Stop, Drop and Calm Down! – Surviving a Panic Attack
Having a panic attack feels like you’re on fire, making you feel like you’d want to stop drop and roll. A sudden panic attack is difficult to deal with, especially on your own. People with anxiety disorders(e.g. Generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, agoraphobia), are more susceptible to experiencing panic attacks.
Symptoms of a panic attack
Recognizing the symptoms of a panic attack before they begin helps combat your anxiety. Realizing when you’re going through a panic attack allows you to take quick action using the step above before your anxiety symptoms turn into a full-fledged panic attack.
Here is a list of panic attack symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Fear of dying
- The feeling of an acute heart attack
- Feeling overly sweaty
- Dizziness and faintness
1.) Make a schedule to/plan to stop what your stressing about
Worrying about the future isn’t always detrimental to your success. Stress can be used as a tool. Stressing about being behind on tasks is sometimes necessary, or else we would never feel the convulsion to complete tasks that are necessary yet unpleasant.
A little bit of stress can be good for you. Many times your mental health is affected by your external situation. Feeling overwhelmed with stress and panic can be related to how overwhelmed you may feel with your tasks. Check out my post on dealing with procrastination anxiety here. In fact, stress can be helpful in its different forms which can be discussed in this article.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Steve Orma specialises in treating insomnia, anxiety, and stress, and says routine is essential in the work done in these fields. Dr. Orma advises people to constantly check in with themselves on areas of their life they’re worrying about.
The trick is to set up your routine in a sense where your goals are being achieved out of habit. Instead of letting your problems pile up until you need to solve them in a herculean effort. After sticking to a solid routine panics attack should start to cease, as you are more prepared to face daily challenges.
However, if you’ve been dealing with anxiety for a long period of time, then perhaps it’s time to get helped. Two of the most common barriers to entry for therapy/counseling is cost and simplicity. Online-therapy allows you to get help from professionals from the comfort of your own home.
2.) Panic Attacks are Relatively Short
Anytime somebody has an irrational fear of roller coasters, it helps to inform them that roller coasters are relatively short. Want to know what the average length of a roller coaster line is? An underwhelming 112 seconds. That’s the length of two regular TV commercials.
Turns out panic attacks don’t last that long either. According to helpguide.org most panic attacks last from 20 minutes – 30 minutes. Panic attacks usually peak around 10 minutes in. In the grand scheme a panic attack doesn’t take up your whole day, and it’s possible to battle through it.
3.) Take a Cold Shower
Hello, did you consider taking a cold shower? A method that can stop you and your anxiety in its tracks. We’ve all seen showers used in various movies, whether a character is coming down from an overdose, or is going through a rough time in life overall.
Aside from television, psychology studies have supported the benefits of a cold bath as well. A shower is able to decrease stress hormones like cortisol. Thomas Jefferson is widely known to have used cold foot baths to help maintain his good health.
4.) Warm your hands
Contrary to the previous point, for some people going through a panic attack, cooling off might be the last thing they need. Biofeedback training and hand-warming have been proven to have a positive effect on the physical symptoms of anxiety: anxiety, stress, insomnia, and digestive orders related to anxiety.
5.) Doing Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a two-step process to relax your muscles. First, you tense(flex) individual muscles in your body, for instance, your biceps and forearms. Then you release the tension in each individual muscle, relaxing them.
This exercise is aimed at lowering overall stress levels and helping you relax. This isn’t only good for the mental symptoms of anxiety attacks. Progressive muscle relaxation helps treat physical symptoms related to anxiety, relieving stomach/headaches while improving sleep.
People with panic disorders can feel tense muscles during triggers. This can result in an unhealthy posture(tense shoulders, hunch back, etc.). Getting used to having relaxed muscles can infact help you correct your posture during a panic attack. Also, you will be able to realize the physical sensations of a panic attack before they even happen.
6.) Calm Breathing
One of the most difficult issues for many people experience a panic attack, is all the missed opportunities that occurred because of social anxiety. Calm breathing is a tip you can use anywhere. Especially for those that can’t afford to avoid situations for a small period of time just to deal with their anxiety.
When you’re experiencing a panic attack, you most likely are experiencing shortness of breath as well, which can exacerbate your anxiety symptoms as well. There is more to breathe control than simply breathing in deep. It’s to help find grounding when you feel like your losing control. Because longer exhalations are an easy way to hack your vagus nerve, which is related to regulating stress and anxiety in the body.
7.) Chew Gum when scared
Feeling an oncoming panic attack, and have nowhere to go? Why not chew on a stick of gum? Research suggests that chewing on gum can have a positive immediate effect on a panic attack. Because the activity of chewing, tricks the brain into believing that it is eating, therefore there must not be any immediate danger present.
Also, chewing gum could benefit your daily routine. A study following 50 students suggested that people who chewed gum on a daily basis experienced a lower state of anxiety, and decreased mental fatigue.