Taking Care of Yourself When Experiencing a Panic Attack

Panic attacks are intense waves of fear that come unexpectedly and are debilitating in the moment. The most common symptoms are a racing heart, being unable to catch your breath, shaking, sweating, and sometimes even feeling like you’re dying or “going crazy”. Though many panic attacks happen without a clear trigger, it is helpful to look back on times where you’ve had a panic attack to try and find a common thread- such as being in a large crowd, being under high stress for multiple weeks, being extremely tired, etc. Though you shouldn’t (and can’t) avoid all possible triggers, being aware of triggers will allow you to focus on breathing and mindfulness when triggers are present. With that being said, let’s delve into some techniques we can use to immediately calm down!

  1. Breathing techniques will help slow down your racing heart and prevent hyperventilation. Some examples include the “4-7-8” method, where you breathe in for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, and release for 8 seconds. You can also combine focused breathing with a physical sensation that grounds you, such as tracing circles in your palm.
  2. If possible, step outside and take a walk to change your environment. Visualization is also a great calming technique, in which you visualize a place, with as many details as possible, that brings you comfort and safety.
  3. Mindfulness techniques will help reduce anxiety and help you realize there is no immediate danger in your surroundings. A method that many have found beneficial is called the “5-4-3-2-1” method, where you acknowledge 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.

When your panic attack subsides, be sure to practice self-care however you choose- such as light exercise, listening to music, doodling, etc. You may find it helpful to journal the experience, including what occurred before and after, so that you can identify any triggers. If panic attacks become a regular part of your life, we suggest seeking counseling to resolve any underlying conditions so that you can continue to live a fulfilling life. We hope that these tips bring you peace of mind and that you all have a wonderful week! 

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