Panic attacks are often common when we have a sudden burst of fear and anxiety. This is caused by the body’s natural reflex to prepare for a ‘fight or flight’ situation and this subconsciously triggers a set of physiological reflexes (as well as disturbing and fearful thoughts). One of these physical reflexes include the stimulation of the adrenal hormone by the adrenal glands. The released adrenalin (when triggered appropriately) can ensure survival in a life or death situation.
This reaction is usually for a good purpose but sometimes it has the ability to cause trouble (especially when one is know to either have a low ‘trigger threshold’ for the attacks or a slow recovery from them). When it happens too frequently it can sometimes become difficult to manage or regulate. It may give you a feeling of being completely out of control as these attacks seem to appear out of nowhere and usually leave you confused and fearful of a repeat-performance (not to mention all the thoughts that come about as it is occurring). Attacks can seep into and disrupt many different areas of your life (including social and professional) and are seen as a great nuisance, but with these following tips you’ll be able to give these annoying reactions a run for their money.
Stopping Panic Attacks
Know that it only takes three minutes to stop a panic attack. It takes three minutes for your adrenal glands to fill your body with the adrenaline response. It also only takes three minutes for your body to stop the adrenaline reaction. If you stop a panic attack as soon as it starts, the reaction only has to last for three minutes.
Change the atmosphere. Changing your surrounding or circumstances at the onslaught of a panic attack can sometimes prevent it from happening. When you feel a panic attack coming on, try drinking a cold glass of water, tell yourself a joke, sing your favorite song or whatever it takes to stop the negative thought process that can start the panic attack. When you find something that works, use it next time. This will help prevent the attack before it starts.
Label your fear. As you feel fear coming on assign a number to it from 1 to 10. Your fear likely won’t stay at a high number for long, so as the number decreases you can feel more relieved.
Clean up your environment. Your environment is the most important thing. If you are in a stressful environment, such as parents fighting or yelling in a car, it is more likely to cause you more stress. Try to choose the best environment to live in. Kids can develop anxiety from a stressful home life. You may or may not know that your anxiety level is rising, so always be aware so it doesn’t turn bad quick.
Breathe and relax. Put an end to a panic attack before it starts. When you begin to feel like you are going to have panic attack, relax your muscles by tensing all of your muscles up in one area of your body (e.g. face, left arm, etc) for a few seconds and then relaxing them. Do this with every muscle in your body. Be sure to focus on your breathing.
Notice your posture. Are you shaking? Fidgeting? try to sit still. Anxiety has a snowball effect. The more you shake, the more nervous you become. The more you feed into your anxiety, the worse it is.
Wash your face with cool water.
Try some form of vigorous aerobic exercise like jogging, riding a bike, etc. This helps to process some of the adrenalin that is released into the blood stream during a panic attack and reduces the physical symptoms associated with it.
Use ice cubes. This technique can help you divert your attention away from a panic attack, especially if you’re in the throes of a particularly intense attack. Take out an ice cube and hold it to your hand for as long as you can (you can put the cube in a paper towel). Then, place the ice cube on your other hand. This focuses your mind on the discomfort, de-escalating your symptoms.
Know what to look for. When you have a panic attack, you may feel very anxious, and nervous, or you could feel like you are in a dream, and could even have trouble hearing or understanding what is going on. The best thing you can do is tell yourself that it is just a panic attack, and it may scare you to death, but it won’t kill you!
Remember not to simply avoid places or situations because you believe it may be a trigger. By doing this there is a risk that one particular form of anxiety linked to panic attacks called agoraphobia may be induced. This occurs when (like Pavlov’s dog) you get ‘conditioned’ by experiencing a number of panic attacks at a particular site or situation to experience fear. You then subsequently ‘learn’ to avoid that place (or situation). For the extreme cases of agoraphobia (and due to the constant panic attacks), some people ‘learn’ to avoid so many places that they restrict themselves to ‘safe’ zone(s) (places of comfort). They then become house-bound and fearful of the outside world; sometimes even restricted to a particular room in their house. Frequently recommended is ‘exposure’ treatment where by taking gradual steps, you go back to the places of fear with newly-found knowledge and self-confidence. Relaxation techniques are a good help for these particular situations (or taking someone you trust with you for moral support). Eventually, and with the help of these other useful tips, you’ll start gaining the confidence you require to resume your usual habits with less and less stress.
- Often nature is a good soother. Take a walk to a park, down a beach or cycle along a waterway, etc. Try to be somewhere that nature is around you, allowing you to connect beyond your psychosocial worries.
