Coping with panic attacks is not always as easy as it sounds – especially when you have your first panic attack. Over the years, I have had a handful of panic attacks. The first time it happened, I was walking home from work and I was so terrified, I didn’t know whether to stop somewhere and call for help or keep walking to get home to safety.
I ended up walking back home, feeling hugely relieved that I had not collapsed in a heap in the middle of the road.
These days, I do not get them often. When I do get one, I have learned how to ease the anxiety a bit through a few simple strategies that help to keep my breathing level and prevent me from freaking out completely. In this guide, I will be sharing some of my strategies for coping with panic attacks.
Simple Strategies for Coping With Panic Attacks
If you are battling to start coping with panic attacks, try one or more of these strategies to help you find some calm when things get overwhelming.
One of the worst things about my panic attacks is that they made me feel anxious when I was walking. When you have a terrifying experience, the mind remembers and the fight or flight chemicals go into overdrive when you are in a similar situation to the one you were in when you had the panic attack. A few times, I ended up having another panic attack because I was feeling so anxious about walking home from work again. Breathing exercises helped hugely by allowing me to focus on my breath and count as I walked. This distracted my brain enough to keep my breathing steady, helping me stay calm.
Another strategy for coping with panic attacks is mindfulness. Try focusing on something – your steps, your breathing, something you can see, hear, feel or taste. Focusing on something other than the panic helps the brain to redirect, which helps you feel calmer, bringing down your heart rate in the process. While it is not always easy to focus on something else when a panic attack hits, it becomes easier with practice.
I began to get anxiety a few months ago, thanks to my seizures. I was having five or six seizures a day (waking seizures but still horrible and scary) and not knowing when one would hit ended up ramped up my anxiety in a big way. I was at an amazing nursery, shop and restaurant centre one day with friends when I came across a tiger’s eye worry stone. As soon as I picked it up, it felt right sitting in my hand. Worry stones have an indent on one side that fits into the thumb. Carrying one is a form of mindfulness in itself, giving you something concrete to focus on as you breathe and centre yourself during an attack.
Meditation has helped me in many, many ways. For anxiety, it has helped me find my centre. There are many great calming meditations on Insight Timer that are ideal for panic attacks and for anxiety in general. Finding ways to calm the mind even when you are not having an attack can help ward off attacks and make them a little easier to deal with when they happen.
The weekend before I ended up in hospital, I had what I thought at the time was the worst panic attacks of my life. They turned out to be seizure aura (oops), but something that still helped was anxiety journaling. Writing out how I was feeling – heart rate increasing, breathing shallow, thoughts scattered – helped me step back a bit. Another way that journaling can help is to track your panic attacks and triggers. You may start to notice patterns that help to prevent further attacks.
Finally, another strategy for coping with panic attacks is yoga. Yoga is amazing for just about everything. There are many yoga videos on YouTube that are designed specifically to help you calm down and find your centre. It may seem strange doing yoga when you are in the throes of an attack, but it really does help. Calming yoga helps in general, minimising the effects of attacks when they happen.
These strategies are not too complicated or difficult. Although they may not work for everyone, they have worked for me. It is also worth adding that medication is another important thing to consider if you are having panic attacks on a regular basis. Speak to your doctor and find out what you can take to help you learn how to start coping with panic attacks.