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How to Manage a Panic Attack

Panic attacks can be frightening and can come on very quickly, seemingly out of nowhere. Whilst they are scary at the time, there are a few ways that you can help to manage them when you (or a loved one) is having one.

During the panic attack:

  • Focus on breathing: during a panic attack, it is common to feel short of breath. Concentrating on our breathing helps to regulate breathing, but can also distract us from whatever is causing the panic attack in the first place. Try out these breathing techniques:

  • Square breathing: inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4 and hold for 4. Repeat 10 times (or for as long as needed)

  • Circular Breathing: inhale slowly for the count of 5 and then exhale for a count of 5

  • Focus on your senses: apply your attention to the touch of something in your hand, or taste by putting something in your mouth and really concentrating on the flavour. This can help ground us in the moment as well as distract from the panic trigger

  • Grounding techniques: these short exercises can help to bring your mind and body back into the present and distract you:

  • Listen carefully and try to focus on all the sounds around you

  • Wrap yourself in a blanket

  • Lie under a weighted blanket or pile of cushions with a little bit of weight to feel the calming pressure on parts of your body

  • Walk barefoot and really feel the ground under your feet

  • Go outside and focus on the sounds and sights of nature around you

After the panic attack:

  • Talk to a professional: if you are worried about the panic attack or are experiencing them regularly, it might help to speak to a professional to help you better understand what is causing them, and possible solutions to manage them better. Try speaking to your GP or a therapist to get started

  • Talk to a loved one: a problem shared is a problem halved! If you feel able, find somebody that is likely to be sympathetic and understanding and explain to them what happened. It can be particularly helpful to explain to them how they might be able to spot the signs of you having another one, and any tips that might help them to help you (for example, you could share this blog with them)

  • Spend some time doing things that relax you: the more relaxed we are, the less likely we are to experience these moments of extreme panic and stress. So learn what best relaxes you and set aside regular time to do that activity

  • Think about self-care and how you manage stress in your day-to-day life: panic attacks are often due to undue stress on our minds and bodies and so understanding how you can better manage your reaction to stress or reduce the stress in your life is a great way to reduce the occurrence of these attacks

Everyone experiences anxiety and panic in different ways and there is no set one way to manage it. However, using drugs or alcohol to manage stress or panic symptoms is not going to help in the long or short-run and will make it worse. Instead, try some of these tips out and see what works best for you. Let us know in the comments how it goes!

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