If you've ever experienced a panic attack, you know how terrifying they can be. You might have even gone to a doctor or the ER thinking that you were having a serious health problem. Once you've been reassured by a medical professional about your good overall health, you might be afraid that panic attacks will return, and if they do, you may feel powerless to fight them. Using the tips below, you might find that you're better able to handle these attacks.
Change Your Environment
You might be in the middle of a meeting or you may be driving a car when you feel a panic attack coming. To cope with it, you may find that it's best to be alone or at least change your immediate environment. For example, if you're in a meeting, you might excuse yourself. If you're on the road, you could pull off the road into a parking lot. This change of environment will provide different stimuli and new things for you to focus on and pay attention to. It can be just the distraction you need to stop an attack becoming too overwhelming.
Take Deep Breaths
A simple way to handle an attack when you start to feel one is imminent is to take deep breaths. Your body is likely to tense up during a panic attack, and it's very easy to forget to breathe deeply. Each breath will encourage you to focus on your breathing instead of your anxiety. Deep breathing will also send signals to your brain that the body is not in any physical danger and remind you to stop scrunching your shoulders so you can relax. Deep breaths may not stop the attack from happening completely, but they can keep you from hyperventilating and making the attack even worse.
Use Positive Self-Talk
Instead of thinking "oh no, I'm having a panic attack" and panicking internally about what is happening, it may help you feel better to repeat short, positive statements to yourself. You might tell yourself that you're doing really well or that the panic attack is almost over. By acknowledging the fact that you're in a state of panic and that you're strong enough to handle it, you may be able to calm yourself so the attack doesn't last long.
Going through each of the pointers here might provide some relief so that a panic attack can run its course without disrupting your life too much. You might want to seek out anxiety counseling for more suggestions and to work through any underlying issues that could be causing these episodes.
For more information or to seek treatment, contact Timothy D. Berry, Ph.D.