Panic attacks can feel disorienting and cause physical symptoms that feel very real to a person experiencing an attack. If you experience panic attacks, you may feel shortness of breath and numbness or tingling throughout your body. Some people report that a panic attack feels like they are having a heart attack, and others may even feel like they are going to die.
Despite the overwhelming feelings and physical symptoms, in many cases, a person is not in danger even if they feel like they are. Panic attacks can be deceptive and can occur on their own or can be provoked by an external stimulus.
If you experience panic attacks and are searching for a solution, know that you are not alone. There are evidence-based treatments available for panic attacks, and a mental health professional may be able to help you overcome them. By developing strategies and learning how to recognize the cause of the panicked feelings, you may be able to not only decrease the severity of the symptoms but also stop panic attacks in their tracks.
Feeling Out Of Control
When we feel threatened, our bodies have an instinctual reaction that prepares us for defense. The body releases hormones, such as adrenaline and norepinephrine, that stimulate a series of physiological changes that make humans more efficient at either fighting or running away to defend themselves. These changes may include tense muscles, flushed skin, increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing, and faster metabolism, all of which can also be symptoms of a panic attack. However, there is typically no danger or threat for people managing a panic attack, even though their bodies and minds are telling them otherwise.
Acknowledging The Panic Attack
To manage a panic attack, one of the first steps that may help is to actively acknowledge you are experiencing an attack. When you recognize what your symptoms are, you may find that you can take power away from anxiety. You can tell yourself you are not dying and you are not having a heart attack, and then name the moment for what it is: anxiety at an extreme level.
You can also acknowledge how intense it feels while reminding yourself that the feelings will pass. Panic attacks, though extremely uncomfortable and frightening, are temporary. Remembering that these symptoms will eventually subside may help remove the fear that it will "never go away."
How Adrenaline Affects Your Body
During a panic attack, your adrenaline levels tend to be high. Adrenaline increases your blood flow, which in turn makes you physically more capable to react. You may be hyper-aware of potential dangers and ready to take them on. When you have high levels of adrenaline, you may experience physiological symptoms associated with panic. Some of these symptoms may include a racing heart, nausea, vomiting, shaking, loss of control, a sense of "unreality," excessive sweating, and more.
When you experience a panic attack, your body tends to mimic how it would react if you were in actual danger. While the danger may feel real, there typically is no threat or danger present, despite what the brain perceives. It can be frightening to experience panic attacks and not know where they came from. When you are unable to identify the symptoms, you might feel powerless to control these attacks. However, there are ways to regain your sense of control while the attack subsides.
Strategies For Managing Panic Attacks
Urge Surfing And Breathing
Panic attacks might feel like they last forever, but they typically peak within 10 minutes, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. After that, the attack usually starts to lessen in intensity. One strategy is to ride out the attack using a technique called "urge surfing." This strategy entails observing the urge to run from the discomfort and instead riding the wave as it rises and falls until it loses its power.
When you are feeling anxiety or panic, you may also experience racing thoughts. You might not be able to tell one thought from the next, and that is okay. You can close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Instead of fighting the thoughts, you may find it helpful to observe them without identifying with them.
You do not have to understand or fix the thoughts that arise. Instead, you might imagine the words of the thoughts rolling down a river. You can focus on your breath and let it ground you. It may help to remember that you are not floating outside of your body (even though it might feel that way). Your feet are on the ground, and one of the things you can control is your breath. For this reason, it may help to keep breathing and feeling your feet connected to the floor or the ground.
Focus On An Object
One grounding technique you can use is to focus on one thing in the room. You can pick an object and stare at it while taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Having a focal point may help you to stay grounded, which may help the stress response naturally calm down.
Another thing you can try is naming five things in the room you can see, hear, touch, feel, or taste. You can pick one of the five senses and name five objects or sensations that go along with it. This may help to reset your brain and send a message to your mind to focus on something else.
Panic attacks sometimes happen when we are worrying about something that "could" happen. This means instead of focusing on the present moment, your mind might be looking to the future. It also might be that you are worried about something terrible happening in the present moment and your mind goes into anxiety overdrive.
That is where mindfulness might help you bring yourself back to this moment. In one study published in Psychiatry Investigation, researchers found that mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (MCBT) reduced intolerance of uncertainty for people who live with panic disorder.
When you practice mindfulness, you do not have to fix or change what is going on. This may be difficult during a panic attack because of the symptoms and thoughts you are experiencing. However, with some practice, you may learn to observe your symptoms until they dissipate. Mindfulness may help you remember that your body is having uncomfortable symptoms because of the panic attack, which may slowly reduce any sense of impending danger.
Release Your Muscles
When you experience intense levels of panic, your muscles and your body may tighten up. Using conscious techniques, you may find that you can relax individual parts of your body one at a time through a practice called progressive muscle relaxation. You might start by closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. As you take slow, deep breaths, you can focus on one part of your body that feels tight. Maybe it is your jaw or your neck. As you inhale, try tightening that muscle. Then, when you exhale completely, try to release the tension in that area of your body.
This exercise may help you to release tension and relax your body, making panic dissipate gradually. Eventually, you may begin to feel more grounded and less tense.
