Most people experience bouts of anxiety occasionally when they have an important interview, a date, a test or anything that they feel nervous about. For people with anxiety disorders however, they can experience a sense of panic in certain situations that can be overwhelming enough to interfere with their life. A panic attack can escalate and become difficult to recover from and people may feel that they have to simply leave the situation entirely.
If you suffer from panic attacks it does not mean that you have to avoid people, places or situations that make you nervous. There are ways to cope with feelings of panic and bounce back enough to return to your normal self. Having a plan with how to cope with your panic attacks can make you feel more prepared so that you can face the anxiety when it occurs instead of having to avoid anything.
Dealing with Symptoms of Panic
A panic attack is usually characterized by sudden and intense feelings of anxiety that can take over your mind and body. Panic attacks often have physical symptoms such as:
The symptoms usually aren’t dangerous but they can be very frightening and make it hard for people to focus on easing their anxiety.
When you experience the symptoms the best option is to try to understand that they are only temporary, they are not harmful and they are simply caused by your anxiety. Instead of trying to distract yourself or put your mind on something else, the best option is to acknowledge what you are experiencing. Tell yourself that although you are having these symptoms you are not in any danger but are simply feeling afraid.
Although your first instinct may be to leave the situation, it can actually be more beneficial to ride out the attack. If you run away you won’t have the chance to see that nothing bad is actually going to happen. Confronting your fear can help you become less sensitive to the situation as you realize that it is completely safe.
Eventually the more intense symptoms will begin to pass and you can start to focus on your surroundings and get yourself grounded again. You can simply accept the fact that you are having these symptoms and feelings instead of wishing you didn’t or praying that they will go away. The acknowledgement and acceptance of the fear can help the attack begin to fade.
Breathing Exercises to Reduce Panic
The reason acceptance is so important is that resisting your feelings of panic will only make the attack worse. Your most powerful urge may be to flee but instead you can wait it out and maybe work on some exercises until the attack subsides. Breathing techniques can help get you more focused and aware of what you are feeling so that you will be less likely to run away or resist.
Breathing exercises can also be helpful because one of the characteristic symptoms of panic attacks are short quick breaths which can create more tension and stress in the body. If you become aware that you are breathing very quickly then you can work on deep breathing strategies. Start by breathing in very deeply and slowly through your nose and then breathing out slowly through your mouth.
If you count your breaths, close your eyes and focus on your breathing you can start to calm yourself down physically and bring more awareness to your body. Focusing on your breath not only reduces the kind of short, choppy breaths that generate tension but it also helps you turn down some of your anxious thoughts. Deep breathing can help you feel better quickly so that you can ignore the urge to run away.
Observe Your Reactions and Become Aware
When an attack is happening sometimes to helps to become very aware of your symptoms and even write down what you are experiencing. Writing about your anxiety can help you distance yourself from the feelings and be more observant of how you are reacting instead of being lost in the experience.
Writing down or talking to someone about what your are going through can help put things into perspective. You might read what you wrote later and realize how distorted your ideas were at the time. Or a friend might listen to your fears and help you understand that they are unfounded and that you are safe.
The important thing to remember about dealing with panic attacks is to do your best to ride out the symptoms until they subside. When you let yourself acknowledge the anxiety you will realize that it is only temporary and you will be able to return to a calm state of mind again. The more you learn to accept your anxiety, the less powerful it will become.