Managing Panic Attacks

Panic Attacks

Effective Coping Strategies for Managing Panic Attacks

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “about 1 in 25 adults has a panic attack in a given year.” A panic attack is a sudden, intense feeling of fear or terror that reaches its peak within minutes. It usually comes with physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations, and dizziness. 

Panic attacks can come on without warning, and make it difficult to think or function physically and mentally. But with the right coping strategies, you can manage your panic attacks and increase healthy ways of coping with stress.  Here are some effective ways for managing panic attacks.


  1. Understand what triggers your panic attacks.

It’s important to understand what triggers your panic attacks so that you can take steps to avoid them. Common triggers include:

– Stressing about things you can’t control

– Feeling overwhelmed or overloaded

– Feeling trapped or in a difficult situation

– Having a lack of control over your environment

– Experiencing intense physical sensations such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness


  1. Use Relaxation Techniques to Calm Yourself Down 

Relaxation is an effective way to manage panic attacks. It may be difficult to relax when you are feeling anxious, but you can learn different relaxation techniques and strategies to help you relax. You should also try to keep your mind focused on your breathing or a pleasant thought, and avoid focusing on your worries.  When you feel afraid or have a panic attack, your body may release adrenaline, a hormone that can raise your heart rate and make you feel shaky or dizzy. If this happens, try to sit down and take slow, deep breaths.


  1. Distract Yourself from Your Thoughts 

Distraction is an effective way to manage your panic attacks. Instead of focusing on your thoughts, you can focus on something else, such as a piece of music or song, the colors in a painting or image you have in your present space, a hobby, such as cooking, drawing or gardening, or a particular pleasant memory (make sure to focus on the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures of this memory).  It is important with distraction that you intentionally try to refocus your attention and thoughts away from your sense of panic and onto the distraction as best as possible.


  1. Challenge Negative Thoughts 

The way you think about a situation can influence how you cope with and manage panic attacks. If you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts about your experience, you can challenge those thoughts and replace them with more neutral and positive thoughts.  For example, you may think: ‘I’m not going to be able to handle this panic attack.’ Instead, you could think: ‘This is a difficult situation, and I’m going to be able to cope with it.’ 

You also might say to yourself, “I have just had a panic attack, but I will not let it control my life. I will not let it win.”  Staying positive about the situation and refraining from ruminating about it can help you cope with your panic attacks.  


  1. Accept That Panic Attacks Can’t be Controlled 

Remind yourself that panic attacks are not life threatening despite how it may feel and the discomfort that you may experience during a panic attack.  Allow yourself to ‘ride the wave’ of the panic attack and remind yourself that the episode will end once it has run its course.  


  1. Create a Safe Space

Panic attacks are often triggered by stressful or anxiety-provoking situations. If you feel that a panic attack is about to occur, it can be helpful to have a safe place prepared. This could be a special spot in your home, or a comforting object.

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