Have you ever experienced difficulty breathing, dizziness or tightness in your chest? You may be experiencing a panic attack. Stemming from anxiety and fear responses, your body can have physical symptoms from an emotional issue. In this post, we’ll share 5 effective strategies to help you manage panic attacks and lessen the toll it can take on your nervous system.
What Triggers a Panic Attack?
Panic attacks occur suddenly and can be triggered by any sense of fear of anxiety. This can come in the form of people, places or things, but it can also be memories or emotions. For example, someone who had a car accident may get a panic attack looking at a car or being in a car.
What Is It Like To Have Panic Attacks?
While panic attacks can feel different depending on the person, common symptoms include sweating, chills, difficulty breathing, or a racing heartbeat. You may also feel overwhelming fear and anxiety, and avoid places and situations that have caused you panic in the past.
What Is the 3 3 3 Rule for Panic Attacks?
A nod to mindfulness and grounding, the 3 3 3 rule asks you to stop and look around and name 3 things you can see, 3 things you can hear and move 3 parts of your body. Simply, focusing your attention on these 3 pieces forces you to stop and bring you back to the present moment.
5 Ways To Help You Manage Panic Attacks
1. 54321 Grounding
Similar to the 3 3 3 rule for panic attacks, 54321 asks you to look around your space and name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can taste and 1 think you can smell. It’s okay if you have to move around to complete this exercise, but the main takeaway is to bring your attention out of your thoughts and into the present moment.
Deep, full breathing helps to slow down your nervous system and helps to regulate yourself. Diaphragmatic or belly breathing invites you to place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your heart. Breathe in through your nose for a count of four and feel your abdomen expand. Exhale through your mouth for a count of four. Continue this exercise as you notice yourself becoming calm.
Anti-anxiety medication can help with the overall severity of your anxiety. While it may not completely eliminate your anxiety, it can definitely help with reducing the frequency and intensity of panic attacks.
4. Fact Check Your Thoughts
More often than not, our minds go to the worst case scenario. This may be because of our own lived experience, because of something we have seen or heard about, or simply our own fears manifesting into our mind. In these moments it can be helpful to fact check your thoughts and ask yourself, “Is this my fear or a fact?” or “What is the likelihood of this happening?” Asking yourself these questions can force your mind into thinking of rational responses to deal with our anxious thoughts.
5. Name the Emotion
Oftentimes our thoughts race and spiral out of control and we don’t know where it started. Remind yourself what you are feeling and say it to yourself. “I am feeling anxious” or “I am having a panic attack”. Naming what you're feeling is the first step to relabeling it by telling yourself that you’ve felt this feeling before and it is temporary.
Now that you have 5 ways to manage your panic attacks you can use them to help you in your daily life. If you are still struggling with being unable to regulate your body and coping with your panic attacks, book an appointment now with our psychotherapist! We are happy to help you.