A panic attack can be a terrifying experience. It often comes out of nowhere and can be both physically and emotionally debilitating. Understanding the symptoms and most common methods for overcoming panic attacks can help you successfully deal with the condition next time it arises.
What Is a Panic Attack?
Panic attacks are caused by anxiety disorder. This condition, a type of panic disorder, impacts about 2.4 million adults in the United States. Onset usually occurs in late teens or young adulthood, and women are twice as likely to be affected as men.
However, panic attacks can affect anybody. They occur when the body’s natural reaction to stress reaches extreme levels.
What should have caused moderate discomfort results in an adrenaline-fueled “fight or flight” response. They can happen very suddenly and may be completely unprovoked.
Panic Attack Symptoms
Panic attacks create a scary set of physical symptoms that are often mistaken for a heart attack. When suffering from a panic attack, you may feel any of the following symptoms:
- Racing heart and rapid pulse
- Feeling dizzy or faint
- Flushes or chills
- Sweaty palms
- Feeling like you’re choking or can’t breathe
- Tingling in your arms, legs, hands, or feet
- Trembling, jumping, or twitching muscles
In addition, you may feel like you’re losing control, dying, or going crazy.
Panic attack symptoms are so disturbing that sufferers often live in fear of experiencing another one. This can disrupt your entire life and create an array of additional issues, including Agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house).
Methods for Overcoming Panic Attacks
To restore control and order back into your life, it’s necessary to learn some basic methods for overcoming panic attacks. Here are ten tips that may help you calm your nerves and stop panic attacks in their tracks.
1. Identify and Examine Your Stressors
The first obvious step when you start to feel anxiety is to figure out what’s stressing you out. Ask yourself if it’s really productive to worry about that particular thing and whether there’s anything you can actually do about it.
If there’s a solution, move forward with it. If not, acknowledge that fact and move on. Work on making yourself comfortable with accepting uncertainty and letting go.
2. Schedule Time to Address Your Fears
This may sound crazy at first, but it really works. Schedule a certain time, thirty minutes to an hour once or twice a week, to sit with your fears and brainstorm ways to address them. If a worry comes up at a time other than what you have scheduled, simply write it down and set it aside until your designated worry-time.
Doing this allows your brain to stop obsessively thinking about the topic and address it at an appropriate time.
3. Let out a Deep Sigh
Deep breathing exercises have been proven to relax the body. In the midst of a panic attack, however, it’s almost impossible to stop the quick, shallow gasps for air.
Instead, focus on taking one deep breath and exhaling fully, with a sigh. This relaxes the muscles and expels excess air. Often, one good sigh can allow you to start controlling your breath.
4. Change Your Immediate Environment
Often, a simple change of scenery can help to snap you out of a downward spiral. If you’re sitting, stand up. If possible, get up and walk around.
If you start to feel anxious while trying to go to sleep, don’t force yourself to stay in bed. If 15 minutes or more pass and you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing. Distract yourself until you feel truly sleepy, then go back to bed again.
5. Repeat Your Worry Until You Grow Bored
If you can’t get a worry out of your mind, try repeating it until you can no longer focus on it. If, for example, you think you’ll fail an exam, simply repeat “I might fail my exam” over and over for 15 minutes. You’ll soon find that your mind wanders and the thought loses its power.
6. Practice Calming Techniques
Taking the time for self-care and practicing calming techniques can help with overcoming panic attacks. Find something you enjoy doing, like yoga, meditation, reading a book, or writing in a journal. It’s impossible to be relaxed and anxious at the same time, so the more you practice these techniques, the better off you’ll be.
7. Give Yourself a Reality Check
Many times, anxiety is a result of how you frame your thoughts. Instead of jumping to the worst possible scenario, take a step back and think about other options.
If you have a headache, don’t assume it’s brain cancer. Sometimes a headache is just a headache. Save your worries for problems that actually exist.
8. Change Your Self-Dialogue
When a panic attack starts, your mind may start to spin with thoughts like “I’m dying,” “I’m going to pass out,” or “I’m going crazy.” Choose a self-empowering mantra to counteract these thoughts. Try something like “I’ve got this,” or “I’m in control of this panic attack.”
Keep experimenting with this until you find something that works for you.
9. Take Care of Your Body
Lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, and sleep all have a major impact on overcoming panic attacks. Make sure you eat clean, drink plenty of water, and move your body. This improves self-esteem, creates a sense of empowerment, and gives your brain and body the nutrients they need to function properly.
10. Seek Professional Help
If your anxiety is severe or the coping methods above don’t help, you may need professional treatment for anxiety and depression. Working with a therapist allows you to examine the root causes of your panic attacks and explore new ways to overcome them. Learn more about what one-on-one counseling can do for you.
Share Your Story
Have you had success in dealing with panic attacks? We’d love it if you would share your story in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to check out some of our other tips and hacks to help you create a more enjoyable life.