Panic Attack Help: How To Cope When Anxiety Feels Unbearable

You can’t breathe, and you can’t think straight. The walls are closing in, and you feel trapped. Your heart is beating fast, your chest is tightening, and you feel like you’re losing all semblance of control.

There is no doubt that panic attacks can seem downright terrifying and debilitating. It may seem like you’re dying. You don’t necessarily know when the next one will occur, and you may not know how to cope when one is happening.

Fortunately, there are proven tips to help you navigate these distressing experiences. You don’t have to be paralyzed by your anxiety, and learning such coping strategies can offer you panic attack help and relief. 

The Anatomy of a Panic Attack

It appears that a variety of factors can trigger a panic attack. Such factors may include genetics, having a temperament that’s more prone to anxiety or negative emotions, traumatic events, and acute stress

Panic attacks can feel like they last for several hours. However, the most intense symptoms typically peak and then dissipate within just a few minutes. The most common symptoms include:

  • Impending feelings of danger and doom
  • A sense of body weakness or lack of coordination
  • Nausea 
  • Motion sickness or dizziness
  • Feeling a choking sensation
  • Heart palpitations and racing heartbeat
  • Numbness and body tingling, often felt in the arms
  • A sense of detachment from reality
  • Chest pain
  • Hot flashes and sweating
  • Intensified anxiety and paranoia

Panic attacks can be draining! Therefore, it’s completely normal to feel exhausted (both physically and mentally) after one occurs.

Panic Attack Help: How To Cope With The Distress Immediately

Regardless of any past actions or beliefs, you don’t need to be a passive or powerless observant when a panic attack happens. In fact, learning how to recognize triggers and practice healthy stress reduction strategies helps you regain control and empowerment over your anxiety. 

Practice Positive Mantras

The theory behind Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy shows us that our thoughts can indeed shape our inner worlds. That means your perspective can make an essential difference in how you perceive- and manage- a panic attack. 

Think about it. If you keep reinforcing the idea that you’re out of control, dying, and helpless, you’ll be more inclined to feel anxious and terrified. That said, if you can practice harnessing more realistic thinking, you can feel more calm and confident.

Having a positive mantra can help set the stage for a positive mindset. Some examples of helpful affirmations include:

  • I can cope with these symptoms.
  • This moment will pass. 
  • I am safe right now.
  • My body knows how to take care of me.
  • I know I can move through this experience.

Engage in Deep Breathing

Intense anxiety results in shallow, pressured breathing. However, this breathing can perpetuate panic attacks, and it can also result in body pain, muscle tension, and headaches. Deep breathing, on the other hand, fosters calmness and energy. It slows down the central nervous system. It signifies a sense of relaxation throughout the body.

Place one hand on your belly. Take a large inhale through your nose for five counts. Fill your entire belly with air and then pause for two counts. Exhale through the mouth slowly, gently pursing your lips and counting for another six to seven counts. Release all the air from your stomach. Despite how anxious or restless you may feel, aim to focus on your breath. Repeat until you feel more relaxed. 

Find Your Safe Place 

Guided imagery can help you feel more grounded and safe when a panic attack happens. Having a safe place can evoke a sense of security and comfort during an obvious time of distress.

This exercise is simple, and it can be done anywhere. Imagine a safe and peaceful place where you feel happy and calm. This place can be indoors or outdoors, real or imagined. Once you have chosen your designated place, aim to focus on the unique details.

What pleasant sights do you see around you? What enjoyable sensations can you feel? Is there music or sounds in the background? Are you with anyone who brings you joy or safety?

Stay in your safe place for as long as you need. The more you allow (and embrace) this immersion in comfort, the less intense your symptoms will feel. 

Getting The Support You Need

Are your panic attacks compromising your overall quality of life? Do you find yourself constantly worrying or anticipating the next attack? You’re not alone. Six million adults struggle with panic disorder, and sometimes, these self-help strategies just aren’t enough.

Fortunately, therapy can help you find the panic attack help you need. Together, we can explore the symptoms of your anxiety. We can find helpful and practical ways to cope with your distress. 

Ready to take the next step towards a more fulfilling life? We offer complimentary 30-minute consultations to determine if therapy is appropriate for you. Schedule an appointment with any of our providers and get started today! 

Willow Counseling, PLLC, Nashville, TN

Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.


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