Panic Attacks Happen—If You Find Yourself In The Middle Of One, Here’s What To Do

It would be ideal if we could always handle every stressful situation in a calm, rational way and avoid panicking because it often makes any problems more difficult. However, sometimes panic attacks happen to the best of us and they can feel completely overwhelming. Here’s what to do if you find yourself in the midst of one.

Recognize and acknowledge that you are having a panic attack. 

If it’s the first time you’ve ever experienced one, you may want to be checked out by a doctor because some panic attacks do have the same physical symptoms of a heart attack. The good thing is that once you know what a panic attack feels like to you and what you physically and emotionally experience during one, you’ll be able to identify when you’re having one. Half the battle is admitting and acknowledging (even just to yourself, but you can also communicate it to someone you trust) that you’re having a panic attack because that in itself takes away some of its power.

Keep lavender essential oil in your bag and inhale the scent when you feel panicky. 

Of course, if you’re taking any medication, check with your doctor to make sure that it won’t interfere or make it more potent, just to be on the safe side. The scent of lavender has been known to bring a calming and relaxing feeling, and although everyone is different, it may help with some feelings of anxiety.

Find a secluded place to process your feelings. 

Panic attacks often occur out of nowhere and in inconvenient times, such as public places or at work. One possible way to deal with one is to find a quiet, calm, and (if possible) dark place. A bathroom or your car are two examples that may work if you’re not at home. Loud noises, bright lights, and any commotion can exasperate a panic attack, and it will be easier to focus on calming yourself down in a private setting.

Listen to a song that inspires you and/or reminds you of a good memory.

Music can drastically affect your mood, so use it to your advantage during a panic attack. Avoid any songs or artists that have the potential to trigger or upset you. A positive and uplifting song can make a world of difference.

Think about your strengths and simultaneously forgive your weaknesses.

Remind yourself what positive qualities you have that make you strong. Positive affirmations really do work, and reminding yourself about your strengths will help you to process and fight through your attack. If there are any qualities you have that you feel are less than ideal or maybe even holding you back (and we all have them!) simply accept that it’s OK.

Give yourself permission to panic, but only for five minutes. 

Personally, I’ve found that during a panic attack, the worst thing you can do is to pretend that you’re not having one and ignore or try to write off the symptoms. Usually, giving myself permission to panic takes away the pressure not to have an attack, which is often what amplifies it in the first place.

It’s cliche, but focusing on breathing does help. 

However, you don’t need to try and have a perfect breathing rhythm or hold your breath for a certain amount of seconds unless it feels natural. If it makes you uncomfortable, a panic attack is not the time to work on it. Just focus on the fact that you’re breathing and pay attention to each breath you take. Taking longer breaths rather than short, rapid ones can help soothe anxiety, but do whatever feels the best for you.

Ask yourself what exactly you’re panicking about.

I usually have the worst panic attacks over the smallest of problems, but only because I’ve let stress build up. I used to let the panic attack overtake my body and mind without trying to process it at the time. While I’m feeling the symptoms of a panic attack, I try to figure out exactly what it is that’s making them occur. It’s probably not the fact that I spilled coffee all over my shirt or locked my keys in the car, even if that’s what happened right before the attack began. Sometimes it’s helpful to be able to identify that what sets off a panic attack isn’t the entire (or main) cause of it, and to recognize that you don’t have to solve or fix every single thing that you’re worried about at that very moment.

Don’t take on tomorrow’s problems with today’s energy. 

This doesn’t mean keep putting off dealing with your issues and stress, but focus on the problems at hand rather than trying to come up with a solution for everything wrong in your life. Sometimes when a panic attack occurs, we subconsciously start overanalyzing and worrying about every problem and every potential problem, and that’s obviously not the right time to do so. Make a conscious decision to only worry about what you need to solve at the present moment during a panic attack because they will be more resolvable.

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