The overwhelming surge of fear and anxiety which overcomes one during a panic attack can leave you feeling as if you are losing your mind, or even worse, dying. Long-running sufferers of panic attacks often find themselves withdrawing from social activities, sometimes without full conscious knowledge that they are doing so.
Divergent habitual behavior, reclusive tendencies and substance abuse, all become repercussions of untreated panic attacks, which can lead to panic disorders. Yet, given actionable advice one can begin to manage and overcome the anxiety and apprehensive thoughts and their emotional responses at the root of panic attacks.
Here we’ll be providing you some panic attack self-help techniques, while also listing long-term solutions to this unfortunate imbalance plaguing the lives of many.
Common treatments and remedies for panic attacks
The first and foremost weapon that you have in the fight against panic disorders is staying informed. Learn all that you can regarding anxiety, panic and the flight-or-fight response.
When you have an understanding of the sensations and knowledge concerning the process which arises in the onset of severe anxiety, you will be able to manage panic much easier.
Stimulants and central nervous system depressants can all provoke panic attacks. Cut down or quit smoking, avoid caffeinated beverages and all stimulants. Pay attention to your current medication. There may be stimulants included in their composition.
Natural remedies have also proven highly beneficial to those suffering from depression and anxiety. Consider herbs such as lavender and valerian, while many opt for proven treatments such as Kava and St. John’s Wort.
Always be sure to check the possible health complications and contraindications, as substances such as Kava have been linked to liver toxicity over long-term use without precautions.
Recognizing and acknowledging panic attacks
Most panic attacks are preluded by anticipatory anxiety. Instead of feeling like yourself, in a relative state of ease, you find yourself tense, fearful and anxious. Phobic avoidance should also be a concern, as many situations can be avoided completely if you are aware of the exact place, situation or thing which causes anxiety to rise.
In this way, you can work through the factors at the core of the anxiety before placing yourself purposefully into a stressfully situation to help find resolution. If you sense a panic attack, the first thing that you need to do is acknowledge that it is occurring.
This recognition will help calm you, allowing you to focus on further steps towards bringing yourself back to a normal state.
Bring yourself into the now
Panic attacks most often arise when one’s thoughts are focused upon something in the past, or the distant future. Stop imagining what is happening, has happened or could happen, and become preoccupied with people and objects around you.
From the moment that your fear is triggered, use everything in your vicinity to help remind yourself that you are feeling anxiety, and that your thoughts are not rational in this moment.
To be afraid is perfectly normal, yet now is the time that you need to do something about it. Look at the prices of items if in a shop, pick up and think about an object in your vicinity, or make those closest to you aware that you are panicking, allowing them to help divert your focus and calm you down.
Deep breathing is one of the most effective exercises for bringing your heart rate, rampant thought patterns and other physical sensations under control. This essential coping skill can be learned through various therapies. Instead of allowing hyperventilation to shift your parasympathetic response to something alarming, one can exercise a technique known as “4-7-8 Breathing.”
Pioneered by Dr. Weil, founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, “4-7-8” breathing originates in the pranayama yogic breathing doctrine. Directly after recognizing a panic attack, follow these simple steps:
- Begin by getting yourself as comfortable as possible, maintaining an upright if capable
- Close your eyes or fix your gaze upon a stationary point before you
- Breathe in steadily and quietly through your nose, taking the air into your belly
- Blow out the breath forcefully, so that you mouth actually makes a sound. Try your best to force all of the air out in one long, hard breath
- Repeat this process for thirty to forty seconds
The 4-7-8 technique does a wonderful job of inducing a calm state of altered consciousness, perfect subsiding a panic attack. Many clinical psychologists recommend that you practice this exercise two to three times a day, during any point at which you feel stressed. It is also highly effective for bringing yourself to the calm state needed to fall asleep with ease, or reigning in anger.
While practicing this breathing exercise, attempt to hold your breath for a duration of four seconds on the first breath, then breath out and proceed to hold your breath for seven seconds. Directly after, exhale for eight seconds, before repeating the count from the start. By four repetitions you will find yourself in a far more relaxed state.
Release tension in your body
Once you have brought your heart rate down and established a balanced point of reasoning, calmly evaluate which areas of your body are tense. Purposefully tense those muscles, then relax them.
While flexing your areas of tension, working your way through the jaw, neck, shoulders, upper and lower back, and your legs, make sure that you don’t allow yourself to hold your breath. You need to breathe naturally to release muscular tension.
Recovering from a panic attack
Once the panic has begun to subside, recovery is still a process which is hard for many to manage. Here is a checklist of basic exercises to restore yourself to a total balance and sense of normality:
- Change the position of your body, making your physically more comfortable
- Step out of your environment, ensure a change of scenery
- Restore your vitality by eating something, typically something nutrient dense and possibly containing sugar
- Take a short nap, but limit your rest to 20 to 30 minutes maximum, or you will end up more fatigued than before
- Perform light physical exercise, even a walk around the block is often enough
- Get involved in light social activity such as a conversation with a friend over the phone, but be sure to not only talk about your anxiety
General pointers for managing negative thoughts
Anxiety can taint any thought, especially those arising at the point of trying to help yourself get over a panic attack. Never allow yourself to be diverted from your truthful purpose of wanting to feel better.
Never let yourself fixate on how well or how poorly you are breathing, focusing or handling the overall situation.
Even when practicing calming therapies and techniques outside of a panic attack, it is essential for you to allow your attention to be drawn only to the fact that you are actually carrying out a treatment which is helping you.
Resolving anxiety at the root of panic attacks – Moving forward
The best time to contemplate your thoughts, reflecting back on what caused the anxiety triggering the panic attack in the first place, is directly after an attack itself. As soon as you feel yourself again, physically, take the time to challenge your thought patterns.
In the time leading forward from your panic attack, be sure to schedule relaxation time, while addressing possible sleep and dietary issues, as well as lifestyle choices & habits. Begin practicing meditation, yoga or take up a new hobby.
Goal setting granting immediate emotional gratification can help brighten up your spirits on a day-to-day basis. Your aspirations need to be set, but they also need to be attainable.
Once you have raised enough confidence, facing the fear and purposefully allowing yourself to experience the trigger again allows for adaptive thoughts to arise from a clear, logical point of view.
As the renowned chemist and physicist Marie Curie once said “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” Panic attacks and anxiety disorders are problematic and taxing, but they are not something to suffer perpetually.