How To Calm Down From A Panic Attack
By: Sarah Fader
Updated April 02, 2019
Medically Reviewed By: Kristen Hardin
Panic attacks are a scary experience for anyone. When a person has a panic attack he or she may feel like they are experiencing a medical emergency, and even believe that their lives are in danger. A panic attack creates several distressing sensations, like fear, hyperventilation, ringing in ears, numbing or tingling in arms and legs, and chest pain. If you are one of the many people who experience panic attacks you may feel hopeless to control your symptoms, but there are methods you can learn to help you calm down and reduce the effects of the attack.
What Is A Panic Attack?
It is important for a person who experiences panic attacks to understand what panic attacks are and why they happen. Each person experiences panic attacks for different reasons, but every panic attack is a stress response. Panic attacks are a reaction to being under pressure, overwhelmed, or afraid. People who experience panic attacks have either experienced a traumatic event, are struggling to cope with something unsettling or upsetting, or suffer from general anxiety issues.
How To Cope With Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are difficult to live with, especially when you have trouble anticipating what will trigger an attack. Further, you may know what triggers your panic attacks, but it might be something you cannot avoid, like going into stores. When you have a panic attack your body and mind react so severely that you may lose touch with what is going on around you. When the fear and stress response of a panic attack takes over it can be difficult to regain control over your mind and body. Fortunately, there are exercises that you can learn to calm down from panic attacks. Read below for tips on reducing the severity and frequency of panic attacks.
Focus On Your Breathing
Hyperventilation is an unpleasant and unsettling symptom of panic attacks. When you are experiencing a panic attack your breathing becomes shallow. This shallow breathing deprives your body of oxygen, which causes your brain to stop working as well, which causes more panic. Focus on your breathing to reduce the intensity of this reaction. Try placing your hand on your chest, taking a 10 second inhale, hold for 3 seconds, and release the air on a 10 second count. Continue this until you feel your body relax. This will give your body a rush of oxygen and allow your brain to return to more stable regulation of your different body systems. If breathing for 10 seconds is too difficult at first, you can breathe in for four seconds and release for four seconds.
Remind Yourself You Are Not Dying
This may sound dramatic as you are reading it now, but in the middle of a panic attack, a person can really feel like they are having a heart attack or are dying. It is helpful to remind yourself this is a panic attack and it will end and not a medical emergency. As a reaction to the racing heartbeat and hyperventilation, your brain will get a message that something is seriously wrong and go into survival mode, which causes more panic. In these situations, remind yourself that you are not dying, you are just having a panic attack. Remind yourself that you are safe and this feeling will pass. Alerting the brain that this is only a panic attack will reduce the intensity of the reaction. It can be really helpful if you can call a friend and tell them you are having a panic attack so they can help talk you back to reality and remind you that you are not dying and that you are okay and that this will pass. It can be comforting to not be alone during a panic attack. The other person can help distract you from the physical symptoms you are experiencing and thus reduce the intensity and duration of the panic attack.
Bring Yourself Back To The Present
It is easy to get lost in a panic attack. You have tunnel vision and it is hard to focus on anything other than the panic you are feeling. In addition to the above-listed suggestions, grounding is a very effective tool for anxiety and panic. The purpose of grounding is to literally ground yourself in the here and now. When you feel yourself about to have a panic attack, you can use grounding techniques to bring yourself to the present moment. Some easy ways to do this are by looking around you and answering the following questions: What do you hear? What do you see? What do you feel and smell? Keep going until you feel grounded in the present moment and feel the panic subside. This will calm you down by allowing the brain to focus on the present moment, rather than the distressing thoughts that are triggering the attack.
Seek Mental Health Counseling
If you are having frequent panic attacks it is important to seek mental health counseling. Panic attacks are the result of stress, fear and anxiety. With counseling, you can work with your therapist to understand the core issues and triggers for the panic attacks. You will also learn new ways to strengthen your coping strategies to help you calm down sooner and more effectively from a panic attack. There is a great option for online counseling to treat your panic attacks on BetterHelp. You can get started with these counseling services by going to https://www.betterhelp.com/start/ to connect with a mental health professional today. All you need to use BetterHelp is a smartphone, tablet, or computer. You can communicate with your counselor in a variety of ways: live phone, video, and chat sessions as well as exchanging messages similar to email. With the assistance of a counselor, you can learn more about what causes your panic attacks and how to reduce how often they occur, and when you do have one, how to make it less severe so that it does not get in the way of you living your life. Panic attacks are scary and uncomfortable. They can make you feel powerless but with help, you can learn how to manage and prevent them.