If you have ever experienced a panic attack it can feel very scary. the first panic attack that someone experiences is usually unexpected and feels like there is something seriously wrong. usually people end up in the hospital thinking they are experiencing a heart attack. if you do experience something like a panic attack for the first time then it is recommended to see a medical doctor and make sure you are healthy. After you get the all clear that you are physically healthy, then you know what you experienced was most likely a panic attack. This blog will help you with how to handle a panic attack in the future. if you are unsure of what exactly a panic attack is then check out this blog post here. Below i will list 5 ways in which you can get a handle on your panic attacks.
identify and accept
The first step is to identify that you are having a panic attack. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of a panic attack as it can present itself in different ways. Usually it involves physical symptoms and having a hard time catching your breath. Your anxious brain is telling you in this moment that something is very wrong. It is your job to ask yourself what is the reality of your situation. Are you actually in danger? Research actually shows the more panic attacks you experience and get through then the better coping skills and practice you will have for the next one. By coping with one panic attack at a time, you are telling your anxious brain that you are able to handle whatever it throws at you. You know the reality is that this is just panic and you are not actually in danger.
You do not want to ignore the panic attack, but accept it for what it is. And accept the fact that for some reason you feel afraid in the moment. Just allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling and let the time pass. Remind yourself that a panic attack is not dangerous and it will not kill you.
Let time pass and observe
When you feel panic coming on, your brain will want you to go into fight, flight, or freeze mode as if something bad is happening. I actually want you to do the opposite. I want you to fight this feeling and remind yourself that this is your anxious brain creating this panic attack and you have been through it before. You will be okay. Realize that you’re going to want to escape a panic attack as soon as possible. If you can just remind yourself to try to stay calm, breathe, and let this pass in its own time then you will prove to your anxious brain that you can handle a panic attack. Over time you will then experience shorter and easier panic attacks to get through until they completely lessen.
It is important to do the first 2 steps before actively relaxing because you want to acknowledge that you are safe and okay and that this is just another panic attack. You will give it some time to remind yourself of these things and you will accept however you are feeling in the moment. Then you can do something to feel a bit more comfortable while you ride this panic attack wave. It is important to remember that all panic attacks come to an end no matter what you do. So you are not relaxing to get rid of the panic attack, but you are relaxing to feel a bit more comfortable until it finishes. Simply take multiple deep breathes. Put your hand on your abdomen and one on your chest. Take a deep breathe in through your nose and feel your abdomen fill with air and feel your chest expand. Then take a large exhale out through your mouth and let your abdomen empty all of that air and feel your chest relax. Repeat these deep breathes to help you relax.
Calm your thoughts. Usually people worry about “what if’s” such as what if this terrible thing happens to me in the future and then I get hurt and die. These “what if” thoughts will increase your panic because you can ultimately come up with disastrous things that may happen to you in the future. It is important to stay in the present moment when you are experiencing a panic attack or anxiety in general. You can challenge these “what if” thoughts and refocus on the reality of what is happening now. For example, if you think “what if this train I’m on crashes and then I die?” You want to challenge this worried thought by asking yourself, “Is this train actually crashing right now? Am I currently safe right now? Am I actually dying from a train crash now?”
Remember that you are experiencing this discomfort so that you can feel better in the long term. Sometimes you may experience a panic attack, do these steps, and feel better. But then you may feel another wave of panic and think these steps didn’t work. Experiencing another wave is normal and it is important that you repeat these steps and remind yourself they are working, just give it time and ride these waves for now.
Your Panic Attack Will End
Remind yourself over and over that panic attacks always end and this one is no different. Your panic attack will end regardless of what you do to cope with it. There’s ultimately nothing you can do to make it end quicker, but you can feel a little more comfortable while you ride the wave. Just let yourself experience what you are experiencing and try to stay in the present moment until it passes. The more you can prove to your anxious brain that you are able to survive a panic attack, the less weight and impact panic and anxiety will have on your life.
If you have any other questions about panic attacks feel free to reach out to me as I specialize in helping people who experience anxiety and panic attacks.
Courtney Glashow, LCSW
is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Hoboken, New Jersey. She specializes in helping teens, young adults, and parents through counseling. Courtney can help NY or NJ residents through telehealth therapy sessions as well.