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Tips for Coping with Panic Attacks
1. Recogize that panic attacks are transitory, and will pass eventually. Although they feel terrifying at the time, they are not dangerous. Also, they are not a sign that you are going crazy, or are about to die.
2. Try and take comfort in the fact that you are not alone in suffering from this. There are many, many people who are also struggling with panic disorder.
3. Educate yourself onwhat panic attacks are. Essentially, the intense feelings of panic are caused by an excess of adrenaline in what feels like a traumatic or life-threatening situation. That is, it is a physiological response, triggered by an event that reminds you of something threatening from your past. Thus, your feelings are telling your body to escape from it views as a potentially dangerous situation.
4. People who don’t have panic attacks may not understand what is going on. However, people who genuinely care about you will want to understand what you’re going through – and you may be surprised at how supportive they can be.
5. Understand that avoiding situations which create anxiety will only reinforce your panicky feelings. That is, the more you avoid them, the worse they will get. Instead, when you first start to panic, don’t try to fight the feelings. Allow them to build - and then you’ll find they will subside. At the same time, try and focus on the way that you are breathing – and try and breathe as slowly, and deeply, as you can.
6. Make sure you get plenty of quality sleep, exercise regularly, and build margin in your life. (That will help to prevent you from getting over-stressed.)
Exploring and Coping with Panic Attacks
This a very frightening disorder where the person fears they are losing control, going mad, or may even die. Symptoms are usually unexpected and often seem inexplicable. Occasionally they are triggered by specific situations - and this is then called a cued panic attack. Over time the person who is battling this disorder may come to fear having a panic attacks! Symptoms of panic disorder include:
· Nausea and/ or upset stomach
· Sweating or chills
· Numbness or tingling in the face, hands or feet
· Pounding or racing heart
· Feeling as if they are choking
· Shortness of breath, chest pains or heart palpitations
· Feeling faint or dizzy
· Trembling or shaking
· Fear that they are dying
· Fear of losing control
· Fear of impending doom
· Feeling detached from reality.
The following tips may help you cope more effectively with a panic attack:
1. If you feel you’re about to have a panic attack, deliberately slow your breathing down by breathing into a brown paper bag or into cupped hands. This will help return your oxygen levels return to normal, so that you feel less giddy and faint.
2. Schedule regular exercise into your days. This will help to burn off excessive adrenaline. Also plan your diet to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
3. Don’t fight the panic attack as this will increase your adrenaline levels. Instead, allow the feelings to ebb and flow – and eventually the feeling of panic will subside.
4. Don’t bury or repress your emotions. Instead, find someone you genuinely trust and share your worries and concerns with them.
5. When you are in the throes of an attack, try to move your focus outside yourself – by listening to some music, or whatever calms you down.
6. Learn and apply relaxation techniques.
7. Aim to develop “mind over matter”. That is, tell yourself that your symptoms are an over-reaction …and you’re not going to pass out, or die.
8. Do your best to cut back on your exposure to stress – as this will reduce your anxiety and panic.
Coping with Panic Attacks workbook
This InfoPax is designed to provide you with some information about panic attacks and panic disorder and suggested strategies for how you can manage your panic and anxiety. It is organised into modules that are designed to be worked through in sequence. Although it is not necessary that you complete one module before going on to the next, this is recommended. Each module includes information, worksheets, and suggested exercises or activities.
- Module 1: Overview of Panic
This module describes panic attacks and panic disorder and looks at the symptoms of panic. PDF document: 268kb. Updated 22nd June, 2004.
- Module 2: More About Panic
The aim of this InfoPax module is to provide you with some more detailed information on how panic attacks actually develop. This module will also describe how panic attacks develop into panic disorder and what treatment strategies may be useful. PDF document: 180kb. Updated 22nd June, 2004.
- Module 3: The Thinking-Feeling Connection
This module describes automatic thoughts and explores how thoughts influence feelings. PDF document: 172kb. Updated 22nd June, 2004.
- Module 4: The ABC’s of Thinking and Feeling
This module explores how you can use a thought diary to monitor the unhelpful thoughts that can lead to how you feel about a particular situation. PDF document: 279kb. Updated 22nd June, 2004.
- Module 5: Unhelpful Thinking Styles
This module describes a number of common unhelpful thinking styles that can lead to negative emotions. PDF document: 240kb. Updated 22nd June, 2004.
- Module 6: Detective Work and Disputation
Module 6 explores how you can examine and challenge unhelpful thoughts by expanding the thought diary described in Module 4. PDF document: 220kb. Updated 22nd June, 2004.
- Module 7: Evaluation and balanced thinking
This module describes how you can summarise how you have challenged unhelpful thoughts by producing a balanced thought. PDF document: 256kb. Updated 22nd June, 2004
- Module 8: Core Beliefs
Core beliefs are often at the root of unhelpful thoughts that are particularly difficult to change. This module looks at core beliefs and how to change them. PDF document: 199kb.Updated 22nd June, 2004.
- Module 9: Coping with Physical Alarms - Exposure Part 1
The aim of this InfoPax is to give you information about how to challenge your beliefs about panic symptoms by actually experiencing them. Research has shown that this is particularly important in being able to successfully overcome panic symptoms and distress about panic symptoms. PDF document 225kb. Updated 22nd June, 2004.
