When you’re in the middle of a panic attack, it can feel like the end of the world. Physically and very literally it can feel like you’re going to die. Bringing yourself out of it on your own is difficult if not impossible without the right tools. Even then it is no simple task. But having the right coping skills in your arsenal can make all the difference in the world. Here, I’ve compiled a list of all the best, tried and true tactics to get you through the worst of the attacks.
1) Focused breathing
This one helps me without fail; breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. It forces you to keep your breathing steady and even while also distracting you by turning your attention to something you can control.
The length of the breaths you take also helps in the same way. Breathe in long and slow, hold it for several seconds, then let it out slowly. Rinse and repeat. Some suggest taking six seconds for each segment, others three seconds, and others still assign a different number of seconds to each (4, 7, 8). Personally, I don’t think the magic lies in the exact number – losing count will only frustrate you, or simply counting in general might serve to further stress you out. The point, rather, is to get you focused on something else while simultaneously using deep breaths to relax you. In, hold, out.
While hiding from one’s problems generally doesn’t solve them, here it is usually helpful to find a quiet corner, restroom stall, bedroom, or even a closet to give yourself a few minutes alone. It eliminates the immediate triggers and gives you time to compose yourself afterward.
The trick is ALWAYS to distract yourself from the triggers to give your mind and body the opportunity to calm down. Look around you. Find five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste.
5) Focus object
Pick one object and study it. Notice the shape, size, color, texture, and words.
Get some water or tea. It’s helpful if its either hot or cold, as an extreme temperature can help to bring the mind back to center. Take slow, mindful sips.
7) Sit or stand
Lying down can limit your ability to breathe fully. Make sure you are sitting or standing to take deep breaths.
Chewing gum gives your body something to do when you feel like you are out of control.
Click a pen, tap a pencil, rub a coin between your fingers, play with your jacket zipper, scribble mindlessly in a notebook, invest in a fidget spinner, squeeze a stress ball/silly putty/play dough.
Moving can help work out the nervous energy.
Talk to your friend, your significant other, your cat, your grandma’s urn on the mantle, or to yourself. Internalizing the panic makes it stronger. Getting it out there gives you more control.
Repeating something even under your breath can ground you as well and release some of that pent-up energy. Say the lord’s prayer, the pledge of allegiance, a wiccan chant, an affirmative self-help mantra, or the opening text to Star Wars. Or practice the alphabet backwards – calms you down and it’ll come in handy next time you get pulled over on the weekend. Score! (Just kidding, please don’t drink and drive.