What To Do During a Panic or Anxiety Attack
When I am having an attack, the first thing I do is make sure I’m in a safe, familiar space. If I’m alone in the house, it’s my bedroom. If I’m away from home, it’s usually a bathroom. I pick a place where it’s relatively quiet and there is no activity around me. The second thing I do is drink a little bit of water to make sure that I’m hydrated. Feeling extreme hunger or being thirsty can bring on a false sense of panic as it can feel like I’m going to lose control and pass out due to hunger or thirst. So by ensuring I’m in a safe place and that my basic primary needs are met, I can then focus on the adrenaline that is causing my panic. Here are a few things I’ve done to find relief during a panic attack.
Acknowledge the Situation
The first thing I do is acknowledge the reality. I am having a panic attack. I don’t attempt to lie to myself and pretend that it’s not happening. I try not to fight my emotions but acknowledge the reality that I feel scared, but I’m in a safe space.
Slow, Deep Breathing.
It’s a common suggestion people are recommend to do when feeling panic.
I start by breathing a long breath filling my lower lungs, then my upper lungs. Then I try holding my breath for a second, and then exhale very slowly while concentrating on relaxing the tense muscles in my face and in my shoulders.
I’ve read that it’s recommended to hold your breath for 3 seconds after you inhale, but during a panic attack, often I’m not able to hold my breath for any amount of time. So I just pause for as long as I can, even just for a brief moment before exhaling.
Express How You Feel
During a panic attack, the mind will run amok with irrational, illogical thoughts. In the moment those thoughts seem extremely real and probable. Oftentimes, I automatically try to suppress irrational thoughts because I fear that it will actually happen. However, suppressing those feelings can be problematic as it will build up, multiply, spin completely out of control, and become more overwhelming.
For me, when I’m having a panic attack, I like to type what I’m feeling on a notepad. I type out whatever is on my mind no matter how insignificant it might sound. After an attack, I immediately erase what I’ve typed without reading it. For me personally, it’s nice to be able to have some outlet for my emotions and have no record of it after the attack ends.
I don’t type my emotions as a distraction from panic, I type because it distances me from my emotions. It helps me to not feel like a victim in this attack, but more like an outside observer describing what’s going on.
Typing my emotions are what works for me, but find some way to express emotion that works for you personally. Talk to someone. Voice your concerns out loud to your pet. Write in a notebook. Video or record an audio of yourself. Doodle how you feel.
It’s important to understand that irrational thoughts during a panic attack are just thoughts. It’s alright to have thoughts, but expressing them and then letting them go can help you find relief.
What I do repeatedly throughout my attack is remind myself that even if it feels like it’s the end of the world, it’s definitely NOT the end of the world. I’ve lived through many panic attacks already, and that must mean that I’ll live through this one too. When I feel like I’m going to pass out in public, I remind myself that I’ve never passed out before, and I probably won’t this time too.
Reminding yourself that you can handle the situation is key.
During a panic attack, adrenaline floods your body with the false notion that you have to fight or run away immediately. Adrenaline is why you feel like you have excess nervous energy, and makes your heart beat more rapidly than it should.
Jumping rope, jogging in place, or doing jumping jacks are some ways to find relief to use up that adrenaline.
But do whatever works for you. If you feel like flailing your arms, go for it! If you can only move your legs and knock your knees together, do it! It doesn’t matter how ridiculous you look, what matters is that you release the adrenaline.
Crying is not the byproduct of weakness. People often try to stop themselves from crying as they feel embarrassed or ashamed. However, crying is a natural response to overwhelming emotion. Humans cry when they are extremely sad and they also cry when they’re extremely happy. During a good cry, the body released a high amount of stress hormones. Due to those hormones leaving the body, after crying, you feel relaxed and relieved. It’s an effective way to reduce emotional stress through releasing pent up frustrations or negative feelings.
If you’ve had a few anxiety attacks in the past, you more or less know how long one lasts. If I’ve tried a couple of methods to relieve a panic attack and none of them seem to be working, I just tell myself to wait and ride it out. During an attack, sometimes I feel like I’ll be more comfortable if I’m in a different part of the house, or want to go outside because I feel the need to escape somewhere. But I consciously tell myself, “I know I’m not thinking straight right now. Stay put and you’ll be fine.”
Time is the best healer so just wait.
Hopefully this has been helpful to you when experiencing a panic attack. Here’s a few tips on how to help someone having an anxiety or panic attack.
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