What do I do About a Panic Attack?
Updated: Apr 28
A panic attack is the sudden onset of extreme symptoms of anxiety. These include at least four of these symptoms: intense fear or discomfort, pounding heart, palpitations, shaking, difficulties breathing, choking feeling, chest pain or discomfort, nausea or abdominal distress, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, de-realization or depersonalization, fear of losing control, fear of dying, numbness or tingling, chills or hot flashes, as described in the DSM-IV.
Most often I hear people complain that they are very fearful that at any given moment they could have a panic attack. They cannot find a trigger which leaves them feeling helpless. In fact, some people even wake from a sleeping state with a panic attack. People live in fear of experiencing that fear, they become phobic of the impending doom of the panic attack. This alone is anxiety provoking.
The primary response to anxiety is stress as shown in the fight/flight response, we often will attempt to avoid an anxiety provoking experiences, but when in a panic attack we try to fight it. Here are some tips to add to your tools to deal with panic.
1.) Create balance in your life. We need to feel productive, socially connected, physically healthy, and safe. Check to see if you have balance. If you are working too hard or feel overly stressed, you will feel off balance. Hone in on what is missing and correct it.
2.) Meditate. Some people find it difficult to sit silently and “clear your mind”. Try not to clear your mind, but to stay in the moment. You may find yourself more successful if you use guided imagery to meditate. You can go on YouTube and search for guided meditation. You can even narrow it down to your specific need, such as guided meditation for panic. These meditations guide you through a scene, so you can visualize yourself feeling peaceful which transfers into your current emotional state.
3.) Positive self-talk. Remind yourself that you are safe. Say helpful things to yourself. Some may include, “I have been through this before and I made it out okay”, “I am safe, this will pass”, or “I can handle this”.
4.) Respect your body’s response. A panic attack is a flood of adrenaline that occurs due to your body trying to charge you into action for a fight. This flooding starts building up and peaks at about 10 minutes than takes time to slowly return to normal about 30 minutes total. During a panic attack thank your body for trying to help and wait it out. Some people call it “floating through” the panic.
5.) Positive affirmations daily. Another way to deal with panic before it starts is to immerse yourself in positivity. Daily, do a google search like, “positive quotes for anxiety” or Positive quotes for motivation”, then click on images and enjoy the positivity that flows through you. Change all your passwords to something that makes you feel happy, so you are constantly reminded to focus on happiness and gratitude.
6.) Build confidence. Also, use YouTube and search for “affirmation for confidence”, find an audio recording of someone telling you things that empower you.
7.) Don’t avoid the panic. Have your arsenal of coping skills and strength and then get ready to panic. Tell your panic, to “Bring It”. Instead of avoidance, it’s time to challenge it. The theme song to Rocky comes to mind. Beg it to come, seek it out. Once the panic is present, then allow the feelings to happen without fearing them. Know that you will be okay, you just need to wait it out. Try to even enjoy the feelings as a way of recognizing that your body is capable of protecting you if you were in real danger. Thank your body and embrace the feeling and express gratitude to your body.
8.) Practice. These steps WILL work, but be patient with it. It may not be effective the first time. Every new skill deserves some time to develop. Expect to succeed and you will. As you continue to float through the panic, you will find the panic having less power over you and they begin to shorten and eventually dissolve completely.
Enjoy your new empowerment. You are in control.
Jennifer Hoskins-Tomko, LCSW is a Psychotherapist who has been practicing for over 12 years. She has a strong background in trauma work, depression, anxiety, relapse prevention, etc. She is also the business owner of a concierge private practice in Jupiter, Florida. Jennifer and her team provide therapeutic services to a variety of clients of ages 14 and over. Services they provide are individual, couple, family and group therapy.
Monday – Friday9:00 – 5:00