4 Ways to Cope With a Panic Attack

What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is a sudden and overwhelming feeling of fear and confusion in situations that wouldn’t normally warrant strong emotions.

Panic attacks cause physical symptoms like rapid breathing, a fast heartbeat, and sweating. 

A panic attack is something many people experience. In fact, around 13% of people will experience at least one panic attack in their lifetime.

Panic attacks are not fun to deal with and can be very scary. Therefore, you need to find the right way to cope with the attacks. Even though everyone has their triggers, some ways to manage the symptoms of panic attacks are universal. 

Below are a few ways to deal with a panic attack:

1. Control Your Breathing

When you feel a panic attack coming on, you’ll likely notice that you’re taking short, shallow breaths, known as hyperventilation.

One of the first things you can do to calm down is to control your breathing. Controlling your breathing will help slow down hyperventilation.

Take slow, deep breaths from your diaphragm through your nose and slowly exhale out of your mouth. Some find it helpful to use the 4-7-8 breathing technique, in which you inhale for four seconds, hold the breath for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds.

2. Use Positive Statements

If you have a panic attack, you should make positive statements to yourself out loud.

Positive words are great for coping with a panic attack because they allow you to take control of the situation.

Think of something that will help remind you of your strength, and repeat it in your head. Remind yourself that the feelings will pass or you are in control of your body, not the other way around. Reassure yourself that nothing bad is going on and that you’re safe.

Repeat this kind of positive statement until you feel yourself relax.

3. Walk or Do Some Light Exercise

Physical activity, like exercise or walking, is one of the best things you can do to help ease panic attack symptoms.

Physical activity releases hormones called endorphins that relax the body and improve mood. 

The good news is, you don’t have to run a marathon or lift weights to get the benefits of exercise. Taking a short walk around the block or walking up and down the stairs will help. Light exercise like yoga or stretching can also help to relieve panic attack symptoms.

Avoid doing high-intensity exercise when you have a panic attack. Moreover, if you are not used to exercising, talk with your doctor before starting.

4. Sensory Grounding

When panic overpowers you, it’s because your mind has become disconnected from your body.

Sensory grounding helps reconnect your mind and body to the present moment using your five senses. The more senses you can use, the better.

Your senses have a direct link to the brain and can help you learn how to calm down from a panic attack. To try sensory grounding, look at five things around you and name them aloud. You can also try holding something cold or warm, such as a cold drink or hot water bottle. 

Notice how it makes your body feel and concentrate on that feeling. Another way to engage your senses is listening to music and taking in every note, rhythm, and tune. Alternatively, smell something strong like freshly ground coffee, mint, or essential oils like lavender.

In Conclusion

Panic attacks can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know how to handle them.

However, as scary as this may sound, panic attacks are temporary. Dealing with the attacks effectively can make all the difference. The ideal way to approach a panic attack is with love and patience for yourself. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and avoid isolating yourself. Take one day at a time, and try to remain calm. 

If you have a hard time calming down, contact us at the Anxiety Institute for professional help.

About the Author

Headshot: Daniel Villiers, Ph.D.
Dr. Dan brings over ten years of experience working with children, adolescents, young adults and families in a range of clinical and educational settings.
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