I Feel a Panic Attack Coming, What do I do?
Anxiety can affect all aspects of your life. People often get confused about what anxiety actually is, thinking only about social anxiety and the fear of conversations or a nerdy guy over in the corner of a party. The reality is, over 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders. If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, talk with a counselor or close friend to see it this is something you should discuss with your doctor.
To help cope with your anxiety however, there are plenty of methods that you can use to quickly snap out of a panic attack, a hazy anxiety fog, or whatever is preventing you from doing what you love.
What Can I Do Right Now?
Here’s our tips for the top four ways to stop a panic attack in its tracks.
1. Breath Into A Bag
Yes, it may bring back memories of anxiety-ridden cartoon characters but that is a common theme for a reason. It actually works! This is the perfect quick fix that anyone can use in order to stop a panic attack in its tracks. Let me explain why:
When you breathe into a paper bag you are exhaling carbon dioxide and oxygen. When you are having a panic attack or are in an “anxiety fog” in most cases, you have started hyperventilating and you don’t even know it. When you breathe into a bag, the carbon dioxide builds up and you can stop yourself from hyperventilating by forcing the oxygen levels in your body back down to a healthy level!
2. Pacing Your Breathing
Alternatively, let’s say you’re in public and you can’t find a private space where you can pull out a bag and breath. You can do simple breathing pacing techniques no matter where you are. First, become aware of your breathing; try to figure out how quickly your heart is beating. By simply becoming aware of how your breathing and feel, you can acknowledge your anxiety and realize that your feelings have a cause. Then exhale on a count of 10 seconds. If you find that you can only exhale till five or six seconds, that’s fine. However, you should note that this means that you are in fact hyperventilating and you need to control your breath or you will most likely have a panic attack. Keep breathing, 10 seconds in and 10 seconds out until you feel like you are in control again. This may take anywhere from five to ten minutes so be patient with yourself.
3. Grounding Yourself In Your Body
Yes, this technique sounds technical and kind of like mental health mumbo jumbo, but it works. Grounding techniques are designed so that you acknowledge the space around you and it pulls you out of your head! This is good if you are having irrational thoughts or are stuck in your head, thinking the same thing over and over. Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach, then breathe in and out slowly. Plant your feet flat on the ground and feel the pressure of your foot as it pushes into the ground beneath you. Feel yourself in the room around you and scan your body, starting at your face and slowly moving down your body. Pay attention to all of your muscle groups as you go down your body trying to acknowledge and release any tension you may be holding.
4. Grounding Yourself in the Room
This technique focuses your attention on your surroundings and is good for hot emotion management. If you feel as though you are about to explode your emotions all over the place or start crying in an environment in which you don’t feel comfortable doing so, this should be your go-to tool!
For this method, acknowledge three different things within the room around you. Just scan the room for three things which may make the space unique. It could be a scuff on the wall from a boot scrape, or it can be a whiteboard,
pencil cup, anything that would differentiate the room from others. As you identify these three elements, keep them in your mind. Remember where all three elements are in this space. By doing so you can create a mental map of the room allowing you to realize how large the room may be and its permeance.
*Special note for this method: do not use exit signs or doors as your three points of reference for the room. This is common for people to do if they are having a panic attack because their body is convincing them that they are in danger. Thus, your body will attempt to flee from whatever situation face. Doors and exit signs symbolize this attempt to flee as you identify where you can run to.
This technique is demonstrated in the video below.
I hope that you have found these methods helpful as you continue in your personal mindfulness practice and learn to cope with your anxiety. Just always remember, if you need these methods to cope with emotional difficulty, later during the day, when you are in a safe, comfortable and private environment, revisit those emotions. It may be difficult, but if you are facing personal difficulties you should make sure that you acknowledge how you are feeling and let the full emotion play itself out. Otherwise, these feelings can build up causing other physical symptoms or lead to a break causing you to feel the full force of your emotions publicly.
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