By definition, panic attacks feel scary. A huge part of that experience is not knowing if and when one is about to happen. To add to that anxiety is the sense that once a panic attack begins, it will never end. These two factors alone are enough to give the impression that you are at the mercy of panic attacks. But what if I told you there’s much more to this story? How would you feel to learn that you maintain more control than you might imagine? Panic attacks are bad news. They can, however, be made more manageable.
What Are Panic Attacks?
The fear comes on quickly and suddenly. You experience intense levels of anxiety. At that moment, basic tasks like breathing or talking may feel like a struggle. People in your vicinity may wonder if you’re having a heart attack. Meanwhile, for you, second seem like hours as you deal with sweating, rapid heartbeat, nausea, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath. In some cases, the symptoms grow more extreme, e.g.
- Muscle tightness and pain — often in the chest area
- Hot flashes or chills
- Shaking hands and other tremors
From there, things may progress to:
- Feeling as if you’ve lost control
- An overwhelming feeling of doom
- A fear that you might be dying (or having a heart attack)
Just about everyone endures a few panic attacks in their lifetime. They are part of a larger panic disorder for about 3 percent of U.S. adults. Either way, it’s best to speak with a mental health professional to create a plan of action. However, in the meantime, there are several effective steps you can take to help cope with panic attacks — before, during, and after they occur.
5 Key Ways to Cope With Panic Attacks
1. Learn As Much As Possible About Them
The more you know, as they say. Educating yourself can be a powerful reminder that:
- You are not “going crazy”
- You are not dying
- Panic attacks are very treatable
- They do not last long and are never a permanent state of mind
2. Identify and Name the Symptoms
Panic attacks may feel as if they sneak up on you. In reality, you can see them coming. Recognize when your breathing feels labored and/or you begin to sweat without an obvious cause. Name these warning signs. Tell yourself — out loud, if possible — that a panic attack is looming. Remind yourself that it will pass and you will be okay.
3. Practice Deep Breathing (if that works for you)
For most people, a panic attack can be de-escalated by slow, deep breathing. That said, in some instances, deep breathing can heighten anxiety. Try this out and see if it works for you. If so, focus intently on your breath and add in an element like counting.
Firstly, this will relieve the dry mouth that often accompanies a panic attack. In addition, drinking water can be grounding — especially if you have begun dissociating.
A panic attack is your flight-or-response response in action. If you can move, run, jump, swing your arms, or even dance, it will soothe that response. In a long-term sense, an exercise program is a good idea for stress relief and building up the body’s resistance.
It Helps to Get Help
The thing about panic is that it can throw off your ability to cope in a rational way. There is no shame in asking for help. You don’t have to feel you’re at the mercy of panic attacks. Anxiety counseling can guide you through the process of identifying triggers, discovering underlying causes, and creating new ways to cope. Please reach out soon for a consultation.
Getting Started With Anxiety Counseling in Lakewood & Longmont Colorado
We invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation. You can schedule your appointment via phone, email, or the contact page on our website. We offer both in-person and online counseling. We’re open to whichever option you feel more comfortable with. We look forward to hearing from you!