Self-Help for Panic Attacks

When a panic attack strikes, the experience can be very terrifying. You feel you heart racing, breathing gets difficult, your body is shaking and your stomach feels nauseated, you have an intense feeling that you’re losing control… Professional help is available to help you deal with anxiety and panic attacks, but you can also self-help for panic attacks.

First of all, stay where you are and wait. During a panic attack, your cognitive abilities will be impaired, just like they are impaired when you are enraged. It is therefore important not to act on impulse. If you are driving, pull over and park as it can be dangerous to keep driving.

Next focus on what you are feeling at the moment. Recognize that what you are experience is a frightening situation, but not a harmful one. It feels awful, but it will pass and will not leave any permanent damage on you. Now, engage your mind on something else, such as the colours of the cars passing by or the voice on the radio.

You may notice that you are breathing fast. Fast, shallow breathing will make your panic attacks worse, so concentrate on slowing your breathing rate. Inhale over the course of five seconds, hold your breath in for two seconds and exhale over five seconds. Feel your chest and abdomen expand and contract as you are breathing.

An effective self-help technique for panic attacks is the use of visualization. Imagine a place and situation which makes you feel calm and relaxed, and try to visualize as much detail as possible. You may use a place from your childhood, such as lying on the grass in your parent’s garden, while looking at the shapes of the clouds above and listening to the birds in the trees. Or maybe you can imagine being at your favourite beach, watching the sunset and hearing the waves crash gently on the shore while feeling the cool breeze run through your hair.

Note that during a panic attack, it is important not to fight the experience as it can make it worse. Instead, remind yourself that although it feels awful it will not harm you and it will eventually pass. District yourself with other things, such as the visualization mentioned above, but do not consciously fight the attack.

Exercise is a potent way to deal with panic attacks, as it can release tension, improve circulation and will release chemicals which make you feel good and have a calming effect on your body. It is recommended that you partake in physical activity at least five days a week for 30 minutes each time; but the more, the better.