Panic attacks are the worst feeling in the world – end of story. It feels like your body is at war with your mind and you’re the only soldier left fighting at the front lines. As panic rises, your body goes into fight or flight mode, which triggers that awful attack that leaves your mind running and your feet are weighted down and drowning you in water. It’s absolutely terrifying. But, there is a solution. You just have to learn what to do when you’re having a panic attack.
Now, don’t get me wrong. In order for these powerful techniques for overcoming anxiety attacks to work, you have to be committed. In other words, you can’t half-ass them. It’ll take some practice, so don’t give up on yourself if they don’t work 100% the first couple of times. Stick with them, focus, and you’ll finally be able to calm yourself down enough to survive from drowning.
7 Powerful Techniques for Overcoming Panic Attacks
Learning what to do when you’re having a panic attack is just as important as learning what not to do in a panic attack. But we’ll get to that another day. For now, write these powerful techniques down and remember them the next time you’re searching for a way out.
1. Recognize the signs of a panic attack
This tip for coping with panic attacks might sound strange because you obviously know that what you’re feeling is a panic attack. However, recognizing the symptoms of a panic attack, such as heart palpitations, chest paints, and sweaty palms, can instantly calm you down.
Often times, your panic increases because you start to panic about the panic attack. By telling yourself, “These are just symptoms of an anxiety attack,” you can rationalize with the fight or flight response in your brain. You are telling your body to chill out because nothing bad is going to happen. You don’t have to fight or flight because the things you’re feeling are just a panic attack – there is no imminent danger.
2. Take deep breaths
Boom! Inarguably, the most powerful technique for overcoming a panic attack is to breath deeply. Yes, it really is that simple but as I also understand, it’s easier said than done when your mind, body, and soul are hyperventilating. So, this form of natural anxiety treatment will take time and you will need to practice. My doctor recommends staring with as little as 10 minutes before bed. Breathe for 4 minutes, hold for 4 minutes, let out for 4 minutes. Focus on every breath and every time you breathe out, imagine your worries, fears, and anxiety going with it. As you perfect this technique, increase to 8 minutes, then 10 minutes. Focus.
Deep breaths are a natural way to calm yourself down and by practicing when you aren’t having an attack, you can rely on it when you are.
3. Ground yourself with focusing on 5 things for every sense
Grounding is an excellent form of natural treatment for anxiety and panic attacks. It helps you rationalize with your brain, as opposed to fighting with it, and is a powerful distraction tool. The best part? It’s easy. Linda Esposito (Deeeeespacito!) explains, “Grounding strategies include feeling your feet on the ground, or your hands on the steering wheel, or bracing yourself against a wall.” So, there’s always something you can focus on that can distract your mind from the attack. This is crucial because the more you focus on the attack, the more panic you’ll experience.
I like to take this anxiety attack technique a step further by picking out 5 things around me that I can see, touch, smell, hear – and if I’m eating – taste. The key is to truly focus on what you’re thinking about. So, count 5 plants you see in the room and then think about where they came from, point out the different tones, textures, etc. Before you know it, the panic will be gone because you didn’t feed into it.
Often times, I also have one of the several types of stones for anxiety with me that is used to treat anxiety naturally. It might sound crazy but different materials send off different vibrations, and some of them can help keep you grounded, calm, happy, etc.
4. Use Affirmative Phrases
I’ve talked about affirmative phrases a lot in other posts because I have experienced their powerful potential for myself. This technique is also extremely easy to do.
Instead of focusing on the negative thoughts,
think tell convince yourself of the positive. Saying things such as, “I can do this,” and “This is nothing more than a panic attack. I’ve gotten through worse.” will remind your mind and body that there’s nothing to worry about. You’ve got this.
If you need more ideas on affirmative phrases to read, I’ve listed 52 mantras for anxiety that will truly be the solution you’re looking for on what to do when you’re having a panic attack.
5. Get a breath of fresh air
Another one of my favourite techniques for overcoming anxiety is simply nothing more than getting a breath of fresh air. It is completely normal to say, “Excuse me. I’m going to go get a breath of fresh air,” when you’re out with your friends or family. So, don’t worry about what people will think. Everyone desires some fresh air once in a while.
So, crack open a window or slip outside for a couple of minutes. The air will provide you with a steady supply of oxygen, which your brain needs to work efficiently – especially when your panic attack is giving it a run for its money. The air also has a calming effect on your mind, body, and soul. So, take deep breaths and relish from this natural treatment for anxiety.
6. Execute the ‘Aware’ technique
The ‘Aware’ technique is a great way to overcome anxiety and panic attacks. It’s the process of
A – accepting your panic attack symptoms
W – watching your attack, as if you were someone else looking in
A – acting like nothing is happening
R – repeating steps until you relax
E – expecting the best by eliminating negative thinking
Accepting your panic attacks keeps you from feeding into the fear, which will only prevail the attack.
Watching your attack, as if you were someone else looking in allows you to see that there’s nothing wrong. You aren’t acting funny or appearing abnormal to anyone else. No one knows you’re having a panic attack except for yourself.
Acting like nothing happening, again, keeps you from feeding into the fear. Don’t run. Just sit, accept, and continue doing whatever it was you were doing before the attack came on.
Repeating is all about repeating the steps as needed. If you start to feel panic again, start at A.
Expecting the best will help eliminate the negative thoughts that can keep you in a panic attack – or worse – keeping you down and out because of a panic attack. Nothing bad is going to happen. Just roll with the waves and the sea will float you back to the surface.
7. Use essential oils to snap your system out of the attack
Personally, I rely on essential oils and happily so. They aren’t like prescription drugs, where you become addicted and dependent. Essential oils are 100% natural and you can use them to snap your mind, body, and soul out of an attack. I always have some sort of anti-anxiety essential oil on me, whether it’s a roller or a drop on my wrist, essential oil jewelry, etc.
The scent of natural extracts trigger certain toxins in your brain that help you calm down and come out of a panic attack. However, it’s important to find out which ones do what. So, do educate yourself on the types of essential oils for anxiety and what each does.
How to Calm Down After a Panic Attack
The moments that follow a panic attack can be the worst. You feel exhausted, defeated, and for lack of better words, like a #%$@ed up human being. So, remember this one simple rule – be reflective, not reactive. John Tsilimparis, director of the Anxiety and Panic Disorder Center of Los Angeles suggests writing down the negative thoughts you had during your panic attack, such as I’m doing to die, I’m going to throw up, and all the what if’s we can all relate to. Then, write down the rational alternative, such as you’re not going to die, if you’re sick people will be compassionate, etc. This redirects your thought process from thinking you’re suffering from an attack to you’re reflecting on your attack.