlying factors and manage panic attacks more effectively in the long term.

Remember to be patient and kind with yourself as you navigate through managing panic attacks. It is a process that takes time and effort, but know that with persistence and support, it is possible to overcome the fear and distress of panic attacks.

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