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Tips for Managing Panic Attacks Effectively

Tips for Managing Panic Attacks Effectively

Panic attacks can be sudden and unexpected. They are episodes of extreme fear and anxiety, most often based on a perceived threat — even if that threat doesn’t actually exist.

Unlike anxiety attacks, panic attacks tend to occur without warning rather than a feeling of fear building up over time. While panic attacks are at their core associated with anxiety, one of the most impairing aspects of panic attacks are the physical symptoms that tend to arise. Thankfully, there are things you can do to manage panic attacks effectively. It might seem impossible, in the moment, to escape the intense feeling of fear and physiological discomfort. However, with a few strategies in place, you can learn how to reclaim your life back from the fear of panic.

What Does a Panic Attack Feel Like?

Panic attacks are characterized by an intense surge of anxiety and fear. This often manifests into uncomfortable and distressing physical symptoms such as:

  • A racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle tension

Panic attacks also come and go relatively quickly. Our bodies will physically experience a panic attack for 5-10 minutes on average. However, because of the intense anticipatory anxiety that often leads up to a panic attack and the exhaustion of coming down from a panic attack it may feel like the experience can take hours from your day.

Practice Deep Breathing

So, what can you do to manage your panic attacks? If you find that you’re in the middle of an intense attack, one of the best things you can do is to take a deep breath — then another. When you’re in the midst of a panic attack the best thing to do is to let your body experience the discomfort and know that it will pass in a matter of minutes. Oftentimes individuals will report ‘panicking about panic’. This mindset often adds intensity to the panic and exacerbates the fear around the experience.

Deep breathing exercises can help you to feel grounded and present. Panic attacks make it difficult to focus on anything other than the fear you’re feeling, but slow, deep breaths can help. They’ll also combat the shallow, quick breaths your body naturally wants to take when you’re in the middle of an attack.

Try breathing in through your nose for four counts and letting that breath out through your mouth for four counts. Not only will it help to calm you down but repeating that pattern of breathing offers a healthy distraction that can push panic out of the way.

Take a Walk

Any kind of exercise is great for your physical and mental health. But something as simple as taking a walk while you’re in the middle of a panic attack can help to calm you, help you focus on the present moment, and ultimately help you de-escalate the panic attack.

Walking helps to physically remove you from whatever stressful situation you might be in, even if it’s in your own mind. The movement can make you feel like you’re leaving that thought behind rather than taking it with you. Additionally, walking can help to regulate your breathing and improve blood flow. After a short time, you’ll even be able to take advantage of the natural benefits of physical activity, including a boost of endorphins and reduced stress.

Exposure Therapy

If panic attacks are causing significant impairment in your life, it may be time to seek out further support. While panic attacks happen to many individuals at some point throughout their lifespan, if you are experiencing daily distress, avoiding previously enjoyed activities or places due to fear of panic, and/or feeling unable to meet the responsibilities of the day due to panic attacks and the subsequent fear of their occurrence you may be struggling with panic disorder. Individuals with Panic Disorder do not need to struggle. Exposure Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) is the evidence based therapy to treat panic disorder and many individuals can reclaim a sense of mastery over their fears and the uncomfortable bodily sensations associated with panic through the exposure therapy process. The clinicians at The OCD and Anxiety Center are trained in ERP and will create a treatment plan targeted to your specific symptoms. Reach out today to learn more.

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2805 Butterfield Road suite 120
Oak Brook, IL 60523

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