So, about a week ago, I had a severe panic attack. I used to suffer from them so severely I barely left my house. The shaking began, the racing thoughts and uneven breathing started, and I had to leave college immediately. I haven’t had one in a long time, and this incident made me want to talk briefly about some coping mechanisms that have helped me, people I know, or just sound like a good idea to try.
Remember, different things work for different people, so try a variety no matter how silly it might seem! Anything that helps you is worth doing.
○ This one comes from my mum. She used to suffer from them and her doctor told her that your body can only sustain that level of panic and adrenaline for 45 minutes. By the time that you’re at your worst state of full blown panic, you’re already about 20 minutes in. As a nurse, the science behind this made sense to her and helped her as she knew it would soon be over.
○ For me, I’ve recently discovered the 4,7,8 breathing method helps me relax (I even use it when I can’t sleep). Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 7, and slowly exhale through your mouth for 8. I usually do this whilst lying down and it makes me feel like I’m sinking into my bed a little, and I find it so relaxing. It doesn’t help me much when I’m at the height of a panic attack as it’s very difficult to control my breathing at this stage, but it’s amazing for when I can feel my anxiety levels beginning to rise too much.
○ I also find it helpful to have a visual aid when trying to calm my breathing. Here are a few you can use, just breathe in time with the image.
I’ve personally used the last image a few times and found it helpful.
○ Another thing that seemed to help me feel calm, was a big tight bear hug! Seriously! My mum would often sit behind me with me between her legs and just hug me super tight and for some reason it worked. When she wasn’t there, I found myself instinctively wrapping my arms around my body super tight. This actually features in an episode of grey’s anatomy where Dr Dixon has Bailey and Yang hug her tight to supress her nervous system. Look it up!
○ The real key is prevention. Obviously this isn’t always possible. Sometimes they just come out of nowhere! But recognising the thoughts that lead up to panic attacks is super helpful. Try to train yourself to stop these thoughts in their tracks. Someone suggested to me that when I have an invasive thought, to out loud (if possible, otherwise just in my head) shout STOP! This kind of shocks you and gives you a second to try to change your thought process.
I hope some of these will be helpful. Do you use these or any other methods? What works for you?