What to Do During a Panic Attack

By: Aaron Piertzen

You're sweating, confused, hyperventilating, and nauseated-in short; you're in the middle of a panic attack. So what to do you to ride it out and go on about your day?
Deep breathing: Although it might sound cliched, remembering to breathe is the most important part of having a panic attack. You don't necessarily have to count to 10, but making a conscious effort of focusing on your breathing can help. For one thing, it gets much needed oxygen to your brain. For another, it takes your attention away from the attack and diverts it to the numbers that you are counting.
Stop and replace: When something specific causes your panic attack, such as a troubling thought or idea, try compartmentalizing that thought and instead focusing on something more pleasant. For instance, if you're getting called into your supervisor's office and it sends you into an attack because you're afraid you're going to get in trouble, ignore the thought and instead think about the dinner that you're going to cook when you get home from work. Go through the entire list of ingredients that you'll need if it helps.
Make a phone call: If you have a trusted friend and think it will help, give them a call. What you don't want is someone who is going to brush you off and tell you that it's not a big deal. What you do want is someone who can reassure you, help talk you through it, or help you change the subject. (Whichever one works best for you.)
Asking yourself "so what": This can also be thought of as emotional reasoning. Lots of panic attacks are caused by what if questions. What if I lose control? What if I lose my job? What if this is a bad day at work? Instead of focusing on the 'what if's, change your question to 'so what?' Once you do that, think your way through the situation. For example, if you begin to panic because you're afraid that you're going to get stung by a bee and you're afraid of bees, ask yourself what will happen if you do indeed get stung. You might then think about pulling out the stinger, applying ointment, taking some Tylenol, etc. Facing the fear can sometimes help.
Distraction: Even in the most stressful situation, the mind can be tricked. Using something to distract yourself from the panic attack can be a way of handling it. Try turning on the radio if you are in the car or the television if you're at home. Focus on the words or music and make a conscious effort to understand their meaning. By doing this, your mind might get distracted into more or less forgetting about the panic it was previously feeling.
Meditation: Mediation and certain relaxation techniques can provide relief over time. Centering yourself and finding a soothing balance can be a key to overcoming panic attacks. Of course, this is something that takes time and it's not always possible, when driving down the road for instance, to stop and begin meditating. However, if you can get to a quiet spot away from everyone else, this might be a good choice for you.
If your panic attacks are severe enough to be affecting your quality of life, then you should really consider consulting a doctor. Panic attacks are treatable and should not be ignored. The key to managing them is to find something that works specifically for you. Don't be afraid to try different things until you find the one that works.

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