Use A Mantra
In transcendental meditation, a mantra is a sacred sound, word, or phrase used in spiritual meditative practices found in Buddhism, Hinduism, and yoga. Mantras are often recited in the Sanskrit language. The term mantra is derived from two Sanskrit words: manas, which means mind, and tra, or tool. While mantras are typically used in spiritual meditations, you can use these mind tools to help empower you while you are experiencing a panic attack.
Mantras are easy to remember, and they may help you feel more in control of your symptoms of anxiety. An example of a simple mantra that may help you during a panic attack is "I am safe." When you are feeling heart palpitations or tingling in your body and wondering if this attack will ever end, you might say this mantra to yourself in your head or out loud.
Below are some other sample mantras that you can try:
- "There is no danger here."
- "I choose calm and peace.
- "This is anxiety. I will let it pass."
- "Just breathe."
- "There is calm in this storm."
These are just some examples of mantras that you can use during a panic attack to stay grounded. You can also make up a mantra of your own that makes you feel calm and safe.
How To Help Someone Having A Panic Attack
You may not experience panic attacks but know someone who does. It is natural to want to know how to help them when they happen. Above, we discussed some grounding techniques that are known to help people in these moments. While in the moment, it may not be the best time to guide them through these techniques. You can talk to them after to help them learn strategies for a possible future attack. Sometimes, telling someone directions to breathe or calm down is not helpful amid a panic episode. Instead, you might try some of the following methods to support a loved one through a panic attack:
Stay By Their Side
Panic attacks can be scary, so it may be helpful to tell the person that you’ll stay with them as long as they need you. This may be more reassuring than anything else you can tell them. They may feel comforted just having you there until their symptoms subside.
Remain Calm And Ask Them What They Need
The person having the panic attack may feel as if they were in serious danger. This may be frightening to you, but it may help if you try to avoid matching their level of intensity. You can also help them by asking them what they need. For example, you might ask if they want to sit down or leave the room.
You might ask them, "What can I do to help right now?" They might not know, and that is okay. As mentioned earlier, just staying with them can be reassuring. They can let you know when you can help in some way.
Seeking Professional Mental Health Support For Panic Attacks
While the strategies in this article can help you manage panic attacks, you may find that working with a therapist can help you get to the causes of your anxiety. If fear of panic attacks makes it challenging to leave home, you might consider speaking with a therapist online. With online therapy, you can connect with a licensed therapist from home or anywhere you feel comfortable.
Sessions can take place via phone, live chat, videoconferencing, or any combination of these methods that makes you feel comfortable. Also, with an online therapy service like BetterHelp, you can contact your therapist at any time via in-app messaging, and they’ll respond as soon as they can. This may prove helpful if you experience fear or anxiety in between sessions, as you can write down your thoughts or feelings in the moment.
Research shows that online therapy can play a significant role in reducing depression and anxiety symptoms. For example, one study found that online therapy was just as effective as traditional in-person sessions, with participants in the online group showing continued reduction of depression symptoms three months after treatment. At BetterHelp, licensed counselors are available to help you explore the cause of your panic attacks and help you learn evidence-based strategies for managing them.
How do mantras help with anxiety?
Mantras are a part of a meditation practice that can help reduce anxious feelings through the principle of re-centering focus. Through repetition and deep breathing, individuals may use mantras to slow racing thoughts, calm the central nervous system and achieve moments of inner peace.
What is a powerful mantra to relieve anxiety?
Some relevant and often powerful mantras for panic attacks include ‘this will pass’ and ‘one day at a time’.
Why are mantras helpful?
Practicing mantra meditation is often recommended among various relaxation techniques and spiritual practices. While traditional sanskrit mantras and buddhist mantras are often used to help individuals connect with a higher power, mantra based meditation can be used to reduce anxiety symptoms, quiet anxious thoughts, and reinforce positive messages and self affirmations.
Which mantra is used to remove pain and suffering?
“Asato ma” is one of many powerful sanskrit mantras used to focus on the reduction of emotional pain and suffering.
How do you think a mantra can be beneficial to your daily lives?
Spiritual meditation such as the use of anxiety mantras can be beneficial in your daily life by reducing stress and anxiety, affirming positive thoughts, and creating moments of inner peace throughout the day.
How do mantras affect mental health?
The practice of mantra meditation tends to have positive effects on mental health. Self-awareness, positive outlook, and stress management are all aspects of mental health and well-being that can be benefited by practicing mantras.
How to reduce stress through mantra?
Stress and anxiety relief can often be achieved through the practice of mantras. Reducing stress through mantras for anxiety typically involves deep breathing and repetition of a simple, positive phrase such as ‘I am calm’.
How to remove fear through mantra?
Reducing feelings of fear through mantra involves choosing a mantra that invokes a sense of calm and courage. Regular repetition of such a mantra helps shift focus from fear to positive thoughts.
What is a powerful mantra to control overthinking and mind?
A powerful mantra to control overthinking and calm the mind is "Om Shanti." This traditional Sanskrit mantra translates to "peaceful tranquility" and can be recited during meditation to bring about a feeling of inner peace.
How do mantras affect the brain?
Mantras can affect the brain by triggering a relaxation response; reducing stress and promoting a sense of well-being. The act of chanting or repeating a phrase has the ability to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which can lead to physiological changes that enhance mental clarity, focus, and emotional balance.
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