Your mind is spinning. Your breathing quickens. Your hands tremble. And your eyes hurt. Is this what a panic attack feels like? If you've ever experienced one, you might be familiar with some of these symptoms.
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is a sudden, irrational, overwhelming feeling of terror coming over you without warning. It can happen at any time - even while you're asleep and leave you feeling like you're going loco or having a heart attack. The feelings you experience during the typically unexpected panic attacks are out of proportion to the situation triggering the panic, or they may even be connected to something else entirely.
Panic Attacks are an actual medical condition linked to panic disorder, but the good news is that they can be managed through lifestyle factors and by seeking professional help if you need it.
What does a panic attack feel like?
A panic attack feels like a mix of physical symptoms and mental symptoms, such as:
- chest pain
- intense fear
- rapid heart rate
- rapid breathing
- intense anxiety
- heart palpitations
- hot flashes
- feelings of unreality
Panic attacks come and go quickly - but leave you feeling exhausted afterward.
5 simple coping strategies during a panic attack
1. Acknowledge you're having a panic attack
The first step to coping with a panic attack is to recognize you are having one. Panic attacks affect everyone differently, so your version of it could be very different from how your friend or sister experiences it. Once you've recognized the signs and identified that it is a panic attack, you can feel calmer knowing that you know what you're dealing with and that it's a temporary state that will pass. Even try saying out loud, "I am aware that I am experiencing a panic attack right now."
2. Use deep breathing
Breathing affects our mental state and regulates our nervous system, so it's no wonder we have panic attacks; one of the main symptoms is hyperventilation. If you have a panic attack, try to find a spot where you can sit or lie down and focus on doing some breathing exercises. It's normal that during panic attacks, our breathing speeds up. This is a biological response to danger. But if you take a moment to slow down and rewire your brain with relaxation techniques like slow, deep breaths, it will help to switch off that fight-or-flight response and help calm your body down.
3. Close your eyes
When you're in a heightened state of emotion with lots of stimuli, all sensory information can feel overwhelming—particularly in loud, crowded, outdoor, or brightly lit environments. Try to reduce these stimuli by shutting your eyes to remove the visual overstimulation and give your body and mind a few moments to slow down. In social situations, if you're surrounded by a stressful situation that might trigger panic attack symptoms, consider finding a solid object like a pole or bench that you can hold on to for stability and close your eyes for a few moments. Pair this with some deep breathing to calm yourself down.
4. Focus on the present and stay grounded
A lot of the physical symptoms we experience comes from feelings of uncertainty and not being in control. Focus on the present moment to bring yourself back to the 'now.' It could be as simple as focusing on a plant in your room and observing its color, how the leaves intertwine with each other and how its flowers have blossomed. Or another method often suggested by many mental health professionals is to notice five things around you. Then take note of four things you can touch. Two things you smell. And one thing you taste. Taking note of your environment helps you to stay grounded and distracts your mind by focusing on 'things.'
5. Practice mindfulness
This strategy may be challenging to implement while you're having panic attack symptoms, but it's a wonderful preventative method. If you recognize what type of situations bring on or trigger your panic attack try engaging in some mindfulness in advance to regulate your nervous system before the panic attack sets in. Practicing yoga or meditation (or both) are excellent ways to take care of your mental health in advance. And it doesn't need to be a long and time-heavy activity - try the Calm app or YouTube videos for some quick free 10-minute (or more) guided meditations for mindfulness.
Don't let panic attacks affect your quality of life
It's totally normal that experiencing panic attacks impacts your daily life. It's an actual mental health condition, and if you experience symptoms of panic disorder, effective treatments are always available. If panic disorder affects your life, consider speaking with a healthcare professional.
As always, love Easy Clothes team xx