This next sentence helps many panic attack sufferers (including me) cope with the myriad of symptoms during an attack:
You’re not as out of control as you may feel.
Arguably the best piece of advice that I was given was this: “No one ever dies from a panic attack.” It’s never happened. No matter what the panic attack throws at you, no one has ever breathed their last breath during one. It feels like you may pop your clogs, but you’ll be alive at the end of it, it is a temporary state of being.
You’re scared, but you’re not in life or death danger and just knowing this can lessen the intensity of attacks.
Understand your body and the panic attack signs.
Most of us have heard of the fight or flight mechanism; it was hardwired into our predecessors so that they could flee from sabre-toothed tigers and other life-threatening situations.
Today, the mechanism that saved us is working against us because our fight or flight responses are still occurring when we become anxious, but the threats are not life-threatening like missing a work deadline, forgetting to call someone back or getting stuck in traffic.
Our body acts just as it did thousands of years ago and fired up the adrenaline and cortisol, the stress chemical, but there’s no outlet, so we have:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Upset stomach
- Tingling face
- Tingling in fingers and toes
- Hot or cold flushes
- A choking sensation
- Feel out of control
- Feel separated from real life
- Remember that the worst is happening already, you’re scared, it won’t get worse, it can’t.
- Just wait and watch the panic attack instead of trying to regain “normal.”
- Accept the panic attack but do nothing. (Unless you’re driving/active, in which case, pull over or stop.)
- Acting too quickly is counter-productive because it could make symptoms worse.
- A panic attack inhibits your ability to think, concentrate, make decisions and remember effectively so you should wait for symptoms to subside.
It’s not your job to stop the panic attack; they’re like runaway horses anyway, make yourself as comfortable as you can try breathing techniques, deep breathing or belly breathing is best. This is also known as diaphragmatic breathing; focus all of your attention on regulating your breath, when this is under control a lot of your symptoms should decrease.
Repeat to yourself that you are safe, you won’t die, this is temporary. This gives you a dose of positive thinking in the midst of an attack.
Panic is 99.9% caused by worry about the future, so aim to focus yourself on the present calmly, that’s the foundation of mindfulness.
Try these helpful hints, and you should see improvements. We’re here to help you to get through each day feeling stronger.