Panic attacks can completely derail you from your day, or even longer. Luckily, there are ways to cope should you feel one coming on. Below are some ways to help manage, and potentially overcome, this condition.
Escape“fight or flight” by focusing your attention on something
Remember the origins of panic, which arises from our evolutionary history. In the past, a hungry lion might have been coming at you, and the panic was needed to survive. This means the thinking part of the brain becomes much less active as you switch into survival mode.
But you can trick yourself out of flight or flight. Try counting backwards from one hundred in jumps of three, make yourself do a crossword, or read something.
Use the power of mantra
A mantra can help you become centered and derail a panic attack. Perhaps yours is just one word or a phrase. Have something on hand to repeat, such as “I am not my thoughts,” or “inhale, exhale.” This will help send the message to your brain that panic isn’t necessary.
Write your thoughts out
Once you’re settled, take time to write about what you think triggered your panic attack. You can keep this for future reference to become understand your triggers. Journaling is also an amazing technique for tracking your moods and helping you work through specific issues over time.
Do you have a friend or family member who is willing to help calm you down? If you feel a panic attack coming on, give them a call. Just be sure to have a backup plan in case they’re unable to answer.
Use the R.A.I.N. method
The acronym stands for: Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Not let it define you. As you recognize a panic attack coming on, become like a scientist of your own mind. By taking a step back, you can see that the panic is not you, but your body tricking you. For many, part of panic attacks is the fear of the panic attack itself, and the R.A.I.N. method can help you become better aware of this fear in the moment.
Find a breathing technique that works for you. This will calm the nervous system, eventually sending the message back to your brain that panic isn’t necessary in the body. Remember, it’s a survival trick, and one you can find your way out of.
Go For a Walk
Sometimes we just need to get moving. Panic attacks can cause a fear of losing control or going “crazy,” and moving can help you reconnect with your body and feel more in control.
Listen to music
Listen to songs that will help calm you and control your breathing rhythm. This is especially helpful if you’re feeling lightheaded, and getting up to go for a walk is overwhelmed. Remember: the anxiety comes from your reaction to the fear, and you can shape this reaction with something calming like music.