Managing Panic Attacks

The success of anxiety disorder treatments depends not just on medication and lifestyle changes, but also on how you can consistently manage the symptoms to live a much better life overall. There will be days and triggering factors that can cause a panic attack even while you’re still undergoing treatment, so what do you do when that happens?

Develop Strategies
You should already have a strategy to follow in case you have a panic attack. Discuss this with your psychiatrist and trusted family members and friends, to help you look out for signs of an attack. Identify thoughts, actions, and situations that trigger an attack. Once you know the symptoms that you usually exhibit, it will be easier to remember the panic attack strategies that you came up with.

Stop and Relax
When you feel as if you’re about to lose control of your emotions, stop what you are doing and remember the panic strategy you came up with. Find a comfortable place to sit if you can and stay away from distractions until you are calm. If a person or an object has triggered the attack, distance yourself from them if it will help. You will not be able to organize your thoughts if you are distracted.

Diaphragmatic Breathing
While taking deep breaths might help calm you down during a panic attack, this type of breathing is much more relaxing because this will allow your belly to expand instead of just your chest. Inhalation and exhalation will take a lot longer, too. The act will not completely stop an attack, but it will help you calm down a bit. Take your time until you feel you have much more control, then start relaxing your muscles.

Relax Your Muscles
In a panic attack, you breathe faster, feel dizzy, and your heart will race. If you can get your breathing to relax using the technique above, it will also be easier to release the tension in your muscles. This way, you will be aware of how rigid your muscles have become because you feel as if you’re about to suffocate. Slowly release the pressure in different muscle groups in your body by slowly flexing them starting with your toes up to your head.

Think Happy Thoughts
Once you have taken control of the physical symptoms of the attack, it’s time to slowly take control of your thoughts. Push out the negative images in your mind and think of something good instead. By focusing on the negative, you’ll be losing more control of your emotions. Keep reminding yourself that you are in control and that you’re strong. If you need to leave the room to get fresh air or take a break, don’t hesitate to do so if it’s going to help you calm down.

Keep Busy
You might also want to try distracting yourself with activities that will help you relax, such as exercising, listening to music, watching a movie, reading a book or talking to people who care for and love you.