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They come out of nowhere and completely overwhelm me, while I’m shopping or just after a very rough day when I think everything is settled. Panic attacks, anxiety attacks or whatever you want to call these uninvited guests in our head. It’s a lot to go through, and some tips and guidelines may help you get through them just a little bit easier. I’ve written down 11 tips or advices to get through it.
Be aware of your panic attack
First thing and the most important thing is to recognize and acknowledge that you have a panic attack. Accept that you’re scared at that moment, and try not to fight the feeling. Take a moment to think logical, what are you going to do? Do not jump in any spontaneous actions or do things that you haven’t thought out properly. It can be hard to think rational and logical during a panic attack, but try to do your best to think out your action. Something else that can help is to write down what is happening during your panic attack and how you reacted to it. Sit with the fear and know that it will pass.
I’ve mentioned this before in other blogposts, but breathing rightly is so important. During my panic attacks, I start hyperventilating. I just can’t keep my breathing under control. One thing that helps, is the 4 – 4 – 4 – 4 breathing exercise, that I mentioned in my previous blogpost. I need to focus on that breathing exercise, otherwise: I won’t be able to control my breathing. Find a breathing exercise that works for you, music might help with it. I get my breathing better under control if I listen to song that’ll help my breathing. Acoustic music or instrumental music works best for me.
Close your eyes and get to a safe place in your head
I call this my happy place. What is the most relaxing and happiest place you can think of? For me, it’s a quiet sunny beach with clear blue water, green palm trees and the rolling sounds of the waves. Whenever I feel panicked or anxious, I picture myself at this place and focus on the details. I imagine walking through the water or digging my toes in the sand. As much as I love big cities, they don’t work as my “quiet place”. I need a place that is peaceful, calm and quiet.
When I’m having panic attacks, it feels like I’m losing sight of reality and what’s going on. It gives me a feeling of detachment or separation from reality. Something that has helped me is mindfulness. While having a panic attack, I try to focus on physical sensations that are familiar to me. For example, digging your feed in the sand, walking in water, or simply touch your hair or jeans. This gives you the reality back and it helps to focus on something physical and objective. The detachment or separation from reality isn’t magically gone when I’m doing these things, but it does bring me back a little bit.
Find an object to focus on
This goes along with the previous tip, and it’s to find an object to focus on. Focus all your attention on this specific object. Pick an object that is in clear sight and won’t move while you have your panic attack (for example: not a car waiting at a stop sign, but a tree). An object that is specifically “calming” to me, is a clock. The ticking, the shade, the movements and colours give me something to focus on and the sound of the ticking gets me a bit calmer.
I mentioned in the blogpost “why it’s good to take a step back’ that yoga keeps me sane. It really does, it has helped me in my breathing and to collect my thoughts and process it. Running helps with it as well. During panic attacks, yoga can be the answer for me. However, most of my panic attacks happen in public. In a shop, on the street, in a car: not a place where I can do some yoga. What helps me in that moment is to close my eyes and vision myself doing yoga. I am aware that this may sound a little bit strange, but yoga has such a relaxing impact on me, that vision myself doing yoga brings me peace. It doesn’t mean that the panic attack is suddenly over, but it helps to get my mind of it a little bit.
Have a mantra that you can repeat when having a panic attack
The mantra can help you get calm during the panic attack. For example, “I can do this” or “I can get through this”.
“Depression, anxiety and panic attacks are not signs of weakness. They are signs of trying to remain strong for far too long.”
I am not a fan of chewing gum, but I have read that chewing gum can get you a bit calmer. It can help you get less nauseous, relieve the panicked symptoms, and it sometimes is an outlet for all the adrenaline.
Call or text a friend or someone that can calm you down
This is one of the tips that works best for me. I text my mom if I have a panic attack, and I don’t have them as frequently as years ago, but I can always text her. I do have four great friends that can basically get me through anything. While I was in Bali, I had a panic attack in the villa. It was terrible, so far away from home and away from my friends, being in a unfamiliar surroundings, it was at night and it took me almost an hour to get my breathing under control. I texted them, and they did everything they could to get me calm. And it worked.
Cuddle with an animal
If you’d know me in real life, you’d know that I basically live for dogs. I absolutely adore and love dogs. If I see a dog, I NEED to cuddle it. This tip doesn’t go well if you’re in public (unless there’s a really cute animal you can cuddle) but if you are at home and if you have a pet, go cuddle it. It helps me a lot.
Find some fresh or cold air
When I’m in a panic attack, and I’m inside: I need to go outside and get some fresh air. I don’t care if it’s raining, if it’s cold or if it’s snowing: I need the fresh air. The air inside feels suffocating and the fresh air can give me my breath back.
These were a few of the tips that help me during a panic attack or during anxiety. They may not work for everyone as well, but I hope it gives you a guideline to continue and find out what works for you. What helps you best during a panic attack?