After Having Panic Disorder and Panic Attacks For More Than 30 Years, I Have Gained Some Helpful Techniques.
I have lived with Anxiety and Panic Disorder, which means Panic Attacks for over 30 years. When I first found out I had this disorder, there was not an abundance of information available to do research on. Tips and techniques were not abound on the internet for anyone to look up. Through trial and error, as well as finally, after years of suffering alone, getting medical help, I have created my own set of techniques that help me stop or reduce a Panic Attack. Maybe you will find some of them helpful for yourself. Remember, not everything works for everybody.
Controlled breathing is a proven technique to calm you down. Slow, deep breaths can calm your racing heart and keep you from hyperventilating. I have also noticed that when I focus on calming my breathing, my mind can’t wander into all the negative thoughts that can come with a panic attack because I am controlling my thoughts.
2. Change Location/Environment
This is a great help when you feel a panic attack coming on. Sometimes the act of just relocating yourself and changing your physical location can change your mental perspective. This can help you re-focus your attention. This does not mean to flee a certain area in panic. Doing so will make going back to that place harder. I mean to calmly as possible just move to a different location. (Ex: if I am my bedroom and a panic attack starts and I can’t stop it or calm myself down enough, I just walk to the adjoining bathroom or if the attack if further along, I may go downstairs to relax.)
3. Ground Yourself
There are different ways to do this. I read somewhere that holding an ice cube in your hand for a few seconds, then switching it to the other hand can help do this. I have not tried this yet but it sounds logical to me. Grounding yourself means doing something that “brings you back to reality”. Especially if you are in that “surreal” mode during a panic attack. I have used watching TV, opening the window to get cold air, put cold water on my face and talking to someone. It’s a sensory thing. Find what grounds you and use it to bring yourself back to reality.
4. Cold Air
Like I said in #3, cold air help ground me. But it also helps me breath easier in a panic attack. Opening up a window or a door into the cold air is amazingly helpful. Using an AC or fan can be an alternative if that is not possible. But what if it’s not cold out? Open the freezer door and breath in the cold air. Yup, that’s right, using the freezer is a great alternative if a fan isn’t enough. Even the refrigerator side is enough but if you are really having a hard time breathing, the colder the better. (The freezer idea came to me when our youngest daughter had a serious croup attack and we ended up in the ER with her. The doctor said using the cold air outside helps croup. Doctors don’t know why but it does. Then he said if it’s not cold outside, open the freezer and have our daughter stick her head in there and breathe the cold air. It also worked for me when I couldn’t breathe from panic.)
5. Safe Word/Person
One thing I learned from a friend who was also a counselor, has helped me for several years. It’s called a safe word. This takes some work, but if you are willing to put the work in, the results can be very helpful. First, you need a word that you are comfortable with, my word is BREATH. After I picked the word, I got comfortable (like laying down on a couch or recliner), practiced deep breathing and got relaxed. After I was relaxed and calm, I would tell my husband and he would simply say the word BREATH, calmly. We practiced this until I got to the place where hearing him just say the word, even over the phone, would get my attention and I would automatically remember to start deep breathing. Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t put me in a hypnotic trans or have any superpower over me…lol. Being out of control is frightening, especially when you are out of control of your body. Allowing my husband to help me gain back control is empowering to me but it takes a lot of trust on my part. My husband is the only person I have ever trusted that much. Now our children have that trust with me and my husband and I also with them.
I truly hope some of these techniques help you or your loved one stop or get through panic attacks. Yes, they can be frightening, but with these techniques, or other ones you find, panic attacks can be controlled. Please comment below with any techniques you have used to help you control or get through Panic Attacks.
Till Next Time,
Rebecca & The Gang
Finding Our New Normal