Getting through a Panic attack
tips to remember to help you during a panic attack
( and things to do before)
This is a handout I give to the women I work with in therapy to help them get through a panic attack. Feel free to print this list of good mental health tips and use it to help yourself.
More Help Getting Through your panic attacks BEFORE THEY HAPPEN
Care for Your Physical Body
Panic attacks may be a part of panic disorder, or other anxiety disorders. It may be important for you to be seen by a doctor first to ensure that you do not have a physical illness.
1. Panic attacks are composed of physical symptoms that often mimic physical illness. It’s important for you to get a physical exam if you are suffering from panic attacks.
2. Discuss with your doctor that you are aware of the medical conditions that may be related to panic attacks and request that those issues be checked. They include:
Ask for assurance that there is not a physical contributor to your panic
3. If you don’t have an exercise regimen get one. The effects of exercise on anxiety and depression are well documented.
4. Monitor your caffeine intake. Excessive caffeine intake can contribute to panic attacks.
5. Monitor your alcohol intake.
6. Learn to recognize anxiety in your body. Anxiety is stored in your body in ways you may be unaware of. Often, your body will tell you are anxious before you even know
- Identify and accept your symptoms as a panic attack. Just naming the attack should help you dramatically. You will then know you are not dying or having a heart attack.
- Remember uncomfortable, not dangerous. Say to yourself " I recognize this. It's a panic attack. It can't hurt me. It's uncomfortable, not dangerous."
- Remind yourself " No one ever died from a panic attack"
- Attacks typically peak and subside within 10 or 15 minutes if you ride it out and don't distract yourself or exacerbate your panic. Practice the mantra " This will be over in 15 minutes"
- Find a safe quiet place to be still and ride your panic out. Increasing your sense of safety may shorten the attack.
- Remind yourself your body is doing everything it can to keep you safe. Try and reframe all of the things you are feeling in terms of "trying to keep you safe" rather than signs of danger. Shallow breathing, sweating, heart racing all have a distinct purpose.
Understanding the symptoms of a panic attack can help you to better understand the and respond in your distress ( there are about 13 different symptoms)
Getting Through Panic Attacks before they happen.
Tend to your Mind
1. Practice and learn about mindfulness, which is the art of experiencing the moment by stopping yourself from focusing on the past and future. Surprisingly if you try this, you will realize you cannot worry if you are in the moment.
2. Learn to meditate. Meditation creates a space between your thoughts feelings and behaviors. It provides us with a greater sense of self control, connection with our body, and a space between our thoughts and behaviors.
3. Realize that your thoughts are not necessarily true. Just because we have a thought does not mean we have to believe it. Remember, panic is not danger it's just discomfort.
Getting Through Panic Attacks before they happen make Lifestyle changes
1. Live your life in a way that confronts real issues. Pretending issues and emotions are not there, or avoiding things that need to be dealt with, is never a healthy way to solve problems.
2. Learn new coping skills. If you have a great deal of stress and not very good coping skills, you can create the conditions in your body that make a panic attack more likely!
3. Learn to think positively. Our perception of the events in our environment is what determines our reaction.
4. Reduce your stress level by making good choices about your stress. Sometimes we are unwilling to do the things we need to do to reduce our stress.
7. Practice acceptance of your anxiety, allowing it to be there and not pushing it away even in your discomfort. Fighting the attack in any way will extent the 15 minutes that you will need to suffer through it.
8. The goal of deep breathing is to calm your sympathetic nervous system and send the signal you are not in danger so you can more quickly activate your parasympathetic system. We want to activate your vagus nerve. Strategy: Alter the pace at which you are breathing. Slow your breathing to between 5 and 10 breaths per minute.
9. Splash your face with water. It's been found that splashing your face with water will slow down your heart rate and eventually have a calming effect. You can also but a cold wash cloth on your head. I have also heart this described as stimulating your divers reflex.
10. Try to be mindful and present with your body and surroundings. We call this grounding.
- focus on your body and your feet on the floor
- concentrate on an object in your environment and visually explore it
- Pay attention to the sounds in the environment and how they come and go without judging them
11. Be mindful of your thoughts. Recognize your thoughts. There are several components to panic attacks but your thoughts are a large contributor. It is likely that if you are having a panic attack, there are thoughts that are driving this attack in the moment. Some thoughts that clients have told me contribute to their panic attacks are “I’m out of control”,” I’m going to die”, ” I can’t handle this. “
12. Practice soothing touch
- stroke your arms or hands
- hug yourself
- put a hand on your heart
- or find a way that is otherwise gentle calm and soothing.
This is shown to decrease the fight or flight response in humans and should help calm you. Similar to breathing this should help get you through the panic attack and bring you out of your fight or flight response sooner.
13. Make yourself a list of reassurances that can help you when you are having a panic attack.
- “I’m just having a panic attack it’s not a real heart attack”
- I’ve been checked out by a professional”
- I’m not going to die, this will pass”.
- Share this list with your friends and loved ones or post the list somewhere you can see it when you need it. If your attacks happen outside of the house, make yourself a wallet sized card with these thoughts.
Leave getting through a panic attack for these links on panic
caffeine and panic attacks
causes of panic attacks
heart rate and panic attacks
medicine and panic attacks
self help and panic attacks
pregnancy and panic attacks
signs of panic attacks
meaning of panic attacks
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Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have
or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.