How to Deal with Panic Attacks
Updated: Jan 30
You feel the restrictive sensation of your chest walls caving in - as if someone is standing on your ribcage.
You become increasingly aware of the chaotic rhythm of your breathing, wondering if your next breath will be your last.
You think, "I can't breathe. I’m going to die. Just breathe. Just breathe."
Heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate are just some of the alarming reactions that may occur during a panic attack. These symptoms can intensify and lead to uncontrollable trembling and sweating, tightness around the head, and the feeling of suffocation. As anyone suffering from chronic anxiety understands, you can’t control when a panic attack hits; in fact, trying to control it can sometimes make it worse. The greatest fear for someone dealing with anxiety is losing control in public, experiencing humiliation whilst being trapped in an uncomfortable experience.
When anxiety hits, it can make you feel like you’re going crazy—like you have absolutely no control over your own mind. Like any chronic condition, you can’t just wish panic attacks away, or get rid of them with medication. However, you can learn to better manage your anxiety over time to decrease the severity and number of panic attacks which you experience.
H.A.L.T. Your Attack
H.A.L.T. stands for hungry, angry, lonely, tired -- four feelings that bring out the worst in everyone. If you’re prone to panic attacks, they can turn into triggers. When symptoms pop up, check in with yourself: Do I feel hungry? Am I angry? Once you pinpoint what’s going on, you can take steps to fix it.
Studies show that 20 minutes of exercise is all it takes to reduce symptoms of anxiety. Exercise will not only make you feel better about yourself, but will also flood your body with endorphins. Some researchers even believe that increasing your body heat, a natural result of exercise, may alter neural circuits that control cognitive function and mood, including those that affect the neurotransmitter serotonin. Researchers believe this response can boost your mood, increase relaxation, and alleviate anxiety.
Fans of coloring explain that the activity makes them feel happier, more mentally clear, and more relaxed. When engaged in their hobby, "colorists," as they call themselves, say their worries temporarily fade away. This isn’t totally shocking, as all arts and crafts hobbies have the power to focus the brain in a way that’s similar to meditation.
Limit Caffeine Intake
Drinking or eating foods with caffeine tend to make you more anxious. This is because caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. Consuming too much of it can exacerbate anxiety and panic attacks because it stimulates the fight-or-flight response. Studies show that this can make anxiety worse, perhaps even triggering an anxiety attack. Limiting caffeine is a simple way to reduce your level of anxiety daily. Be aware of all sources of caffeine that may be in your diet, such as soda, chocolate, tea, and some over-the-counter medications like Excedrin or Midol.
These are just a few methods to use in the case of a panic attack. When engaged in one, always remember to stay calm, breathe, and just take in your surroundings. It may feel painful and cause further panic, but always remember: you are OK. If these methods don’t work and the attacks become more frequent and/or severe, consider seeing a psychiatrist to help take the necessary steps to prevent further attacks.
As always, good luck!
- By Bunmi Omisore