Focus on what you can control. Observe your surroundings and situation and examine what is actually happening as opposed to what might happen or what you fear might happen. For example:
- Accept constructive criticism and praise for a job well done rather than worrying about how you could have performed better.
- Prepare for things that may be out of your control, whether it’s a possible illness or a potential disaster.
- Build positive relationships with others. Let go of what others may think of you and embrace those who spend time with you.
If you experience an attack or feel like you are going to experience one, then don’t react to the attack. Just accept it. Let it flow through you. Once you do this regularly, it will become easier for you to face panic attacks.
Understand what panic is. Panic is just excess adrenaline that runs through your body when it’s confronted with a possible life-threatening situation also can be caused by something that triggered an event from your past that placed you in a threatening situation. Panic attacks are physiological. Feelings of panic can be very scary, but the feelings you have are your body telling you to fight or run away from the potential danger. They are mechanisms that evolved to protect you; but now, in this moment, there is no real danger. Close your eyes for a second, take a deep breath and rationalize your thoughts.
Understand that panic attacks are a mind state. A panic attack can be a very frightening and uncomfortable experience, but it’s absolutely not dangerous. Panic attacks are a state of mind, not an illness. Only in some cases is a panic attack a symptom of another illness.
“Don’t believe everything you think.” Tsilimparis uses this motto with his clients. That’s because when you’re having a panic attack, it’s common to experience racing thoughts that feel intense and catastrophic. Remembering that these thoughts are simply a symptom of the panic attack — like a cough to a cold — can help to de-escalate it, he said.
Just know that you are not the only person who has experienced panic Attacks. Many people have, and many people understand. I hope this has helped. Stay calm and take your mind off of it! If it persists, you should see a doctor so you can be prescribed medicine.
Make panic attack journals. Make a panic attack journal with strategies that have helped prevent attacks in the past written down. Have one for your home and one for your car. You may even need this same journal at work. Keep phone numbers for your local crisis line or doctor’s office with this journal. If you feel yourself starting to have a panic attack, refer to the notebook. If the panic attack is more than you can handle, you may need to use the phone number to call the crisis line. You could also include the phone number for a close friend of family member that has helped in the past.
Trying Physical Reactions
Try hiding. Get under a favorite blanket or quilt. In public, pull down your hat and button up your jacket and slip into the shadows for a while.
Put your arms straight up in the air. It works for some people.
Watch TV. It can take your mind off the rising panic and substitute other experiences. Just be choosy about what you watch; only view things that help calm you.
Try walking around if you can. The repetitive, physical motion can be soothing. Or if you’re in a secluded place, you can rock back and forth. It might look a little strange, but it can be really comforting.
Stick with someone you trust and feel safe around. Talk about what is bothering you and ask for help.
Managing the Stress
Use stress management methods when you’ve determined that your panic attacks are related to excessive tension.
Sleep better. Get your sleep routine into some formal order and stick to it. The additional sleep may help you to sort out a lot of things that are worrying you, reducing the triggers for panicking. And the best cure for tension is rest.
Exercise frequently. Allow your body to let out the pent-up energy that may be leading to panic feelings. Do endeavor to make an effort to include a daily exercise routine into your life. As well as helping with your overall health, you will detect that you can grapple with panic attacks much better.
Practice positive self-talk. People can feel ashamed about their panic attacks and become very self-critical. Remember that there’s no shame in experiencing panic attacks. You can say a statement such as “I’m going to be OK.”
Limit Facebook time. It’s okay to use Facebook to keep in touch with friends occasionally. But, when Facebook becomes “an addiction” (those of you who are addicted know who they are), it’s difficult to notice how it promotes feelings of loneliness, low self-image, jealousy, insecurity and feelings of inadequacy – all of them leading to anxiety. Limiting your time on Facebook is one of the best things you can do for your mental health in general.
Banish those bad influences from your life that may be adding to your stress. If you feel like you can’t get over your stress, it probably means you have an underlying issue or stressor that is causing you distress. Choose in your mind a path to deal with this, or choose to ignore it. In most cases dealing with the problem and working it out in your mind helps immensely.
Take more breaks. Take time away from things that stress you, for an hour, a day or even take a few weeks on a vacation. Regular breaks allow your body to rejuvenate, even if you feel worried that stopping will interrupt the flow. Usually a break will restore your mind sufficiently to allow you to tackle the hard stuff with more effectiveness.
