If you’ve ever experienced panic attacks, you know that they can come on suddenly and are characterised by intense and overwhelming fear. They are often accompanied by a combination of these physical symptoms:
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Dry mouth
- Choking sensation/tightness in the throat
- Shortness of breath
- Accelerated heart rate/palpitations
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain/nausea
- Hot flashes/chills
The most important things to remember is that panic attacks only ever last a few minutes, and you are not in any real danger. For some reason, your body’s flight or fight responses have taken over. One of the biggest worries for sufferers from these attacks is the fear of the attack itself. They worry that they will lose control or be embarrassed by what’s happening to them. Fact is though, that other people will probably not even realise that you’re having a panic attack, as it happens inside you.
Here are our 5 top coping mechanisms should a panic attack strike
Panic attacks are often accompanied by shallow breathing, so getting your breathing back to normal is key. Purposefully slow down your breathing by breathing in slowly through your nose for a count of four, then breathing out slowly through your mouth for a count of four. Count to four before breathing in again and repeat the process. It will take a bit of time before you get all the way to four counts, but by focussing on your breathing you are taking your mind’s focus away from the situation that triggered the panic attack in the first place. That is the aim of the exercise.
Practicing this breathing technique while you’re in a calm state will make it easier for you to utilise it when a panic attack appears.
Mindfulness can change your focus. It can redirect your focus away from the situation that set off your panic attack. Try the following exercise:
Find an object you carry on you (a ring, a watch, a piece of clothing, etc.) or that is near you (a pen, a piece of fruit, the chair you’re sitting on, etc.) and explore it in detail using your five senses
- Look at it in detail – what colour is it; can you make out a texture, describe it to yourself in your mind
- Listen to the sound it makes – tap it or find another way to see what noise it makes
- Feel it – is it rough, smooth, bumpy?
- Smell it – can you smell the material? Does it smell metallic, woody, like plastic?
- Taste it – think what it would taste like if you could taste it.
This exercise can help to reground you.
Lavender can be used to relieve anxiety and reduce the effects of panic attacks. By inhaling the scent of lavender, you can create a sense of calm relaxation.
You can either rub a little bit of oil on your wrist or carry a small pouch of dried lavender that you can use in case of a panic attack.
Muscle relaxation exercise
To combat one of the symptoms of panic attacks – tense muscles – you can try a special exercise called the Progressive Muscle Relaxation. For details follow the link to read the fact sheet.
As with other exercises, muscle relaxation will be more effective if you have practised it beforehand.
Avoid caffeine at key times
Caffeine can increase the occurrence of panic attacks. If you’ve pinpointed certain times where you’re more likely to experience an attack, make sure you avoid caffeine beforehand. For instance, if your attacks are likely to occur during your commute to work, wait to have your first cup of coffee until you’re at work.
How the Live Well Practice can help
As a hypnotherapist and mindfulness coach, I can help you to reduce your anxiety. I offer a special programme tailor made to reduce stress and anxiety. Follow the link to find out more.
Alternatively, or if you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can reach me via email email@example.com or phone 075 222 777 22.