Many of us have had those moments where we’ve felt as though our heart is beating out of our chest and our lungs have stopped working. Experiencing panic attacks can have a devastating effect on our mental and physical bodies and take a toll on us emotionally.
Shortness of breath, sweats, heart-pounding, and an overwhelming sense of fear are all symptoms associated with panic attacks – although symptoms are unique to each individual.
Panic attacks are not fun. And despite your logical brain trying to reason with your panic-stricken mind, it can be difficult to claw your way out of a panic attack. To help you work through these attacks, here are seven strategies to use when you feel one coming on.
Use your breath
We’ve all heard this little nugget of wisdom, but here it is again. According to Healthline, hyperventilating is a symptom often associated with panic attacks, but deep breathing exercises are a great way to reduce this symptom. When you’re able to consciously control your breathing, you’re less likely to experience hyperventilating. Focusing on your breathing also gives your mind a chance to focus on something other than panic. So, make sure that you take those deep breaths – deep belly breaths, hold for four seconds, and then out for another four. Do this until you feel the panic dissipating.
Acknowledge that you’re having a panic attack
Moving through a panic attack is a mental game. It’s incredibly easy for your mind to trick you into thinking that you are having a heart attack – or worse – dying! The most important thing to do during these instances is to recognise that you’re having a panic attack. Move through the feeling of impending doom by reminding yourself that everything will be okay and this will pass.
Focus on something:
Another great way to alleviate the symptoms of a panic attack is to focus on an object. Find something within your vicinity and try and describe every last detail. Perhaps it’s the texture of the chair or the discolouration of the wood. Take note of everything to help your mind focus on anything but the sheer panic you’re feeling.
A splash of Lavender:
More than just a beautiful smelling flower, lavender has some incredible relaxation properties that are great when it comes to calming your mind. Grab your bottle of lavender essential oil and splash a few drops on your forearm during those panic-stricken moments. If you have trouble sleeping due to a busy mind (who hasn’t been there), add a few drops to your pillow and breathe in the relaxing goodness. Sipping on lavender or chamomile tea are also great alternatives.
An ice cube to distract you:
This works well especially if you are helping somebody else through a panic attack. Grab an ice cube and ask the person to hold it. 1. They will be confused and briefly distracted from the overwhelming anxiety. 2. Their brain will focus on the coldness and again be distracted.
The 54321 trick:
This is a favourite amongst many psychologists.
Name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. It will help distract your mind.
Exercise never hurt anybody:
There’s nothing like a rush of endorphins to help your mind enter a better mental space. It’s not always easy to get up and move when you feel as though the world is coming to an end but engage in some gentle exercise to help your body release some tension. Go for a light walk or do some yoga that requires plenty of deep breaths.