We’ve all had times in our lives where we felt there was no way we could possibly endure any more stress. For most of us, this passes in time, and we go back to living our lives pretty quickly, stress-free. However, for a small percentage of people, this feeling doesn’t pass. Imagine being constantly stuck feeling stressed beyond belief, even if you have nothing to really be stressed about? While this may seem like just a hypothetical nightmare, it’s the reality people with panic disorders live every day. For many, anxiety and panic attacks are common parts of recovery, as withdrawal can cause our bodies to react in a variety of strange and dangerous ways. If you find yourself struggling with a panic attack, it’s important that you know exactly what to do.
1. Be Aware of What’s Happening
Panic attacks aren’t just feeling stressed out; it’s a mental and physical reaction to your mind feeling anxious. You’ll notice you’re short of breath, your might be dizzy and your chest might feel like an immense weight is pressing down on it. Your mind will be racing, and you might be feeling terror at an unimaginable level. If you start feeling these in tandem, you’re probably experiencing a panic attack. Identifying it is the most important step – now all you have to do is ride it out.
2. Manage Your Breathing
Once you become aware of what’s happening, you’ll notice your breathing is violent and rapid. Slow it down. Take long, deep breaths. Take in air through the nose in slow, lengthened breaths, and then release slowly out of your mouth. Panic attacks thrive on the lack of oxygen in your body. Taking in air rapidly does nothing for you, so taking long, deep breaths can help stop a panic attack in its tracks.
3. Handle the Mental Side
Stop the runaway train in your mind. Stop yourself, and evaluate your surroundings, and exactly what’s going on. You’ll likely find there’s no immediate threat, giving you time to organize your thoughts and begin to relax.
4. Relax the Body
If you’re standing or pacing, lie down somewhere comfortable, or even on the ground. Panic attacks are often caused by over-stimulation, so minimizing your physical movements can help stop a panic attack, too.
5. Change Your Surroundings
As we mentioned in the last step, over-stimulation is a big part of a panic attack. If you find yourself somewhere that has too much going on to focus or calm down, leave immediately. Find somewhere quiet. If you’re out and about, a public restroom or a quiet hallways can be just the thing to help you recenter your mind.
Mastering these steps won’t prevent panic attacks, but it will make them nothing more than a trivial difficulty. Practice them often, and when a real panic attack hits, you’ll be ready to take it head on.