- Module 10: Coping with Physical Alarms - Exposure part 2
The aim of this InfoPax module is to give you information about exposure to activities and situations in which you are worried that panic attacks might occur. PDF document: 340kb. Updated 22nd June, 2004.
- Module 11: The Calming Technique
This module describes how you can reduce your anxiety by gaining control of your breathing. PDF document: 243kb. Updated 22nd June, 2004.
- Module 12: Self Management
This final module describes how to maintain gains and continue the progress that has been made throughout the previous modules. PDF document: 213kb. Updated 22nd June, 2004.
Sensory and Focus Strategies For When You're Panicking (That Actually Work)
tw: descriptions of panic and anxiety attacks, discussions of coping mechanisms, general mental health warning
So, after about the 5th person I’ve messaged back-and-forth while they were panicking or having an anxiety attack or otherwise suffering from being triggered or a disorder-related reaction, I thought I should make a post about the coping strategies that I’ve discovered over the years that actually work for me (and most people I tell them to). This isn’t some “Count to ten” bullshit that your therapist tells you to do. And its not stuff I pulled out of my ass either. Some of it I learned while undergoing Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). But that shit is expensive, and not available to everyone, so I thought I should share this stuff. If it even helps ONE person, then its worth making the post.
I personally have experience with both panic attacks and anxiety attacks. My panic attacks are much more frequent than anxiety attacks, and they are both triggered by different things. But here are solutions I use for both of them:
1. Sensory -
- Cold: in general instant ice packs are best if you can afford them. You can carry a few boxes of them with you everywhere, keep one in your purse, backpack, car, several in your house or apartment, etc. An alternative to this is backs of frozen vegetables kept in a freezer, which limits the amount of places you can have them, but they’re cheaper. I usually hold whatever ice pack I’m using in my hand, and they help me focus on the present and stop the cycling of negative ideas and thoughts that can happen during a panic attack. What is also really helpful is if you can find a shape that is comfortable to you, and freeze something in that shape. Circles are often comforting for some reason, so people freeze various different sized citrus fruits and that works well. For me, large oranges are the best because they are the size of softballs and trigger comforting muscle memories.
- Warm/Hot: Warmth and heat don’t generally work for me, but I’ve heard that they can work for some people. Its the same idea as the cold, but with the main goal being comfort instead of focusing. Click here to find out how you can make heat packs that can be heated in a microwave.
- Smell: If there is a particular smell that comforts you and might be helpful, find a way to keep something that smells like within reach at your office, home, school, etc. It might be a lotion that smells like vanilla (which adds the extra sensory stimulator of the lotion being rubbed onto your skin, which can help you focus), or even a spice jar filled with cinnamon or curry powder. Whatever comforts you. I particularly like rosemary, and if I can, I have someone bring me a little jar of it to smell while I’m panicking.
2. Breathing -
- I promise this isn’t “Count to ten and breathe!”. What you should try to do is either breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, or in through your mouth and out through your nose, whichever is more comfortable for you. Focus on the breaths. Maybe count them if it helps you. I like to imagine that they are connected in a figure-eight loop, and visualize it.
- Patterned breathing, like when people are going through labor can also help. It can especially help if you are prone to hyperventilation, because it focuses your mind on the pattern you have to follow. (Warning, that link is cis-normative and uses “women” in place of “people” when discussing pregnant individuals. Sorry about that.)
3. Focus -
- Look around the room you are in, and pick 5 objects to focus on. Spend five seconds looking at each object, and notice a unique or interesting feature about it, then look at the next object. Then close your eyes and state the characteristics you noticed about them. This engages your memory and focuses your mind.
- If you have someone with you who understands what is going on, then they can do this next one with you, but you have to explain it to them before hand. The person should start directing you to look at objects around the room while using a quiet and purposeful voice. This increases your mindfulness of the space around you and helps you focus, breaking the cycle of negative thoughts.
- If you can think of a song, sing it, or recite the lyrics from memory. This sounds stupid, I know, but its actually worked for me a few times.
That’s all I have for right now, but if anyone has anything to add, feel free to do so in the comments, or message me and I’ll reblog with the additions.
My son had another seizure last night.
No warning. No real signs.
We were sitting down to eat dinner, and laughing and talking and 4 seconds later his brain kidnapped him.
The tremors started while he was sitting, which meant we had to get him out of the chair and onto the floor so we could get him on his left side.
Normally, he’s 180 pounds. Seizing, he’s immovable.
Somehow we managed to get him down, on his side and wrap the pillow around the back of his thrashing head.
After 2 minutes, he came around but for a long time after he wasn’t 100%.
The stress of the event caused me to have a panic attack.
One so bad I thought I was actually having a heart attack.
I needed to disassociate myself from the situation.
I needed to sit down.
Put a bag of frozen carrots on my neck.
Drink cold water.
I felt like a failure.
My son needed me and even though the worst for him was over, I couldn’t be there for him completely.
I checked on him all night. I just kept going in his room to make sure he was okay.
I kept apologizing to him for being a mess.
He told me it was okay.
But, it’s not okay.
This is NOT okay.
I am NOT okay.