Do you suffer from panic attacks? Have you experienced more than one? Do you know what triggers your anxiety, or does it feel like everything compounds into a physical reaction?
You can learn how to gain control over a panic attack while seeking panic disorder treatment from a professional mental health specialist.
How does a panic attack feel?
A panic attack can mimic the signs of a heart attack. For example, you might experience chest pain and tightness, rapid and shallow breathing, fast heart rate, numbness or tingling in the extremities, nausea, dizziness, trembling, and dry mouth.
During a panic attack, your anxiety may continue to grow, especially if this is your first time and you are concerned that it is a heart attack. In addition, your mind may react, making it feel like you are choking or smothering. Although you may not pass out during the panic attack, feeling as if you will faint from shallow breathing is common.
If you have four or more panic attacks and are so worried about having another one that you avoid triggers or locations, have your physician give you a physical exam to rule out any medical conditions. Then contact a therapist to help you get started on panic disorder treatment.
How to stop a panic attack.
There are several ways to stop a panic attack. First, you may want to print out the suggestions or write them down on your phone or an index card to refer to when you feel one coming on or are confronted with a trigger.
For example, write out the suggestions, then practice each in a safe place. Once you have the ideas planted in your mind, it will be a little easier to do each during an actual panic attack.
Recognize the signs.
Do you know what triggers your anxiety? Triggers are different for everyone. For example, you may find that a location, smell, sound, or person causes you emotional distress.
Sometimes to function, we push our thoughts and emotions about these triggers deep until the mind has no choice but to react with a panic attack. This is one of the reasons why it may be difficult to identify why you have developed a panic disorder.
Awareness of the trigger and a method to manage, confront or avoid it in a healthy manner can diminish its effects on you and decrease the number of panic attacks. It is also important to record your panic symptoms before, during, and after so that you recognize the signs and can act quickly.
A panic attack causes rapid and shallow breathing. Taking the time to calm your mind and practice deep breathing can help you gain control over your breath and your thoughts. Often, our thoughts are rooted in fear, and we may not be aware that we are having negative thoughts until the emotions are front and center.
Try closing your eyes and taking a deep breath, filling your lungs to capacity, then slowly exhaling through your mouth. Relax your shoulders and any tight areas like your back or jaw. Set your mind on an affirmation or focus on an object in front of you.
For example, as you exhale, say aloud, “I am fine. I am at peace about this situation.” Alternatively, focus your attention out the window and watch the branches of a tree move in the breeze.
Relax your muscles.
Are your muscles so tense from the stress that you have no idea how to relax them? Take a moment to identify where you are holding your stress. For example, are your shoulders pulled up to your ears? Is your jaw clenched? Many of us hold tension in these areas as well as the lower back, hamstrings, neck, and hip flexors.
If possible, spend a few minutes each evening stretching the muscles in these areas. Or try lying on your back in bed and scanning your body head to toe. Start at your jaw, clench the muscle for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat with each muscle group, isolating them until you feel them relax.
Consider springing for a massage or asking your significant other to work out tight spots in your muscles.
Move away from the stimuli.
Can you walk away from the stimuli? For example, if you feel a panic attack coming on while at your child’s basketball game in an auditorium filled with people, can you slip out the door to a quiet hallway or the fresh air?
Physically moving to another environment could help you stop a panic attack before it starts. For example, if you are in a crowded room, find someplace isolated. If you are inside, go outside. If you are in your car, find someplace safe to park and get out of the car for a few minutes.
Each time, practice your deep breathing exercises and clear your mind. What thoughts were running through your head? Focus on an object or distract your mind by thinking about something that makes you happy or a goal you want to achieve. Reach out to a trusted friend and ask about their day.
Walk it off.
Physical movement, such as walking, can distract your mind from a worrisome problem and ease anxiety. The workout is easy to do and accessible for most people. Walking lubricates the joints, keeps the heart and lungs strong, improves digestion, and lifts mood. Walking also boosts your confidence, self-esteem, and body image.
Walking can also boost creativity. You may find that by walking daily, your mind starts problem-solving a situation. Your problem may not seem so huge after a good walk. Physical exercise might make it easier for you to move on mentally and emotionally from a stressful situation. Walk outdoors, on a treadmill, or stream a video in the comfort of your home.
When you feel the symptoms of a panic attack, ground yourself in your surroundings using the five senses.
First, close your eyes and take a deep breath, exhaling slowly, then open your eyes and look around you. If you can, speak audibly, so you hear your voice. What five things do you see? Second, what four objects can you touch? Name each one as you concentrate on its texture and temperature.
Third, what three things do you hear? For example, can you hear a bird whistling outside your window, the hum of the ceiling fan above your head, and the voices from the television in the next room? Fourth, identify two smells. For example, maybe you pick up the scent of bacon still in the air from breakfast and the smell of laundry detergent from your shirt.
Lastly, name one thing you can taste. Maybe that is your toothpaste from this morning or the slice of pizza from lunch.
Grounding yourself keeps you in this present moment. It forces your mind to stay in the here and now. You will want to practice using your senses to delay or stop a panic attack until you can apply the method without referring to your notes.
Looking for panic disorder treatment?
Panic disorder treatment is available online and in person. Your therapist will work closely with you to rule out any physical conditions and assess your symptoms through a series of psychological evaluations. In addition, you will talk about the issues that bring you stress, like relationships, finances, career, and trauma.
When you seek panic disorder treatment from a Christian therapist, you will receive science-backed behavioral therapy combined with faith-based principles. Give our office a call today to schedule an appointment with a therapist. It’s time to gain control over your anxiety and panic disorder.
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