How I Manage My Panic Attacks
Growing up, I suffered from frequent (3-4x a week at my worst), intrusive panic attacks. So much so that I missed out on many social outings due to my constant fear of another attack. However, I've dealt with my anxiety and Panic Disorder for so long, that I've developed skills that have helped me overcome an attack. I've always found panic attacks to be more frustrating than my general anxiety simply due to the fact that they always seem irrational. Of course, there are some things that trigger them for me, but it's the ones that wake me up from my sleep that are the worst. I hope these tips help you if you are a panic attack sufferer, but please let me know any tips that you've found useful as well!
1. Get Distracted
This is probably my biggest tip. Growing up when I'd have a panic attack, my mom would turn the TV on to get my mind off of whatever was giving me grief. I still do this today. If I feel a panic attack coming on, I usually pull up my phone or computer and watch mindless YouTube videos. This takes my focus away from the attack.
You've heard me suggest this time and time again, but breathing through a panic attack is essential. During an attack, you'll likely find your heart rate increase to an uncomfortable level. Taking deep belly breaths slows your heart rate back down and calms your nerves, while grounding you in the process.
3. Lean on Loved Ones
Thank God for Yale, who has helped me out of panic attacks too many times to count. If you have a friend or loved one who knows about your situation, help them help you. I find talking through the attack with someone makes it go by faster, as strange as that sounds. They are also able to calm you down, rub your back or hold your hand through it. I also have told Yale these techniques so he knows how to essentially coach me through the attack. He knows that if I'm feeling really anxious, he will turn on the TV, open a window, hold my hand and ask why I'm anxious. I may be super lucky in having him be so helpful, but I'm sure everyone can find a friend, significant other or family member to help them during those anxious moments.
4. Fresh Air as Medicine
Ever since I was a kid, I've found fresh air to be the most useful tool in getting over a panic attack. I often overheat and sweat mid-attack, so a cool breeze has always been my best trick. If you are in an area where fresh air is not an option, I rely on two things. First is peppermint oil. I apply a few drops either on my chest or directly under my nose. The scent is cooling and relaxing to me, which is always why I travel with peppermint essential oil. My second tip is drinking COLD water. When I'm flying, I always make sure to bring a really cold bottle of water on flight. If I start to feel anxious, it helps to drink the water and focus on the cold sensation going down my throat. Sounds strange, but it helps!
5. Timing is Key
I was once told by my therapist that a panic attack cannot last longer than 15-20 minutes. Your body simply cannot sustain an attack for that long. Try to keep that in mind when you're going through a panic attack that seems like no end is in sight. Sometimes it's just a little mind over matter that helps me get through.
6. Speak to Your Doctor
If you deal with frequent panic attacks, it's probably in your best interest to speak to your doctor. I am prescribed emergency anxiety medication that I take before flights or if I am finding my anxiety is out of control. I have no shame in this whatsoever. Speak to your doctor and see if they can find the best solution for you and your body.