Panic attacks can be physically and mentally exhausting, and they are often difficult to manage. We reached out to members of our community for suggestions on how to cope with panic attacks and anxiety. Here are some helpful ideas that you came up with.
1. Know your triggers
“Increasing self-awareness and knowledge about your own mental health is always a plus. The more you KNOW your triggers and how your anxiety presents itself, the easier it will be to talk yourself through an attack.” – Mindy H.
2. Leave the situation
“I remove myself from the situation immediately, go home, and pet my dogs… it’s the best I can do right now. I have to take care of myself, and when my body is sending me distress signals, I have learned to respond before I have a meltdown.” – Cathy M.
[At work or in public] “I hide in bathrooms… I feel safe in the cubicles.” – Jon I.
“I go for a walk. Even if I’m at work, a quick 10 or 15 minute walk works wonders.” – Melissa S.
3. Grounding techniques
“I look around to find 5 things I can see, 4 things I can touch, 3 things I can hear, 2 things I can smell, and 1 thing I can taste. It’s called grounding.” – Sam A.
“Grounding techniques…. Focus on what’s around you, what it looks like, the smell, the texture.” – Gia S.
“Look around you for…
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
This is called ‘grounding’. It can help when you feel like you have lost control of your surroundings and/or your head.” – Tracy K.
4. Meditation and mindful breathing
“I pay attention to my breathing. At first it’s loud and fast, then a few moments later it starts to slow down and quiet down. I sit on the floor and continuously say three words: peace, joy, love. I don’t care how long it takes. When the attack passes I feel lighter and forget why I panicked.” – Myta S.
“Focusing on the breath. Don’t let one thought become two. Don’t let two thoughts become three. Focus on the breath. Repeat.” – Chana B.
“Focus on your breathing as much as you can. Recognize that you’re not breathing correctly and try to correct that right off the bat. Redirect your thinking to something else, whether that be a person, an activity, an animal, pretty much anything so you’re not bombarded with bad thoughts that’ll only make things worse. Try to give yourself affirmations – mine is usually ‘I will be okay’ over and over again. If you’re having bad thoughts about whatever caused your panic attack (‘he hates me,’ ‘I’ll never be good enough,’ ‘nothing is okay, etc), deflect them as best you can. You don’t have to believe whatever you’re saying to deflect it, but do so anyway. He doesn’t hate you. You are good enough. Even if things currently aren’t okay, you can get to a point where they’re manageable or even are entirely okay.” – Briana H.
5. Visualize a safe place
“Start mindful breathing.
Close my eyes and think of a safe place (mine is the beach).
Vividly think of all five senses being activated in the safe place (the view of the beach, the sound of the waves, the feel of the water and sand, the smell and the taste of the salty air as I breathe).
Tell myself I am safe. Nothing can harm me.
Relax my body gradually until I can open my eyes and breathe normally and come ‘back to reality.’” – Desirae C.
“Recently I found that trying to focus on something else such as counting numbers out of order works, because it requires concentration. You could try counting the numbers 1 to 9 out of order or something like subtracting 7’s or 3’s from 100 as many times as possible.” – Melanie Luxenberg
7. Let it happen/ride it out
“Ride the wave and say ‘I’m okay, nothing is wrong with me, this will be over soon.’” – Nicole W.
8. Talk to a friend or family member
“When I feel a panic attack coming, quickly I contact my husband or text my best friend with angry and sad emojis. That’s a code between us that I’m overwhelmed, needing reassurance.” – Belinda H.
“I have to be around people… it’s better for me to distract myself by being somewhere where there’s other people. A mall, grocery store. Or meet up with a friend” – Ellen F.
9. Other suggestions
“If I’m at work, I go to bathroom and run cold water over the inside of my wrist. Press pressure point in web between thumb and first finger. This forces me to take a deep breath. Repeat until calm.” – Sharon M.
“I find a dark room to lay down and I focus on the color black, I imagine black and keep saying it in my head.” – Rachael B.
“Ice cold pop top water bottle. Helps me to control my breathing and calm myself down. One big gulp of water and then just hold the bottle top in my mouth, forcing me to breathe through my nose.” – Jennifer T.
“I go ‘upside down’. Literally lay over the edge of a couch, bench, chair, whatever and just breathe. The different perspective helps me remember to breathe and focus only on the things I can see around me.” – Amanda F.
“I can’t explain why, but when I have a panic attack I need pressure on my stomach. I’ll push my stomach in over the back of a chair, or lay on an exercise ball – tummy down. Strange, but comforting.” – Theresa D.
“My biggest piece of advice during a panic attack is to look in the mirror. I often depersonalize or dissociate during panic attacks, and looking in the mirror and talking out loud to myself is only thing that keeps me grounded and helps me through it.” – Whitney Parrish
These are some suggestions you can try on your own. You might also want to meet with a mental health professional for more help; Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy are two types of therapy that can be helpful for managing anxiety and panic attacks. With the help of a trained therapist, you can learn these techniques and/or find what methods work best for you to manage your panic attacks.
If you are in a crisis, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting START to 741-741. For a list of international crisis centers visit this page: http://iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/. If you are not in a crisis and would like someone to talk to online, visit the website www.7cups.com to chat for free with a trained listener.