When a panic attack hits, it can feel like the world is crashing down around you. Your heart races, your breathing quickens, and you might feel like you’re going to die or pass out. It’s a scary feeling that can be hard to overcome. However, there are things you can do to help you calm down and get relief.
Stop and Breathe
A very common and often overwhelming symptom of a panic attack is shortness of breath or feeling like you can’t catch a breath. It can be so intense that you might feel like you’re suffocating or having a heart attack.
The first thing you need to do is stop and focus on your breathing. Take slow, deep breaths and try to relax your body. It might sound simple, but it can be much harder to do when you are in the middle of a panic attack.
If you can’t seem to slow your breathing naturally, try counting to four as you inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, hold your breath for a moment, and then exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of four. Repeat this until you start to feel yourself calm down.
Find a Distraction
Another way to calm down from a panic attack is to find a distraction. Fixating on your symptoms can only make the situation worse, so it’s advisable to find something to keep you distracted.
Try focusing on a specific object in the room and notice the colors, shapes, and textures. You can also try listening to music or reading a book. Anything that can get your mind off your panic attack and help you relax will work.
Engage in Positive Self-Talk
Once you start to feel a little calmer, it’s important to engage in positive self-talk. This means telling yourself that you will be okay and that the feeling will pass. It might sound cheesy, but it can prove to be quite effective.
Get Up and Move
Sometimes the best way to get rid of a panic attack is to get up and move. Go for a walk, run, or do some other form of exercise. Getting your body moving can help to release tension and relieve stress. Plus, it can help take your mind off your panic attack and provide a change of scenery. The fresh air and endorphins from exercising can also do wonders for your mood.
Some people find that visualization techniques can help calm them down during a panic attack. This might involve picturing yourself in a peaceful and calming place (or “your happy place”), thinking about fun moments from the past, envisioning your favorite plate of food, or anything else that makes you feel happy or relaxed. The point is to focus on something positive and calming until the panic attack subsides. Visualization can also be a helpful tool for managing anxiety and stress.
Talk to Someone
When you are feeling panicky, talking to someone is another way to help you calm down. This could be a friend, family member, or colleague. You don’t necessarily have to talk about your panic attack. Just the usual “chit-chat” or caching up to keep your mind engaged elsewhere.
Know When to Seek Help
In most cases, panic attacks occur sporadically and don’t require professional help. However, if you’re experiencing panic attacks frequently or that they’re interfering with your life, it might be time to seek professional help.
Frequent panic attacks may be a sign of panic disorder, phobia, or PTSD, which are all potentially debilitating but treatable conditions. A therapist can help you identify the root cause of your panic attacks and provide psychological coping tools and strategies for managing your stress and anxiety.