Having an panic attack can be one of the scariest, most disorienting experiences in the world. Whether you can feel it coming on or it hits you out of the blue, panic attacks are particularly distressing because they tend to make you feel out of control. The following tips may seem small, but each one can help empower you in the midst of a panic attack.
1. Use Your 5 Senses
This technique is sometimes called “grounding” because it helps people feel steadier and more connected—or grounded—to the world around them. Consciously noticing what you feel, see, smell, and hear can help you stop focusing on the mental and emotional frenzy inside and focus on the concrete, tangible things around you.
2. Phone or Text a Friend
Sometimes in the moment, reaching out and dialling a number—or even forming a coherent text message—can be a daunting task. Sometimes though, the path with the most resistance (emotionally, in this case) is also the path leading to the greatest freedom. Emotions are meant to be felt and shared, and texting a trusted friend about what’s going on can not only bring incredible relief but also open the door for someone to offer encouragement and support.
3. Take Some Time to Journal
Journaling can be on paper or it can be on the computer. Whichever feels more natural for you, go for it! In the same way texting or calling a friend helps us process and express our feelings, writing out thoughts provides an outlet for emotions and thought patterns that otherwise would get stuck in a spin-cycle in our heads.
4. Turn on Some Background Noise—or if You'd Prefer, Find Some Silence
At times, having some background noise on serves as a distraction from severe anxiety and even has a calming effect. It can make a living room feel less empty, a car less stuffy, or a hospital room less sterile. If background noise has the opposite effect and causes sensory overload, of course it’s best to turn it off. However noise affects you, it’s helpful to be aware of your preferences and be mindful to turn it on or off to help you cope with an panic attack.
5. Remember That You’re Not Alone
This is perhaps the biggest lie that crashes down on people during an panic attack: that you are alone. But you are not alone, and you are not the only one who experiences panic attacks. You have an army of people supporting and rooting for you, even if it’s through the internet. You are not alone!