Disclaimer: The information on this page and on this website is not medical or professional advice. Even though the information is supported with scientific sources, make sure to consult a medical professional if you have serious emotional or physical problems.
If you've ever experienced a panic attack, you know how difficult and mentally draining they can be. If you are someone who experiences panic attacks quite regurarly, or recently went through one, then make sure to check out the tips I have for you below on how to deal with future panic attacks. First, it's important to know what we're dealing with:
Panic attacks are sudden, intense surges of fear, panic, or anxiety. They are overwhelming, and they have physical as well as emotional symptoms. Many people with panic attacks may have difficulty breathing, sweat profusely, tremble, and feel their hearts pounding. Some people will also experience chest pain and a feeling of detachment from reality or themselves during a panic attack.
Recognize that you are having a panick attack
By recognizing that you are going through a panic attack, you are able to ground yourself more, as opposed to not knowing what's going on. Simply acknowledging that fact, while trying not to judge yourself for it, is the first step in dealing with your panic attack.
Close your eyes
Some people report being visually overstimulated as a cause or worsening symptom of their panic attacks. Make sure to close your eyes to eliminate this possibility. Closing your eyes will also help calm you down and is neccesary for the next steps in dealing with your panic attack.
Practice Breath Awareness Meditation
Practicing a deep breathing pattern, or Breath Awareness Meditation, is an extremely effective way to calm yourself down, signal to your body and mind that you are safe, and to ground yourself in the present moment. In most cases, panic attacks are caused by worry, stress or anxiety about past or future events -for example childhood trauma or an upcoming presentation- By grounding yourself in the present moment through Breath Awareness Meditation, you are trying to focus on the present moment fully, so no other anxiety-inducing scenario's can play out in your mind.
So not only the breathing aspect, but also the grounding aspect is extremely beneficial for you if you are going through a panic attack. That's why Breath Awareness Meditation is such a great tool to feel instant relief of symptoms.
Close your eyes and try to take deep breaths -in through your nose and out through your mouth- according to the image below. Ideally, you would breathe through your belly, but don't worry if you're not comfortable with that right now.
Check out this article about Breath Awareness Meditation for a more in-depth explanation on how this can help you not only to deal with oncoming panic attacks, but also to avoid them entirely in the future.
Another great way to alleviate symptoms of panic attacks is to practice mindfulness. Being mindful of your bodily sensations -like your feet on the floor or your bottom on a chair- is another amazing grounding exercise to take you into the present moment and out of your panic mode.
Also practicing mindfulness throughout your day -every day- will make you less prone to panic or anxiety attacks, and will prepare you to deal with them in a more controlled way if they would still happen.
Not only physical sensations are important, also try to be mindful about your inner dialogue, your own thoughts and emotions, and the way you talk to yourself. Try not to judge yourself but simply observe these feelings and sensations. That way, you will be better prepared to ground yourself in the present moment if another panic attack would occur in the future.
Repeat a mantra or affirmation
Repeating a mantra -a positive phrase you like- is another great way to focus your awareness and attention on something positive, and away from the emotional turmoil. Some example phrases are "This will pass." or "I am safe." Feel free to come up with your own, just make sure your mantra or affirmations is short, to the point and positive.
Drink some water
Even though there is no conclusive scientific evidence for this yet, (panicfree.tv) drinking water may indirectly be helpful to alleviate panic, stress, anxiety or strong negative emotions by reducing the fight-or-flight response and stress hormones in the body. (solaramentalhealth.com) drinking water, or eating something to activate the digestive response in your body, signals to your brain that you have time to feed yourself, thus there is probably no immediate danger nearby.
Another reason to drink enough water -besides the obvious benefits to mind and body- is that dehydration can indirectly induce or prolong anxiety and panic attacks. Even though the science on this is also somewhat unclear, (panicfree.tv) it is never a bad idea to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water during the day.
Integrate the panick attack
Once your panic attack has passed and you have some time to yourself, integrate the experience of what happened. Can you find the cause of your panic attack? How did you handle the situation? Which emotion was most dominant? Asking self-reflective questions can help you integrate this experience and make you learn from it, as opposed to emotionally avoiding the panic attack and potentially turning it into emotional trauma. Just make sure not to overdo this if you don't feel comfortable.
What is causing your panic attacks?
Hopefully with the above tips you can help manage panic attacks in the moment when you get them. But the above solutions were mostly about managing any one specific episode. If you experience panic attacks regurarly, it's important to find the cause and treat it. For some people, that cause can be really obvious -a looming divorce, a recent fight with a loved one, abuse of any kind, trauma etc- but at other times, it's not so obvious what or who is causing you to experience panic attacks. If that's you, then I would highly recommend to try meditation to find and work through the cause of your panic attacks.
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Thomas V is the founder and executive coach of Thomas V coaching and has been meditating practically his whole life. He is a fully certified meditation coach and practitioner. He is now on a mission to get as many people, mainly busy entrepreneurs, to meditate too, and enjoy the endless benefits it provides for body, mind and soul. By applying a science-based approach to meditation, Thomas can ensure amazing results for his clients, time and time again. If you would also like to enjoy the benefits of a well thought-out, science-based meditation habit, feel free to schedule a free video call here.