I, like 1 in 3 Americans, have suffered panic attacks in my life, and I’ll never forget how real and overpowering the fear was, paralyzing in its strength. Symptoms of a panic attack include shortness of breath, a choking feeling, dizziness and feelings of disconnectedness from reality and losing control. It is an absolutely terrifying experience. But if you understand how a panic attack works, you can also learn how to stop it in its tracks.
You see, panic is a natural response to a perceived emergency and helps with the fight-or-flight survival instinct. Rest assured that you’re not crazy. But if you feel the panic rising and you know the emergency isn’t immediately life-threatening (like a car coming right at you, or being inside a burning building), you can take control before the symptoms take control of you.
Make the intention to STOP. You’ve got to decide that you can overcome the rush of adrenaline and if possible, put your hands out in front of you and say out loud “STOP!” in a very firm voice. Remember, you are in control, not your emotions.
Refocus your energy. Don’t let yourself follow the train of panicky thoughts. Instead, reign them in and do some kind of simple, repetitive activity to occupy yourself. Wash the dishes, pull weeds, do sit-ups or any other simple activity that doesn’t require mental concentration.
Breathe. Take control of your breath. Breathe slowly, deeply, from the diaphragm. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, this is the time to make use of the deep, intentional breathing you learned. Your belly should move with your breath.
Accept your feelings. Once you’ve calmed down, take a look at what triggered your panic attack. There’s something very real there that’s bothering you, and your body is telling you that you need to take some action. But appropriate action can only be taken from a calm, settled state of mind.
Again, the important thing to remember is that panic is your body’s hormonal response to a perceived emergency and that it will pass, usually in just a few minutes. You’re not dying, you’re not going crazy, and you can take control. Please let us know about any other tips that have worked for you.