For individuals who suffer from anxiety or an anxiety disorder, a panic attack can be a terrifying experience. While anyone can experience some form of a panic attack, it can be an unfortunately common occurrence for individuals with an anxiety disorder. Panic attack symptoms can range from experiencing rapid heartbeat, faintness or loss of balance, shortness of breath, stomach pains, difficulty breathing or trembling to name a few examples. A panic attack can be a terrifying and isolating experience, as people tend to feel very helpless when they occur. But you are not as helpless as you might think, and the team of licensed counselors here at Accepting Therapy want to equip you with a few methods to help you cope with panic attacks, as well as help you feel more in control of your anxiety. Keep reading to see how you can start benefiting, or give us a call and schedule an appointment for a session with one of our counselors today!
- Understand Your Triggers: As much as it might seem like your panic attacks come at completely random or unexpected times, certain experiences or external factors can induce the anxiety levels that can eventually turn into a panic attack. Start keeping a log of your panic attacks and record where you were, what you were thinking, who you were with and other key aspects of your environment, thoughts, and experiences that day. Keeping a log of panic attacks for several weeks or months (depending on how often they occur) can allow you to start recognizing any patterns that appear. This will help you identify potential triggers of panic attacks, and once you have a better understanding of your panic attacks, you will be able to implement coping skills early on and may be able to prevent panic attacks from occurring.
- Self-Care: Panic attacks are much more likely to strike when you are emotionally low; people are more vulnerable for panic attacks when they are burned out, exhausted or overwhelmed. In order to reduce the likelihood of a panic attack, practicing self-care on a regular basis is very important. Self-care is most effective when we are both consistent and intentional about practicing it. Many people implement self-care on a ‘as needed’ basis, meaning they often practice self-care when they are under a lot of duress, and while this can still be helpful, it does not form reliable habits (and therefore reliable thinking patterns) regarding continuous self-care actions. Self-care is not a quick fix to make stress and burnout disappear. Self-care is a tool that helps us maintain life balance, strengthen our mental wellbeing over time, and implement self-supportive thought patterns. Many self-care activities take time to master and you will receive the most benefits from it when it is practiced on a regular basis, as well as reduce your likelihood to experience panic attacks.
- Grounding Techniques: When you are experiencing a panic attack, feelings of helplessness can manifest quite easily as the experience is very overwhelming and it can feel like you just have to wait until it’s over to take back control. There are a few techniques that can be helpful to bring your awareness back into the present and remind yourself that you are safe, and in control. I like to call this ‘putting down some anchors’ for yourself, or “grounding”. In other words, you want to center yourself and provide a sense of stability and security that the overwhelming experience of a panic attack can seem to take away. For example, use your senses to draw your awareness back into the present. This can include: practicing calming breathing techniques, describing the colors you see around you, selecting a sound to focus on, leaning your back against the wall, rubbing your hands on the carpet, etc. These techniques will engage your senses and force your mind to pay attention to them in the current moment, providing a more stable anchor for your thoughts to focus on, allowing you to be re-centered in the present and bringing back the feeling of control you have.
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Panic attacks can be a terrifying and unique experience for anyone who has the misfortune of undergoing them. But you’re not alone in your experience, and you’re not alone in your attempts to deal with them either. The triggers of panic attacks and effective coping skills are dependent on an individual’s experience, personality, and lifestyle, and for this reason, therapy sessions can be a helpful resource for anyone who is seeking help with panic attacks or other anxiety symptoms. I hope this blog post is a helpful start in developing some coping skills to help manage panic attacks. Give us a call today to see how our team of licensed counselors can start supporting you, or schedule an individual counseling appointment here.