7 Ways to Help Regain Control Before a Full-Blown Panic Attack

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Panic attacks can be frightening to have and concerning when seeing someone else go through one. When someone has a panic attack, do your best to be supportive and assist them through it. And if you are the one having the panic attacks, there are many different ways in combating one.

What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause, according to the health resource site Mayo Clinic. Panic attacks can be frightening and when panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack or even dying. People tend to usually have one or two panic attacks in their life, says Mayo Clinic. Panic attacks themselves aren’t life-threatening, but they are frightening and can affect your quality of life.

Signs that a panic attack is coming
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a panic attack reaches a peak within minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
  • Fear of dying

Panic attacks usually begin suddenly, without any warning, states Mayo Clinic. They can strike at any time, like when you’re driving, outside, asleep, shopping or the middle of work. You may even have occasional panic attacks, or they may occur frequently. Panic attacks have many variations, but symptoms usually peak within minutes. You may feel fatigued and worn out after a panic attack subsides.

Steps to take
The medical resource website Healthline gives a variety of ways on how to deal with a panic attack.

  1. Use deep breathing: Hyperventilating is a symptom of panic attacks that can increase fear. but deep breathing can help. Deep breathing can reduce symptoms of panic during an attack. If you’re able to control your breathing, you’re less likely to experience the hyperventilating that can make other symptoms worse. Focus on taking deep breaths in and out through your mouth, feeling the air slowly fill your chest and belly and then slowly leave them again.
  2. Close your eyes: Some panic attacks come from triggers that overwhelm you. If you’re in a fast-paced environment with a lot of stimuli, this can feed your panic attack. In order to reduce the stimuli, close your eyes during your panic attack. This helps block out any extra stimuli and make it easier to focus on your breathing.
  3. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness helps ground you in the reality of what’s around you. Sometimes panic attacks can cause a feeling of separation from reality. In order to combat that feeling you can focus on the physical sensations you are familiar with, like digging your feet into the ground or feeling the texture of your jeans on your hands. These specific sensations ground you firmly in reality and give you something objective to focus on.
  4. Use muscle relaxation techniques: Muscle relaxation techniques can help stop your panic attack in its tracks by controlling your body’s response as much as possible. Consciously relax one muscle at a time, starting with something simple like the fingers in your hand, and move your way up through your body.
  5. Engage in light exercise: Endorphins keep the blood pumping and they can help flood our body with endorphins, which can improve our mood. Because you’re stressed, choose light exercise that’s gentle on the body, like walking or swimming. The exception to this is if you’re hyperventilating or struggling to breathe. What you want to do is catch your breath first and then do a light exercise to relax the body.
  6. Find a focus object: Focus all of your attention on during a panic attack to distract yourself from the stressor. Pick one object in clear sight and consciously note everything about it possible. Notice its color, structure, and any other details that stand out to you.
  7. Recognize that you’re having a panic attack: By recognizing that you’re having a panic attack instead of a heart attack, you can remind yourself that this is temporary and that it will pass. This will help take away the fear that you may be dying This can allow you to focus on other techniques to reduce your symptoms.

Sources:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021
https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/panic-disorder-agoraphobia/symptoms
https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-stop-a-panic-attack#breathe-deep

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