Panic attacks can be terrifying. No one wants to have sudden bouts of intense fear or crippling anxiety.
The kind of distress that panic attacks invoke can be severe, with many physiological symptoms. It gets worse as panic attacks can occur without warning and last for up to ten minutes.
According to Gold Coast Psychologist, Dr. Mark Bartholomew, over one in ten people will experience a panic attack within their lifetime, and a subset of these people will go on to develop Panic Disorder.
Suffering from stress or anxiety makes people more susceptible to panic attacks. They can be debilitating and make you feel like you have no control over yourself or the situation.
That said, if you experience panic symptoms, here are some ways to handle them healthily.
Recognize Your Condition
Being a step ahead can help reduce the effects. Recognising that you are descending into a panic attack can help to deal with it quickly and effectively.
Some symptoms of panic attacks include sweating, shaking, fast, pounding heartbeat, shortness of breath, discomfort in the chest area, and others. You may even experience tingling or numbness, nausea or feeling faint.
Control Your Breathing
Having a panic attack may cause you to have breathing difficulties, which may ramp up your anxiety. It may also exacerbate the situation by making you hyperventilate.
Thus, you should learn how to control your breathing. There are different techniques you can use. Learn several and find what works best for you.
Deep breathing is the simplest way to go. Take slow, deep breaths and for several seconds hold them before releasing them can help you relax. Be sure to breathe through your mouth instead of your nose for better effect.
Otherwise, try diaphragmatic breathing. When we breathe, our chests typically go up and down. But when you engage in diaphragmatic breathing, your belly expands instead. This method also helps to modulate your breathing and allow symptoms to pass faster.
Relax Your Muscles
When experiencing a panic attack, your body may want to lock up. To solve this and better manage the situation, try using muscle relaxation techniques.
You should slowly relax your muscles, which may have tensed up consciously or unconsciously. Start from your limbs and progress from there. Once your muscles are relaxed, you will start to feel much better.
One of the best ways to battle panic attacks is by finding something on which to focus. It can be a physical object or something more transient. For example, you can focus on the idea that the panic attack will soon be over.
Otherwise, you can picture good or comforting things or situations. Alternatively, you can focus on yourself, your body or a specific body part. Concentrating on how you feel can help to alleviate your symptoms.
You may also find it helpful to focus on a physical object in your environment. This can range from the chair you are sitting on, to a ticking clock. Fixing your attention on something else can help to ease your condition.
Another way to manage panic attacks is by repeating, either internally or vocally, some reassurances to yourself. It can be a mantra or a quote or anything that can make you feel better.
“This too shall pass” is an example of a simple sentence to say to yourself. This gives you something to focus on that will help to make the experience last shorter.
The intake of caffeine such as coffee, sodas, chocolate and tea should be limited. This is because caffeine is a stimulant that can ramp up your heart rate and exacerbate panic attacks.
You should be aware of your limits for caffeine tolerance if you cannot avoid it altogether. Know what foods and drinks contain caffeine and do your best to cut it out of your diet.
Get Professional Help
While it is solely up to you to handle your panic attack, help can be obtained to ease your experience. Getting help from a professional may allow you to identify the source of your panic attacks and handle them accordingly.
Besides, therapies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can equip you with the tools to better arm yourself against panic attacks.