There’s rarely a warning that panic is about to trigger. Other time’s we may have felt anxiety building over the day and then something tips us over the edge of manageable anxiety and into the downward spiral of a terrifying panic attack.
We begin to feel as though we are drowning, tunnel vision starts to happen and we are facing the racing thoughts and physical effects of a panic attack, it’s virtually impossible to focus on anything else. Having struggled with Panic Disorder for over 6 years, Doctors and therapists have helped me learn how to successfully get myself through a panic episode.
Before I knew what a panic attack felt like, I was taken to the hospital during one of my episodes. I couldn’t breathe, I was trembling, and I had no motor control of my hands or feet. They were completely locked up, and my heart rate was 182 beats per minute. I was screaming at the doctors that I was going to die as they strapped me to the table to control my shaking.
They didn’t give me any medication, they forced me to “ride the wave.” They explained to me that I was having a panic attack and that you can’t die from a panic attack, even if it feels like you’re going to. Your body only has so much adrenaline, it will run out and eventually you will calm down. You may feel like you got hit by a bus afterward and feel weak, uneasy, and like you need to sleep for the next day but you will survive. I will never forget those words, it’s helped me know that no matter how strong the attack feels, I will be okay.
DISCLAIMER: This list was created for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of a medical physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the ER, or call 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided is solely at your own risk.
10 Steps to Stop a Panic Attack
1. Believe that what you are experiencing is normal.
You are experiencing normal flight or fight sensations such as tingling or numbness in your body, clammy hands, hot and cold flashes, nausea, heart palpitations, and more.
2. Reverse the effects of hyperventilation.
If your body is tingling, numb, or clammy, slowly breath into the palms of your hands and exhale even slower.
Try inhaling for a count of 5 and exhaling for a count of 8-10.
When you’re hyperventilating your body releases too much carbon dioxide, you want to “rebreathe” some of that air back in to help your levels stabilize. This will help the tingling and clamminess subside.
3. Move to somewhere “safe”.
It’s not always possible because panic can hit us at any time, but if you are able to move to a quiet space that feels safe for you. For me, if I’m in the car I pull over and turn off all of the music. Anywhere that makes you feel less vulnerable will help.
4. Get into Fetal Position.
Before you came earthside, you were in fetal position in your mother’s womb. When getting into fetal position as adults we are taken back to a warm, protected and secure place. Fetal position is a pose of genuine comfort and new beginnings which can be very helpful when fighting a panic attack.
5. Eliminate Fearful Thoughts.
Anxiety goes to a panic attack very quickly when we focus inward and directly on the scary thoughts and feelings.
Panic attacks escalate fast and hard when we are having internal dialog in our brains such as “What if I don’t survive this?” or “This is horrible, what if this gets worse?” or “I can’t handle this.” Instead change those thoughts to “I know I WILL survive this” or “I don’t like how this feels, but this is my body thinking something bad is going to happen but in reality, I am safe and I am okay” and “I can and I WILL handle this.”
6. Speak Positively to Yourself.
After replacing your thoughts rooted in fear with thoughts rooted in positivity, continue those thoughts by instilling confidence in yourself.
Repeat little mantras to yourself such as “I am worthy of living life without anxiety” and “Your anxiety doesn’t define you.” Those two mantras alone are incredibly powerful and can deeply root into you and begin to slow your racing heart and thoughts.
7. Repeat Step 1.
If at this point you’re not seeing your heart rate and breathing slow down remind yourself again, “This anxiety is strong, but not dangerous. I cannot die from this. This is my body’s natural response when it thinks it is in danger. I am not in danger, I am safe.” No matter how powerful the panic attack feels, remind yourself that it will end.
8. Get out of your head.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much positive self-talk we give to ourselves, we simply don’t want to believe it and cannot manage to soothe ourselves. This is where we need to stop focusing internally and start focusing externally. Find a distraction. I’m not talking about endless scrolling on social media, that’s not going to do the trick. Download a game on your phone, something hyper engaging that you need to focus on. If you’re not a game person, move onto the next step.
9. Use your senses.
Distract yourself by focusing on your 5 senses and surroundings. Start with sound, name 5 sounds that you hear. Then name 5 things you see, 5 things you can smell, and 5 things you can feel on your skin. Repeat as many times as necessary.
10. Recognize your attack has an ending.
As your heart stops pounding, your racing thoughts dissipate, and your other vitals return to normal. Let out a big sigh of relief. Smile. Congratulate yourself on getting through that tough time. Let yourself know that it is finally over. Shut down any “What If’s?” that may arise and continue about your day with a sense of relief and newfound confidence. You survived. You are alive and you are well.
It’s natural for anxious thoughts to creep back in during any of these exercises. The important thing is not to grab onto that thought and take a ride with it down the panic spiral. Instead, recognize the thought, and continue with whatever step you were on.
Keep going. You survived a panic attack using these tools which makes it even easier the next time you need them. You will have faith and confidence in yourself. Keep reminding yourself that you have gotten through a panic attack on your own. You may find that your episodes will get shorter and easier over time. You may even feel like you’ve taken your control back.
Cheers to you.
If you struggling through this, how do you cope up with daily anxiety and panic attacks?
Do you want to share your struggle with others? Write your views in the comment section.
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