How to stop a panic attack
When a panic attack (sometimes also called Panic Disorder) strikes you it’s difficult to understand that you can control it because it seems like it is in control of you. Here are some tips and advice to help take that control back. These are some practical ways that you can use to learn to stop your Panic Attack.
When clients describe to me how their panic attacks feel, they explain that they come and go quickly, usually lasting no more than about ten minutes, sometimes even less, but during that time when they strike and build they are very intense and quite exhausting. They can happen when driving, in the supermarket or shopping, at work, at home or anywhere else that you can think of, often without warning. One thing that often surprises people is how common this problem is. Many more people suffer than you may imagine. This means that there are many ways to help end the problem and get some anxiety treatment.
The good news is that you can overcome panic attacks, and when you do then you really do get your life back.
So what is it that causes panic attacks?
It could be a build-up of many things. Every person is different. Panic attacks often start during times of higher than normal stress in your life. Have you been experiencing something more stressful than normal? Often people have suffered panic attacks for years without even knowing that they are able to get help and learn that they are something that they can rid themselves of.
A "Panic attack” is actually an inaccurate name. The reality is that nothing is 'attacked'." Imagine your own car. Your car alarm doesn't attack the car when it sounds, but sometimes it can sound when it doesn't need to. So stopping panic attacks isn't about getting rid of all panic; It is about learning the right time for real concern and how to turn down the unreal panic.
If you were doing exercise then your heart beating faster, sweating and increased breathing would seem quite normal. So, thinking about this can help to understand that the body is reacting as if it is undergoing exercise when it isn’t at all.
If you really did need those symptoms to happen then they would be in just the right place. But if you are not exercising then it all seems wrong, because of course it is.
If you feel that you may be sick it is the body protecting you. A predator wouldn’t want to eat you if you smelt bad would they? It’s all evolution.
Do you find that you get sweaty palms when you have a panic attack? Imagine if you needed to flee from an enemy then when that sweat dried you would be able to hold a weapon or climb a tree, its part of how we have evolved.
What steps can I take to help end panic attacks?
Stopping panic attacks is all about taking back the control.
Panic is a powerful emotion but also an unnecessary one when it controls you. We're all born with the capacity to panic, but it doesn't know what to fear, so it takes its lead from you and your behaviour. Therefore, if you avoid or run from somewhere or something, such as the shop in which the panic attack happens, then your panic response will mean that you associate that place with being threatening to you.
But once that panic attack realises that it’s not really in a dangerous situation then all that energy investment, the breathing and sweating will in fact slow down and your calmness will return.
Don’t run away and you can take back the control.
When you panic and run then you start to make that panic seem even more real. For example, if you run away from a shopping centre because it caused you to have an attack then you will start to think that all shopping centres will cause you to feel that way. That could even spread to any place that has a lot of people in it.
However, if you stay in the place until you have managed to calm down you are already taking control and showing yourself and your mind that it isn’t really dangerous at all. Instead of building the fear then you reduce it. It will start to make it easier. Your panic attack will go away and you will have taught it a valuable lesson.
Take a breath
Do you find that your breath rate accelerates during an attack? This is because you are responding in the “flight or fight” way and your body is preparing to run away. This can lead to hyperventilation. This can mean that you feel light-headed and giddy.
You can try holding your breath to help your breathing return to normal. If you can do this for ten to fifteen seconds you really will be able to help your breathing return to normal. Just thinking about and making a real effort to breathe deeply but slowly will take back some more of that control.
Think of something else
When we start to think about something else and confuse our brain then it finds it harder to concentrate and you can find that this distraction can slow the attack right down and dilute it. I have clients who have been driving and then try to make sentences out of car number plates or start to count backwards from 100 but taking away 3 every time. It really does help.
The AWARE technique.
Think about writing down these steps on a card and carrying them with you. Then you can take it out if you need it and remind yourself of them...
A: Accept the anxiety. You don't need to try to fight it.
W: Wait or Watch the anxiety. Imagine it is outside of you and you are just observing it.
A: 'Act normal'. That panic will soon get bored.
R: Repeat and remind yourself that it isn't real, and you will find that you relax again.
E: End with repetition. It will pass quicker the more you practice this.
Learn to really relax
When working with clients I help to prepare them for what could happen and teach them ways to relax so that all of the tips that are above just happen naturally. The thing that I am often told by clients is that they didn’t realise that the problem had gone away until well after it would have happened because they “just didn’t even think about it”.
The mental rehearsal and learning to relax mean that you can change your response so that you naturally calm down at the times that you would have panicked previously.
You can practice this yourself by closing your eyes and taking some nice deep breaths in to help to calm your body and mind. Then by imagining yourself in the situation that would cause the alarm but seeing yourself calmed and comfortable you can already start to see yourself in control, you can start to already forget about the old ways. Please feel free to take just 8 minutes to listen to the free relaxation MP3 below. It's just a first step in helping you learn to let go of worry and anxiety and finding ways to relax. Just click on the link below in red text.
Often clients come to me thinking that they will have to live with panic attacks for the rest of their life. This is simply not the case. If you think back to when you were young it's very unlikely that you suffered them as a small child playing without any cares in the world. This means that you had a time when you learned how to have a panic attack. Put simply, this means if you learned how to have it you can unlearn that too. If you suffer from panic attacks and would like to rid yourself of them then please do drop me an email at [email protected] or call me on 07980 233160. I really can help. I work with clients in my therapy room and also via SKYPE worldwide.