These simple techniques can help you move beyond a panic attack, but you have to put them into practice. ‘When Panic Attacks’ is a great book and cd by Aine Tubridy which can be found in many libraries.
One of the most powerful things that you can do in the midst of a panic attack is to accept it. I know that seems to go against all rational thought.
Don’t I want the panic attack to go away? Of course you do. Noticing the panic and accepting that it’s visiting is the first step. Realizing that you’re having a panic attack instead of being lost in the dream of panic creates some space to work with it.
One way to work with it is to lie down on the floor and feel the anxiety and panic flowing through the body. Accept that it’s there. Feel it completely.
For example, notice your chest feeling tight and your heart pounding, notice the sweating or feeling of being light-headed or dizzy. Let the anxiety develop completely, inviting it to overcome you like a wave of uncomfortableness.
Yes, it can get pretty uncomfortable. But usually at the point when you feel like your whole being is going to explode from so much anxiety, something almost unimaginable happens: a release.
The panic begins to fade, moving away from you like the tide slowly going back out to sea. You’re left a little tired, a little drained, but also relieved.
It’s important to know that a panic attack won’t last.
Nothing lasts forever—not pleasant things, not unpleasant things, not panic attacks.
It’s not necessary to lie on the floor.
Sometimes, in certain social situations, being stretched out on the floor would look just plain nutty. This technique works just as well sitting in my truck, behind a desk, or hiding in a bathroom stall. We do what we must.
A lot of people say to take deep breaths when you’re having a panic attack. I think this is sound advice, but I like to put a slightly different spin on it.
Take a walk.
That’s right. Go walking.
Walking is great because it gets the blood flowing, the heart pumping, and if it’s a brisk walk, it forces you to breathe more deeply.
Sometimes it may feel like you anxieties and fears are chasing you, but you’re walking away from them. Other times, you may feel like you’re burning off some built-up energy that has nowhere to go.
Another really effective technique to practice is to name the feelings and thoughts as you’re having a panic attack. It’s very effective and very simple to learn.
In the midst of the panic attack, Focus on any feelings or thoughts that are arising and name them either out loud or silently to myself. It can be useful to write them down. For instance:
I feel tightness in my chest
I feel my racing heartbeat.
My mouth is dry, my head aches, and I’m a little dizzy.
I feel like I’m going to fall off of a cliff.
I’m feeling bad about feeling bad because this anxiety destroys relationships.
I feel like no one is ever going to love me again.
My jaw is clenching.
There’s a knot in my stomach.
I feel like a loser.
I feel like I don’t belong here.
I’m afraid I’m going to fail.
I hear a pounding in my ears.
I feel unqualified, unworthy, unnecessary.
Once again, it’s helpful to remind yourself that this is a panic attack, that it will pass, but it needs to be allowed to.
Remind yourself that this awful time in your life will pass like all the others. How do I know this? If I look back over the course of my life, I can see it.
You’ve had some great times. They’ve passed. You’ve had some awful times. They’ve passed, too. You can see that everything before this has passed.
This also will pass. It has to.
These simple techniques can work, but you have to put them into practice.
It’s like learning to play a musical instrument or a sport; the more you practice, the better you get at it. If one of the techniques isn’t working, switch to another one.
I believe that, in the moment, we always pick the right one.