Approximately 22.7% of American adults will experience a panic attack at least once in their lives, a frightening and debilitating experience. Empower yourself to better manage the signs and symptoms by understanding what to watch for and the best next steps.
A terrifying experience, a panic attack can come on with little to no warning. Characterized by a racing heart, weakness, dizziness, tingling or numbness in the extremities, sweats, chills, chest pains, difficulty breathing or a loss of control. If you begin to experience any of the aforementioned signs, remind yourself that the average panic attack will last less than 10 minutes. Try to get yourself into a safe space, such as a quiet room, or outdoors away from stress and negativity. This will give you the space and freedom to take steps to manage your anxiety and calm your mind.
Here are 12 effective tips to better manage a panic attack:
#1 – Research the Condition
This is a point that isn’t going to work for everyone, but for those that are driven by facts and logic, this may help you to feel as though you are taking control of your life back. Take some time to research panic attacks so that you have a better understanding of what causes this. Knowledge of the cause can help you to better prepare yourself to handle it.
#2 – Take a Walk Outdoors
Spending time surrounded by nothing but nature has been found to carry some incredible benefits for your mental health. Reducing stress, spending time outdoors can help you to calm your mind and free yourself from the impact of your panic attacks. Furthermore, the act of walking has also been linked to improved mental health, meaning that a walk outdoors is twice as effective.
#3 – Counting Backwards from 100 Down to 1
Counting exercises have long been used to help us clear our minds of the business and stress that we face each and every day. Take, for example, when you count sheep to help yourself fall asleep. This uses the same distraction technique, counting down from 100 in order to calm your mind and free yourself from the thoughts, chaos, and confusion that led to the panic attack.
#4 – Get Active
Exercising causes the body to release feel-good chemicals within the brain, temporarily boosting our mood by triggering the reward center. If you are feeling overly anxious, try to get yourself moving. Whether you prefer to hit the gym or throw on a home workout DVD, what you do isn’t important, so long as you are up and moving.
#5 – Time with Your Pet
Studies show that simply spending time petting or cuddling with a pet, like a cat or a dog, has significant benefits for your mental health. This contact provides you with the love, compassion, and feeling of stability that has been found to have a calming effect on the mind. For this reason, just spending time with Fido can help to manage anxiety and panic attacks.
#6 – Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is gaining in popularity in the United States today, and for good reason. This is the act of fully focusing on the present, rather than being completely preoccupied with both the past and the present. Take a moment to genuinely experience each moment, embracing each of your senses.
#7 – Talk It Out
One of the reasons why panic attacks can take such a hold on our mental state is the fact that we bottle up these feelings. Take some time to sit down with someone that you trust, such as a friend or family member, and discuss how you are feeling. This includes not only the panic attacks but the situations in your life that you believe may be causing you this extreme level of stress.
#8 – Deep Breathing Techniques
Another common tool for calming and clearing one’s mind, deep breathing exercises allow you to focus on your breathing rather than your thoughts. If you feel a panic attack coming on, find yourself a quiet space, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Inhale slowly counting to 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, then slowly exhale to a count of 8. Repeat this process until you feel yourself calming down.
#9 – Brew A Cup of Tea
Chamomile tea has been found to be effective in the management and treatment of both depression and anxiety, working to relax and calm the mind. If you are feeling overly anxious or like a panic attack may be coming on, brew a cup of chamomile tea. Sit down somewhere quiet and focus entirely on drinking your tea.
#10 – Muscle Relaxation
Similar to the practice of mindfulness and deep breathing techniques, muscle relaxation uses a focus on your body in order to calm your mind. Focusing on one muscle group at a time, tense up the muscle, focusing on how that feels, and then releasing that tension. You may only have to work up one leg or across one arm, or you may need to slowly work through every muscle in your body. Continue this until such time that you feel yourself calm down.
#11 – Positive Affirmations
The power of positive affirmations is often overlooked; however, many self-help programs are built entirely on this practice. Why? Our minds are an incredibly powerful tool, and by directing our thoughts in a positive manner we can effectively eliminate the negativity in our lives. Select a positive quote or phrase, something that makes you feel comforted. Repeat this phrase to yourself as many times as is necessary.
#12 – Journaling
If you aren’t comfortable talking about your feelings with someone else in person, consider allowing yourself to write them out. Journaling is a highly effective tool for managing your mental health. Not only will this allow you to get your emotions out, looking back at what you have written over time may help you to identify patterns and triggers.