Navigating the Storm: How to React and Find Calm During a Panic Attack

by Megan
July 5, 2023
A panic attack can be an incredibly frightening experience, marked by intense feelings of fear, anxiety, and physical symptoms that can mimic those of a heart attack. Understanding how to react when one occurs can be empowering, and may help to alleviate the severity of the symptoms. In this article, we'll explore the steps to take when a panic attack strikes, and how to regain control amidst the chaos.

When a panic attack occurs, it can feel like you're losing control or even that your life is in danger. However, it's important to remember that these feelings are symptoms of the panic attack and not indicative of actual physical harm. Here are several strategies to help you navigate through a panic attack:

1. Recognize what's happening: The first step in dealing with a panic attack is recognizing it for what it is. Symptoms can include a rapid or pounding heart rate, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, a feeling of choking, nausea, dizziness, and a fear of losing control or dying. Once you've identified that you're having a panic attack, remind yourself that the symptoms are temporary and will pass.

2. Find a safe space: If you're in a crowded place or somewhere that may exacerbate your feelings of panic, find a quiet, safe space where you can focus on your breathing and calming yourself down.

3. Practice deep breathing: Rapid, shallow breathing is a common symptom of a panic attack. Counteract this by practicing deep breathing. Slowly inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four. This can help to slow your heart rate and calm your mind.

4. Grounding techniques: Grounding techniques can help you reconnect with reality and distract from the feelings of panic. This could involve describing what you see around you, touching an object and noting its texture, or focusing on your feet connecting with the ground.

5. Challenge your thoughts: Panic attacks can fill your mind with frightening thoughts. Challenge these thoughts by asking yourself what evidence there is that your worst fears will come true. Remind yourself that you're experiencing a panic attack and that it will pass.

6. Seek professional help: If panic attacks are a regular occurrence, it's essential to seek help from a mental health professional. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly effective at helping people understand and manage panic attacks and panic disorder.

The most important thing to remember during a panic attack is that it will pass, and you are not in actual physical danger. By understanding what a panic attack is and having strategies in place to deal with it, you can feel more in control when it occurs, which can significantly reduce the severity of the attack. Remember, it's okay to seek help and discuss your experiences with others - you're not alone in this struggle.