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  • Writer's picturekatrinaknutson

Breaking Free from Panic: Tools and Tips for Managing Panic Attacks

Panic attacks can be incredibly frightening and overwhelming experiences. They often come on suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and out of control. They can be triggered by a variety of factors, such as stress, anxiety, or certain phobias. Symptoms of a panic attack can include a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, and feelings of intense fear or dread. If you've ever experienced a panic attack, you know how terrifying they can be.

Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to help manage panic attacks and reduce their impact on your daily life. In this blog post, we'll explore some tips and techniques for dealing with panic attacks. By incorporating these strategies into your routine, you can

learn to take control of your panic attacks and live a more fulfilling life.

What is happening to my body when I experience a panic attack?

When a person experiences a panic attack, their body is essentially going into a state of fight-flight-freeze response, also known as the sympathetic nervous system response.

This response is a natural survival mechanism that is activated when we feel threatened or in danger. When the brain perceives a threat, it sends a signal to the hypothalamus, which activates the sympathetic nervous system. This triggers a series of physiological changes in the body that prepare us to either fight the threat, flee from it, or freeze in place.

During a panic attack, the body may perceive a threat even if there is no actual danger present. This can trigger the same fight-flight-freeze response, causing a range of physical and emotional symptoms.

Physiologically, during a panic attack, the body releases adrenaline and other stress hormones, which can cause a rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, and shortness of breath. The body is essentially preparing for physical activity, like running or fighting. However, because there is often no actual physical danger present during a panic attack, these physical symptoms can feel overwhelming and frightening.

Emotionally, a person experiencing a panic attack may feel intense fear or dread, as well as a sense of detachment from their surroundings. They may also experience negative thoughts and beliefs, such as a fear of losing control, going crazy, or dying.

In summary, during a panic attack, the body is essentially going into a state of fight-flight-freeze response, triggered by the brain perceiving a threat. This response can cause a range of physical and emotional symptoms, which can feel overwhelming and frightening.

What can I do to control a panic attack?

1. Recognize the symptoms of a panic attack

The first step in managing a panic attack is recognizing when one is happening. Panic attacks can feel different for everyone, but some common symptoms include a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, shaking, feeling lightheaded, tunnel vision and experiencing intense fear or dread. Knowing the signs of a panic attack can help you prepare for and manage them.

2. Practice deep breathing

Deep breathing can be an effective way to calm yourself down during a panic attack. Try taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. You can also try counting to four as you inhale and exhale to help regulate your breathing.3.Use visualization techniques.

3. Practice Visualization

Visualization can be a powerful tool in managing anxiety and panic attacks. Try imagining a calm, peaceful scene, like a beach or a forest, and focus on the details. You can also try picturing yourself in a safe and comforting place, like a favorite childhood memory or a cozy room in your home.

4. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice that involves staying in the present moment and accepting your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Mindfulness can help reduce anxiety and panic attacks by helping you focus on what's happening in the moment rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. When you’re at home try taking a shower and focusing on the sensations of the water on your body. If you can go outside for a walk, focus on what you see and hear in your surroundings. If you’re driving in your car you can turn on the radio and focus on the music, or roll down the window and feel the wind on your face.

5. Practice grounding techniques

The 5,4,3,2,1 method is a simple yet effective grounding technique that can help alleviate the symptoms of a panic attack. Here's how to use it:

  1. Take a deep breath and focus on the present moment.

  2. Identify 5 things you can see around you. This could be anything from a book on a shelf to a tree outside your window.

  3. Identify 4 things you can touch. This could be the texture of your clothing, the surface of your desk, or the feeling of your feet on the ground.

  4. Identify 3 things you can hear. This could be the sound of a fan, the hum of your computer, or the sound of your own breathing.

  5. Identify 2 things you can smell. This could be the scent of your perfume or cologne, the smell of food cooking nearby, or the aroma of fresh flowers.

  6. Identify 1 thing you can taste. This could be a sip of water, a piece of candy, or even the taste of your own saliva.

6. Realize panic attacks are temporary

A typical panic attack usually lasts anywhere from a few seconds to 10-15 minutes. Often, the most intense symptoms go away pretty quickly. Knowing these symptoms are temporary will help you tolerate the uncomfortable feelings you have. Try reminding yourself that nothing is wrong with you and these feelings will be over soon.

7. Seek professional help

If panic attacks are significantly impacting your daily life or are becoming more frequent, it may be time to seek professional help. A mental health professional can help you develop a treatment plan that may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Panic attacks can be a challenging and overwhelming experience, but by using effective techniques and strategies, you can learn to manage and even overcome them. By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine and seeking professional help if necessary, you can take control of your panic attacks and reduce their impact on your life. If you’re looking for a therapist, consider reaching out to me to schedule a free consultation. Remember, you're not alone in this experience, and with the right tools and support, you can lead a fulfilling life free from the constraints of panic attacks.

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