Panic Attack Relief
***PLEASE NOTE: Be sure that you have checked with your doctor that you are in good health! Let your doctor tell you that you are experiencing panic attacks, and never assume for yourself! These methods may help those who are experiencing panic attacks, but may not help if other underlying health problems exist.
The greatest way to alleviate panic attacks from your life is to PREVENT them from happening in the first place. Panic attacks are based on FEARS!
So, the key is, don't let the negative, fearful thoughts overwhelm you so much, that the mind thinks you're in danger. You need to stop the domino affect of thoughts that create such great tension and unrest. If the mind doesn't anticipate danger, the "fight or flight" response won't be activated. This means, keep your brain thinking there is no impending doom ahead. If your brain constantly thinks there is something wrong, or something to worry about, it will continue to keep the fear, where thoughts may prevail, which can open you up for a possible panic attack.
So, to start, allow yourself to recognize a thought as "just a thought", and try not to let any negative thoughts linger in the mind. Allow and accept any sensations that may flow through your body knowing they aren't dangerous.. they are NORMAL. You can test this by using the practice of focus. When you focus on ONE thing so intently, the mind has a hard time processing further thoughts. You will notice that everything else in your mind disappears during that time, even some sensations. Take a moment to grasp on to that, and what that can mean for you.
Here is an example:
You are with your friends. When someone makes you laugh, because a funny story is being told, how focused are you on the conversation? When something is so funny, your full attention is focused on your friend. This means, no other thoughts can enter the mind.
Another example: You are practicing a balance pose. When you focus and concentrate on lifting that leg up, your mind is focused. What would happen if you didn't concentrate very well, and you allowed thoughts to keep coming in? You would fall over. Focus is key...
Unfortunately, once you are in a panic attack, at that point, you just need to ride it out. Here are some ways you can help make the experience a little less severe...
Be sure that with each of the below, you are using this breathing method:
EXTENDED EXHALE BREATHING: Take a breath in to the count of about four, then exhale out slow and steady, to a count of about seven or eight. Remember that this extended exhale is the key to relaxing your body. An extended exhale taps directly into the parasympathetic nervous system, the system that relaxes and calms the body....
If you are in a panic situation, as hard as it is, try to accept what is happening. You can ride it out telling yourself there is nothing to fear. Remove the fear, and you can remove or lessen the attack. You can remove the fear by accepting that a panic attack is a NORMAL reaction of the body that THINKS it's in danger. Tell yourself that a fear triggered this attack, and that you are safe, and not in danger. Just be sure that as you practice self talk, that you are breathing, as instructed above, to kick in the part of the nervous system to relax. (Lengthened exhale)
Say and repeat to yourself, "I am NOT in danger", or "this is a natural reaction", and try to smile or even laugh. It may sound crazy, since it's hard to do this when your heart is pounding out of your chest, but, trust me. When we can pull the brain away from the fear by using our words and actions, we can pull away from the attack. Remember that when the brain realizes you are not in danger, it will back off of the fear.
Confidence can turn an attack around, or at least make it less severe. But, there is a fine line here. You only want to exude your confidence here, and not try to "control" the situation. By trying to take control of the attack itself, you can give the attack more attention. Instead, you want to ACCEPT what is happening and allow your body to take in the feelings, which is different from trying to control them.
It helps to tell your body that there is nothing to be fearful of. "I am safe.", "I am grateful", I am happy". This basically tells these fears and sensations that you are strong.
Put On the TV...
If you are prone to attacks, find and record your favorite comedy shows on the TV. Be sure that you can quickly get to them when an attack comes on. Be sure to do your extended exhale breath while you allow yourself to focus in on the characters. Listen and focus in on the laugh track, if there is one, as this tells the brain there is a "happy" situation going on, and not a dangerous one. Remember that smiling and laughing release endorphins that can combat the attack. By focusing in on the characters, you are not giving the panic the attention it is looking for, and can lessen the attack.
Put on the Music..
Have some music readily available that you can focus on. This can be either soothing, calm music, or music that you can sing along to. You can even try songs that are funny, to help kick in the endorphins. While using the extended exhale breathing technique, focus directly on the notes of the instrumentation with calming music, or you can focus in on the words of a song, if there is any. The whole idea here is to pull the brains' attention from the attack to something else going on in front of you. You are telling your brain you are not thinking about the "danger" it thinks you are in. Instead, it tells your brain you are doing something fun and or relaxing, which means you are not in danger, which can help lessen the severity of the attack. Also, singing forces you to breathe. By singing or speaking the words, you are allowing your brain to focus directly on words which takes the attention away from additional thoughts.
You can get yourself into a seated position with your legs extended. (You can be on the floor, or even on your bed.) Breathe in deep, reach your arms up over your head then extend your exhale nice and slowly as you reach towards your toes in a forward fold. Try to focus on the feeling of your body relaxing. This combines the extended exhale breath with movement and stretch. Close your eyes and feel your shoulders relax as you exhale. Focus directly on the feeling of the stretch. Try to smile when you do this, to enhance the experience. This gives the mind something else to focus on, and away from any "danger" it thinks you may be in.
Try some of the focus techniques on our Relaxation Poses Before Bed page. Anytime the legs are above our heart, we can help calm the body down naturally. So, try these different poses to figure out which is the most calming for you. (Legs up the Wall, Knees to Chest, or Happy Baby...)
Go for a Walk
For some, allowing the body to release some of that pent up energy, is the way to go. Walking around is a great way to release some of that energy, but don't forget the extended exhale breath, to kick in relaxation. Walking while you breathe can help you release the energy, while calming the body and mind.
To Sum Up:
- Try different self-talk methods...OR
- Put on or have your favorite funny comedy on standby to distract the mind from what is going on. Smile, continue to breathe, and focus in on the characters.. OR
- Put on some relaxing music or music you can sing along to that you can focus your attention on the music. Smile, continue to breathe, and allow the body to calm.. OR
- (My personal favorite..) Try combining the breathing with a stretch. (Forward fold is my favorite.) Concentrate on the feeling of the stretch..feeling the hamstrings stretch, or maybe the shoulders relax, while using the extended exhale breath.
- Try any of the relaxation poses before bed (legs up the wall, legs to chest, or happy baby) (see Relaxation Poses Before Bed) while continuing to breathe.. OR
- Go for a walk while using the extended breath.