How to get through a panic attack?
Hi, I've been suffering from panic or anxiety attacks for the past few weeks and I badly need some advice. How do you calm yourself down during one?
Hi Sashaaay, thanks for sharing your story.
I'm sorry to hear you've been suffering from panic/anxiety attacks. If you're not sure which is which then here's how to work it out: https://www.verywell.com/anxiety-attacks-versus-panic-attacks-2584396
Either way, you can use similar methods of calming yourself down.
It sounds easier-said-than-done, but one of my favorite ways to calm myself down during either attack, is to repeat the phrase "I am not going to pass out," because scientifically speaking it's actually impossible to faint during a panic attack. I tell my symptoms that they do not have any consequence for me; I can't pass out, I won't vomit, I CAN breathe, and basically think deeply about how the physical symptoms can't control me.
Firstly, if you can: sit down somewhere comfortable.
Breathing is advice that is thrown around easily, but once you master the idea of telling your anxiety that it won't hurt you, its a bit easier to slow down. Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn't "take a deep breath" when trying to calm down, because adding more oxygen than needed to your brain will just make you lightheaded, however you do need to take a slow breath.
Even if your breathing is going very fast and asthmatic-like, you'll be okay if you hold it in for a few seconds, it won't hurt you. Don't start with breathing in because you already have a bunch of air in your lungs, so breath everything out till your chest feels completely deflated. Now breathe in very slowly till you can't breathe in anymore, don't hold it for too long (or you'll gt lightheaded) and breath out equally as slowly till there's no oxygen left in your lungs. Repeat this for as long as you need till you feel your pulse has settled.
If you need to cry, cry, because tears are always better out than in. But keep your breathing slow.
Once you feel more settled, get a glass of water and concentrate on finishing it slowly. You'll have lost hydration from crying and from heavy breathing.
If you're dizzy, steady your body, don't move around too much.
If you're suffering from heart palpitations, focus on your breathing and listen to your heartbeat, it should eventually re-settle itself, but if it doesn't (because it's pretty common for it not too) then just remember that it does not mean there is anything wrong with your heart or blood, it does not signal anything other than the fact that your body is uncomfortable.
In terms of purely psychological panic, use any comfort phrases that make you feel safe, such as "This will pass, it always does," or "You can handle this," Or even distract yourself entirely by thinking about things that make you feel safe and cosy; puppies, books, the beach, your friends, go to your happy place and stay there for a while.
If you're the type of person who needs solutions over distractions, then focus on some helpful phrases that relate to your problem:
1) Yes I've failed that exam, so all I need to do now is email the school and ask for a make-up test/file for matriculation.
2) They broke up with me, yes, but my friend will comfort me.
3) Random panic attack caused by nothing? I'll do the exercises and tell my doctor/friend/internet friend about what happened and they'll help me.
Once you feel like you've recovered, it's time to go into self care mode: sleep if you need to, eat if you need to, call someone, play a video game, take a bath, do something productive, do something "lazy," do whatever you need to. Drink plenty of fluids and remember to take any medication you're prescribed.
If you've had a panic attack at work or school and can't do any of the above, and can't leave, go to your mental happy place, write a list of what you're going to do when you get home, make a cup of coffee, buy a chocolate bar, do bodily exercises at your desk, anything.
These are pretty general tips, but they're also what I use whenever I'm having an attack, so if they're not for you then there are plenty of methods online or from your doctor that will help.
A piece of information that I find vital, is that you can fight panic attacks and anxiety while the attacks aren't even happening, and there are loads of workbooks you can fill out that'll prepare you for your next one, if there is a next one:
Here are some more sources:
I hope that helps, and I hope the attacks get better soon!