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How To Handle Panic Attacks

How To Handle Panic Attacks– 8 Practical Ways to Manage Panic Attacks

Imagine suddenly feeling very scared and uncomfortable. Your heart beats fast, you can’t breathe properly, you feel dizzy, and maybe even your body feels weird and numb. It’s called a panic attack, and it happens to many people without warning.

It is estimated that about 4.7% of U.S. adults experience panic disorder at some time in their lives.
Many people believe panic attacks are a sign of weakness or a mental breakdown. Not true! Panic attacks are a physiological response to intense anxiety. In this article, you will learn about things to do and not to do when you or someone is having panic attacks.

Let’s dig in!


How To Handle Panic Attacks

How To Handle Panic Attacks

1. Ground Yourself (Literally)

Take off your shoes and feel the ground with your bare feet. It might seem odd, but it helps your body relax. 

There’s a nerve called the vagus nerve that acts like a calming switch for your body. When you touch the ground with your feet, it might stimulate sensory receptors in the skin. It then sends signals through the nervous system that can promote relaxation.

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2. Breath Slowly

Breathing slowly activates the vagus nerve, too. Taking deep, slow breaths from your belly can help you relax. 

When you breathe in deeply, your belly expands, sending messages to your brain through a nerve called the vagus nerve. This helps your body calm down and feel more relaxed.

A 2017 study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry found that slow, paced breathing exercises significantly reduced anxiety symptoms

3. Cold Water Technique

If you have the availability, fill up your sink with ice-cold water, as cold as you can make it. Then, dunk your head directly into the water. Studies have shown that this can slow your heart rate down by up to 25%, which can help break a panic attack.

4. Self-massaging

It’s called the wrist-forearm technique. First, make sure you’re grounded with your feet on the floor and comfortable. Use the breathing techniques we mentioned earlier. Then, grab your elbows and drag your hands along your forearms, down to your wrists, and repeat.

It’s a gentle self-massage that’s very soothing. Focus on this exercise along with your breathing, and soon, you’ll feel super calm and relaxed.

5. Find Something To Focus

During a panic attack, it can be helpful to find something to grab all your attention. Look around you and pick a single object you can see clearly. 

Notice the color, size, and shape. Is the surface smooth or rough? Are there any patterns or textures?

By putting all your mental energy into examining this one object, you might find your panic symptoms start to ease up. It’s like giving your worried mind a single task to focus on.

6. Remember– This Too Shall Pass

Try to remind yourself that this intense anxiety is temporary. It might feel like it will last forever, but panic attacks usually peak within 10 minutes and then start to ease up on their own. 


7. Muscle Relaxation Technique

Panic attacks can make your whole body tense up, which can make the whole experience even worse. But there’s a trick of muscle relaxation. 

The idea is that if you can relax your body, it can send a signal to your mind to chill out too, calming you down overall.

One technique called progressive muscle relaxation is a great way to do this. It involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups one by one. 

Here’s how it works: clench your fists tight for a few seconds, feeling the tension build. Then, let go completely and focus on the feeling of relaxation spreading through your hands.

Repeat this for other muscle groups in your body, tensing for a few seconds and then letting go completely. As your body relaxes, you might find your mind starts to follow suit, easing the overall anxiety of the panic attack.

8. Get Help

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other counseling methods can be really helpful for people who have panic attacks or panic disorders. 

CBT focuses on changing the way you think about scary situations and finding new ways to deal with them.

What Not To Do When Someone Is Having a Panic Attack

How To Handle Panic Attacks

Seeing a friend having a panic attack can be scary. Their fear might not make sense to you, but it’s very real for them.

Here are 6 things that you should not do when someone is having a panic attack.

Be supportive, not dismissive– Their fear may seem illogical, but the panic is very real.

Avoid judgment and criticism- Blaming or talking them down won’t help.

Skip dismissive phrases- “Calm down” or “it’s nothing” can be counterproductive.

Acknowledge their distress- Let them know you understand their struggle.

Don’t avoid triggers completely- Escaping might feel good at the moment, but it can worsen anxiety long-term.

Help them face challenges- Avoiding triggers can make them rely on you more and increase future attacks.

Wrap Up

Panic attacks can be scary, but remember, they are manageable. But if you know how to handle panic attacks, you can overcome them entirely. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist or doctor if you’re struggling with frequent panic attacks. Taking charge of your mental health is an important step towards a calmer and happier you.

FAQs

How to calm panic attacks?

Focus on grounding techniques (breathing, cold water, senses) and remind yourself it will pass.

How do I stop my panic attacks?

Individual experiences vary, but seeking professional help like CBT is a great first step.

What is the 3 3 3 rule for panic attacks?

Look for 3 things you can see, 3 things you can hear, and 3 things you can touch to ground yourself in the present moment.

Do you cry during panic attacks?

Not always, but it’s a common reaction to intense anxiety.

What triggers panic attacks?

It varies, but stress, fear, and physical sensations like rapid heart rate can be common triggers.

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