Have you found yourself suddenly bombarded by a storm of thoughts, a heartbeat that you can’t seem to keep pace with, a choking sensation or feeling like you’re reeling out of control? Chances are that you may be having a panic attack. Ironically, many people panic even more when having a panic attack making the experience even worse to handle.
So, how can you deal with a panic attack that hits you out of the blue?
Here are few ways I employ when panic attacks come visiting:
A. SLOW, DEEP BREATHING
I find this one very crucial to reduce my panic. I’ve been an asthmatic all my life so I already know how to tackle shortness of breath. Even then, a panic attack makes it a hundredfold worse when it comes to breathing. What I do is, I breathe in for 4-7 seconds and then exhale for the same amount of time. I repeat this until I feel I’m back to my normal breathing rate. Trust me, this works every single time!
B. FOCUS ON YOUR ‘HAPPY’ OR ‘SAFE’ PLACE
One day, I had a panic attack and I don’t know why but I made myself visualize a place where I could feel safe and happy, a place where nothing, not even a panic attack could touch me. I focused on that, soaked in the secure, content feeling that the place exuded. It felt extremely empowering. It could be anything that makes you feel safe – sitting by the side of a lake, embracing a loved one, putting a smile on other’s faces – just imagine it, hold it in your mind and watch your panic melt away. (I will say this though that it takes effort to do this but it’s worth it.)
C. USE YOUR 5 SENSES
I came across this technique somewhere and found it ingenious. In this what you do when you get a panic attack is, you have to use your 5 senses. For example, Listen to 5 different sounds that’s surrounding you – the whirr of a fan, a cat mewing, the wind rustling tree leaves, a motorbike zooming by, and people talking. The same goes for Seeing, Touching, Smelling, and Tasting. Note 5 distinct elements from each category – it helps to ground you during a panic attack.
D. USE THE AWARE TECHNIQUE
This one is one of the best ways to deal with a panic attack.
A – Accept that you are having a panic attack. Accept the present current reality.
W – Watch your panic. You are the audience observing it. It helps to keep a panic diary and jot down what you observe when a panic attack happens to you. It helps you calm down faster.
A – Act normal. If you were in the middle of doing something before your panic attack came, continue with it like normal. Don’t feed panic by avoiding your present task.
R – Repeat the above steps till you feel your panic attack has gone.
E – End. I prefer ‘The End’ just to tell my panic attack that I CAN defeat it! So can you 😉
I have personally implemented all the above techniques and have found that they work for me. Some may require extra effort and will power but they all help tremendously in overcoming a panic attack.
I would be happy to learn more techniques to handle a panic attack. Do let me know what steps you take to deal with it.
Oh and before I end this, there is one phrase that I always say during such times and that is – This too shall pass.
Till then, keep calm and cruise on 😉