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This is a topic very close to my heart (if you didn’t know already). How do you deal with a panic attack coming on? I am going to give you useful tips to help you deal with them.
I had a panic attack yesterday morning. Isn’t it funny? I’m writing about how to help you deal with your anxiety, but not being able to cope myself. I should really take notice of my own advice!
But then you’ll know that panic attacks are random, unexpected occurrences which start as quickly as they go away. Very annoying indeed! You can’t predict them and can be fine prior to it.
I thought I’d put together a post for you on how to deal with a panic attack before, during and after it. The more you know about it now, the better it’ll be for you when it happens.
So what exactly is a panic attack?
The NHS explains that a panic attack usually encompasses the below:
What feels like an irregular or racing heartbeat (palpitations)
Shortness of breath (hyperventilation)
A choking sensation
Ringing in your ears
You can feel unwell and some have described it felt like you are going to die. Panic attacks usually last somewhere from 5 to 20 minutes, but can feel like a lifetime.
Honestly, I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy. It’s also a very exhausting experience!
The other problem with panic attacks is that you can have them even if you don’t know you suffer from anxiety. They can be random occurrences which make them unpredictable. You can also not suffer from a mental health condition and still get them.
You are who I am writing this for now.
There are a few ways of dealing with your panic attack before it happens.
Accept that you are about to have one.
The problem with panic attacks is that you can never really expect them. They don’t happen when you want them to and you don’t want it anyway. They are inconvenient and can really set you back.
By acknowledging that you are about to have one is key to this. Trying to prevent it from happening can oftentimes make it worse. The problem with panic attacks is that it is a physical thing and not ‘just in your head’. You can’t ignore it and you certainly can’t make it go away.
The best thing to do is to tell yourself you are having one. Don’t bother denying it or it’ll make things worse. You are now accepting that this is going to happen. It should relax you a bit knowing this, although I know it is far from relaxing!
Thinking about having a panic attack will make it worse and won’t help. Do try this step.
Know that you won’t be physically harmed by the process.
Although the feelings you know are going to happen are frightening and quite honestly horrible, you won’t cause yourself harm. This is a natural response to stressful situations that we would normally come across as hunter-gatherers. We no longer need this but the ‘beast mode’ is still within us.
You are not going to die. Remember this too when you can feel it coming on.
Remind the panic attack that you are the boss.
You need to remember that this is happening for a reason and accept it. Remind it who is the boss. Taking control of your panic attack is a fantastic thing to do.
So if you find that your panic attack comes on in certain situations, for example, whilst driving, you must continue to do such things. By avoiding driving, for example, you are giving into this and using your flight mode. I know how easy it is to do this but you are strong.
You can do this. Honestly – I am a blubbering mess before, during and after a panic attack. If I can do it, so can you!
Don’t just do it the once after, keep doing it too. If you suffer from social anxiety or agoraphobia, this will make things harder for you. But it’s all about baby steps.
Reward yourself after each step as well. You are giving yourself pleasure from overcoming that difficult situation.
Think of it as ‘beast mode’ rather than a panic attack
Honestly, I have just made this up. But thinking about this situation as merely beast mode really helps me! It’s like you become this strong super aware being. Almost like a superpower.
This reference isn’t in any way to belittle a panic attack at all. But I want you to try and think of it like this because you can control it. Superman controls his emotions, why not you? Give yourself that psychological power and control that you had only minutes ago before it started.
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Get your breathing in gear
Now this is going to be a tough one for you as breathing can make up a large part of panic attacks. This is called hyperventilation.
You may find yourself breathing quickly and taking short breaths. This is because your body is preparing for fight or flight. You need to slow this breathing down. Remember again that you aren’t going to hurt yourself by breathing like this but it is key to getting your panic attack under control.
Try some breathing exercises. There are lots of ways to get your breathing under control. They will help you feel calmer, and give you something else to concentrate on.
Here are a few techniques to try:
Count the number of seconds breathing in and out. Ideally breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Do the following pattern of breathing:
Breathe in for 5 seconds
Hold your breath for 5 seconds
Breathe out for 5 seconds
Do this as much and as long as possible. Now I know this is going to be very difficult whilst in the midst of a panic attack. It will get easier the more you do it, though.
You should find yourself breathing better. This will help during a panic attack. Make sure you keep focusing on your breathing until it is completely gone.
Focus on something
Again this is something going to be difficult during a panic attack. But taking your mind of what is going on with your body is a great way of getting out of it.
If you can, put the TV. You have to consciously try to do it. Don’t give up because you can. Once you’ve been able to put it on, focus on it. Concentration is key by the way. Without this, it won’t work.
Distractions can really help whilst having a panic attack. Other things you could try is looking out of a window and seeing what is going on outside. Or you could stand outside the back or front door.
Honestly, these tricks can really help during a panic attack. Give them a go!
After a panic attack
I did a bit of research as part of this post and found nothing about what to do after a panic attack. I think this is still an important step in overcoming your ‘beast mode’!
After the panic has subsided it’s important to remember that you got over it. You did it!
Now think about how or what may have caused it for you. Was it a situation or a place? The reasons why I’m asking you to do this is because we have to face these things. as I mentioned above you need to accept it and process it to move forward.
It’s now also time to relax. You will most likely feel physically and mentally exhausted. You need to make sure you eat something and drink plenty of water. I know this might also be difficult at this stage but do it.
Write about it (if you want). If you find writing about your feelings useful this could be a good step for you. It’s a good way of processing what has just happened and get your feelings down on paper.
Finally, seek advice from your doctor. I’m no doctor and definitely can’t advise in medical situations. If you find that the feeling of panic doesn’t go away it might be best to speak to your doctor about it. Also, if you’re having them often I would also suggest speaking to your doctor.
But, saying that – I am here if you feel like you need someone to talk to. Someone who is neutral and won’t judge you. You’re welcome to email me at email@example.com.
I hope you found this useful if you have any friends or family who suffers from panic attacks it might be good to show them this too!
How do you deal with panic attacks? Do you support anyone else with their own panic attacks? I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. Do you want to feel less overwhelmed?
Why not try out my FREE eCourse now? It’s for those who feel out of control and want a helping hand. Plus, get your FREE worksheets to guide you along the way!