Using Dietary and/or Herbal Intervention
Consider using herbal remedies. If herbal medication is something you already believe works for you, you might find a herbal solution to panic attacks. Talk to your naturopath or other trained herbal healer to discover what options may be out there. The effectiveness of this approach will depend on the herb used; it’s recommended that you do scientific research before over-relying on a herbal treatment in and of itself.
Adjust your diet. Reduce your intake of caffeine, sugar and foods that are high in fat. Such foods and stimulants can wind you up so much that you feel stressed out, unhealthy and lack the energy needed to cope well with daily routines. A healthy diet is one your body deserves anyway, so give yourself a chance.
Try chamomile. A number of studies have already confirmed that Chamomile, St. Johns Wort and Valerian root can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms. In my experience, these are more effective for mild cases of anxiety and they will not be very helpful for an acute panic attack. Chamomile tea is especially recommended if anxiety is ruining sleep due to its sedative effect. If you are taking any medication, check for counter interactions before you start.
Using Therapies for Panic Attacks
Consider using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy/One Move Technique. This therapy is also known as the One Move technique. Panic attacks are caused due to fear and the fear is due to the release of adrenalin. The release of adrenalin is directly linked to the adrenal corticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulated by the pituitary gland. So that is where you need to control. If you can control the stimulation of ACTH then you can certainly overcome panic attack.
Join a support group. Talking with others who have attacks may help you to feel in control of your condition and lead to helpful panic attack management resources. Group members can share strategies for facing and managing fear and their successes. Professionals with expertise in panic attacks may also be available to speak with at meetings.
- Request a list of local support groups from your doctor.
- Locate panic attack support groups in your area by contacting the Anxiety Disorders Association of America via their website or by phone at 1-240-485-1001.
Try mindfulness. There are a number of variants of mindfulness, including some that combine CBT and mindfulness. Either see a therapist who practices mindfulness teachings or read widely on it.
Practice relaxation techniques frequently to help prevent panic attacks.
- Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique in which you tighten muscles one at a time until your entire body is tense. Gradually releasing the tension relieves the muscles associated with stress and helps to relax your mind.
- Use distraction techniques when you feel fear, anxiety or stress coming on. Exercises include counting backwards from 100, squeezing a stress ball, or simply looking at artwork or a pleasing photograph.
- Yoga combines stretching, stationary posses and deep breathing. This practice aims to create balance in your body, and is believed to be relaxing and stress-reducing.
- Deep breathing can help you relax by slowing your body down, allowing you to concentrate on the technique rather than stressful situations in your life.
Seeking Prescription Remedies for Panic Attacks
Go see a doctor. Go to a professional psychologist if needed. However, consider your options carefully before taking drugs. Medicine may increase suicide rates and can actually make the problem worse. Sometimes people have been given higher doses because people complain of the problem worsening, when in fact the medicine was causing their problems to worsen. It can also be addictive, and permanently alter the brain’s ability to generate its own feelings of well-being independently of drugs.
Consider trying prescription medications if you don’t feel able to cope. Popular classes of medications include tricyclic antidepressants, beta blockers, benzodiazepines, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). Drugs that have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of panic attacks have been shown in double-blind, placebo controlled studies to significantly lower the likelihood of panic attack episodes.
- Talk to your health professional in detail before choosing to take medication. All medication has side effects and long-term dependence does not allow you to develop external coping behaviors. Treat prescriptions as a temporary helper to get you over the initial hump, after which you expect to learn to cope without such medical aids.
- Avoid caffeine. It can increase anxiety.
- Don’t turn to alcohol or drugs to help you cope. They will only hinder your healing and add to your problems. Acceptance, professional help and educating yourself are much more productive.
- Do not hesitate or be embarrassed to call your doctor. Many people have gone through this and learned to cope.
- Don’t feel afraid. Remember one thing: Fear increases fear. If you are afraid of panic then it will create more panic and you will face more trouble. So let it go through your body.
- Breathing is the key. Inhale through your nose and exhale a long breath through your mouth. This keeps you calm.
- If you feel panic, then don’t react. Let it through. It will come to an end. Panic attacks are like a roller coaster. It will come to end.
- Panic attacks are like a circle, talk to someone when you feel one come on it sometimes helps.
- If you let it flow through you, then you will lose your fear of panic. When that happens, you become less scared of panic attacks and more relaxed when you have a panic attack.
- Don’t resist panic attacks. Accept them and let them flow through you. It will come to an end.
- Medication is an option: consult your doctor for specialist advice.
- Don’t always reach for pills to make it better. Try to deal with it on your own first, before you take pills or else it will never resolve.
- If you ever have any dangerous thoughts, contact a doctor or find immediate help.
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