Many women experience regular anxiety and panic attacks. In fact, research indicates that around 2.7% of women suffer from these debilitating experiences on an ongoing basis.
Panic attacks can be terrifying if you have never experienced them before, and everyone experiences them differently. Some people feel surreal or a sense of being out of control, whereas others experience a feeling of imminent doom.
One person may become nauseous and have sweaty palms, whereas another may become weak and shaky.
There are a range of emotions and physical symptoms that can be experienced, and can be felt anywhere from a mild to a more severe level. Since panic attacks truly are different for everyone, it’s important to know what symptoms to look for.
While anxiety is not necessarily curable, it can be treated and be managed. Here are seven proven ways to overcome panic attacks when they happen!
1. Remember to breathe
When you experience a panic attack, your breathing changes. You tend to breathe very shallow and fast, which speeds up your heart rate. It can be tough to relax in this state, and hard to regain control of your breath.
If you have ever taken a yoga class, one of the things they teach you is to focus on your breathing. Your breathing is supposed to be deep and come from your belly. You inhale and exhale slowly.
If you can remember this technique in the midst of panicking, and shift your focus to your breathing, you will be able to regain control of your heart rate and end your attack much quicker. Do this until you begin to relax and your breathing returns to normal.
2. Tackle your catastrophic thoughts
Typically, a panic attack is triggered by some sort of catastrophic thought. This is different for everyone. One person may have thoughts of being embarrassed publicly, which lead them down the path of anxiety.
Another may be triggered by memories of an event, such as being on icy roads and remembering an accident they were in once.
Take note of your triggers and use self-talk to combat them. If it is a memory that triggers your panic attacks, remind yourself that you are not currently in that situation.
If it is a situational trigger, ask yourself, “So what?” Many times, when we fear public embarrassment, we blow the situation up in our minds to an unrealistic proportion. By understanding this and thinking of the realistic consequences of the worst case scenario, we can begin to let go of our fear.
3. Distract yourself
When you have a panic attack, you are typically focused on your symptoms of panic and distress, which amplifies them.
Another technique to relieve this state is to distract yourself and perform another activity. If you are driving, you may choose to sing along to your iPod or the radio.
You may choose to chew a piece of gum if you are in social setting. If you shift your focus elsewhere, you will find your attack dissipates more quickly. For other distraction techniques, check out this article.
4. Snap a rubber band against your wrist
The idea behind this is similar to the distraction technique, but with a slight twist. Research has shown that if you do this when you are in the throes of panic, because it hurts, your thoughts are interrupted and you are distracted.
5. Blow into a paper bag
If you know you are prone to panic attacks, carry a brown paper bag in your purse, like the one you used to put your lunch in. When you experience an attack, breathe into it slowly and focus on your breathing. Make sure you are also taking in fresh air in between breathing into the bag.
6. Talk/text someone you trust
Sometimes, just letting someone know that you are experiencing a panic attack is enough to help dissolve it. If you are at work when it happens, talk to a co-worker you trust and who perhaps also suffers from anxiety.
If your panic attack happens when you are in a social situation, and you are unable to remove yourself, text someone you trust.
I experience panic attacks occasionally, and I know what triggers them. If I am in a situation with my boyfriend or one of my friends when this arises, I know I can share what I am experiencing with them and they will be supportive.
7. Go for a walk, or do something physical
If you are able to remove yourself from your current situation and go for a walk, this may help the panic attack to subside more quickly.
Alternatively, if you cannot leave your current location, find something else to redirect your energy to whether it is rearranging your desk, cleaning a closet or doing dishes. Anything that is productive and will help you to calm down is a positive response to a panic attack.
Hopefully, if you experience these terrifying episodes, you will find these suggestions helpful. Anxiety and panic attacks are absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
If you find these tips are not enough to help you cope and overcome your attacks, you should seek out a qualified therapist in your area. Attending therapy does not make you weak; in fact, the opposite is true.
It takes a strong person to admit when they require assistance. Panic attacks can definitely be overcome in time.
Do you regularly suffer from panic attacks? What have you found to be useful in calming yourself down when you are in the throes of anxiety?