Tip : Practice Deep Breathing
Breathing deeply is a very powerful tool to help to calm oneself down.
To practice good deep breathing, first look for a quiet and comfortable place. Then, make sure you breathe in and out through your nose by placing one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
Keep in mind the most effective deep breathing exercises expand the belly and not the chest.
How To Help Someone Breathe During A Panic Attack
When a person is experiencing a panic attack, it is important that they get their breathing under control. Someone trying to help should not give them a paper bag to inhale and exhale from, as this could make them pass out.
Instead, it is better not to bring attention to their breathing and to keep calm and breath normally so that they can mirror this pattern. This method should hopefully get their breathing back under control.
Helping someone who is having a panic attack can be very stressful, so it is important that a person is mindful of what actions could make a panic attack worse.
Actions that could make a panic attack worse include:
- Saying âcalm downâ: While getting a person to talk is vital, phrases such as âcalm down,â âdonât worry,â and âtry to relaxâ could make the symptoms worse.
- Becoming irritated: Remain patient to help a person deal with a panic attack and do not belittle their experience. The focus should be on them, for however long it takes the symptoms to pass.
- Making assumptions: Always ask a person what help they need, rather than assuming or guessing the correct advice.
While a panic attack can happen very suddenly, the person will often experience warning signs. These may include:
- shortness of breath
- feelings of terror or dread
- shaking and dizziness
What Are Panic Attacks And Why Do They Happen
Panic attacks are sudden episodes of intense fear that start with severe physical reactions in individuals without any apparent causes.
Studies from the US indicate that women are twice as likely to develop panic attack symptoms than men and that those afflicted with panic attacks typically develop them before the age of 24.
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Walk Or Do Some Light Exercise
Walking can remove a person from a stressful environment, and the rhythm of walking may also help them regulate their breathing.
Moving around releases hormones called endorphins that relax the body and improve mood. Taking up regular exercise can help reduce anxiety over time, which may lead to a reduction in the number or severity of panic attacks.
What Do Panic Attacks Feel Like
During a panic attack, physical symptoms can build up very quickly. These can include:
- a pounding or racing heartbeat
- feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
- feeling very hot or very cold
- sweating, trembling or shaking
- pain in your chest or abdomen
- struggling to breathe or feeling like you’re choking
- feeling like your legs are shaky or are turning to jelly
- feeling disconnected from your mind, body or surroundings, which are types of dissociation.
During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that you’re:
- losing control
- going to die.
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Shortness Of Breath Vs Hyperventilating
Shortness of breath, also referred to as dyspnea, and hyperventilation, also known as overbreathing, are intimately connected to each other. When you feel shortness of breath, you may breathe faster, which can lead to hyperventilationand, in turn, hyperventilation can trigger or worsen shortness of breath. Hyperventilation:
- Can intensify feelings of panic, stress, and anxiety
- Can decrease the carbon dioxide in your blood
- Can lead to faintness, nausea, numbness or tingling, and dry mouth
- Can lead to feeling restricted and tight in your chest
- Can lead to feeling confused and out of it
- Can disrupt your sleep
Understanding Panic Attacks Is A Great First Step
Once we understand what goes on in our body and mind during a panic attack, well learn to realize that were capable of handling them. The more you understand whats going on, the more you may be able to reduce the fear of a panic attack.
Talk to your doctor, speak with a counselor, do your own research, and use a resource like Rootd that has a full series of lessons on understanding anxiety & panic attacks.
And because there are medical conditions that mimic the symptoms of a panic attack, having a medical assessment may be beneficial before trying out the techniques mentioned above.
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What Causes Panic Attacks
For lots of people, panic attacks can appear to start for no reason or without any warning signs. This can be really difficult for people when theyre having them regularly.
The reasons youre having panic attacks arent always clear. But there are things that can make people more likely to have them:
- Difficult experiences or memories
- Some health conditions
Some people feel like they have to avoid certain places because of their panic attacks, but doing this can actually make them worse. If youre struggling to cope or you want help with your panic attacks, your doctor can help.
How To Do It
4. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is all about being aware, staying present, and accepting how you feel in the moment.
Some research suggests that mindfulness-based interventions are just as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy for treating anxiety. Of course, the benefits will depend on the person.
Mindfulness strategies include:
- breathing exercises
5. Visualize your happy place
6. Talk to someone
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Focus On Your Senses And Surroundings
When you are having a panic attack, you can feel out of touch with things around you. One way you can feel back in touch with your surroundings is by picking out five things you can see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. This is called a grounding exercise. You can pick a couple for each sense, or focus on one sense, like finding five things that you can see. This can help you feel connected with your surroundings and in control.
Controlling Your Breathing During Panic Attacks
A common symptom of a panic attack is the feeling of being short of breath, so these individuals tend to breathe quickly during an episode. Taking control of your breathing is essential as it greatly helps in easing other symptoms of a panic attack as well. When you feel an attack coming on, you may start by trying to breathe in as slowly and as deeply as you can through your nose and to breathe out in the same manner through your mouth.
If you are finding it difficult to do so, another technique would be to count to five on each gentle inhalation and each exhalation. You can keep your focus by closing your eyes and just concentrating on your breathing. Once youve done this simple breathing exercise, you should start feeling a whole lot better after a few minutes.
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Can Anxiety Cause Shortness Of Breath
Anxiety can both cause and exacerbate shortness of breath. Symptoms of anxiety can include feeling short of breath, air hungry, and a smothering feeling. In turn, feeling short of breath can also increase your anxiety. In terms of panic attacks, shortness of breath may take place prior to the onset of a panic attack, or increase during one.
Anxiety Vs Panic Attacks
Anxiety and panic attacks are both very common. They are both often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed as medical conditions.
Anxiety is characterized by ongoing worry or fear about the future. With generalized anxiety disorder , for example, anxiety symptoms are present for normal everyday experiences and can create mild-to-severe interruptions in a person’s life. With anxiety, symptoms may be present on some level all the time or during specific periods of known stressors, such as during a public presentation.
Panic attacks tend to come on suddenly and can happen from either a calm state or a state of feeling anxious. They often occur without warning or a known trigger and bring a sense of doom, intense fear, and a feeling of dying.
Similarly, both anxiety and panic attacks have physical and psychological symptoms. With panic attacks, however, the symptoms tend to come on quickly and are often only present for up to 10 minutes. With anxiety, symptoms can be present for a much longer period of time.
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Tip : Think Of A Happy Time
Fond memories can play an important role in helping us feel better. Placing photographs and positive mementoes around your desk can help induce positive emotions that help prevent a panic attack. Try shifting your memory back to a happier time or recalling something positive someone said about you. This helps you regain a sense of positive wellbeing.
How Breathwork Can Help
What this means is that ‘breathwork’ – controlling your breathing – can be a surprisingly effective tool. Since the mental and physical aspects of the equation are so entangled, turning your attention to what’s going on in the body can directly benefit the mind.
“Breath is key to dealing with anxiety, both as a first-aid measure and as a daily practice to work towards reduction of the anxiety itself,” say Michelle Deane and Jo Gee, a holistic therapist and a CBT therapist respectively at the Luna Hive. “It sounds contrary to consider working with breathwork techniques when we are struggling to breathe properly. But focusing on our breath is an extremely powerful tool to calm things down quickly.”
Richie Bostock, otherwise known as , is a breathwork teacher who teaches classes via the Fiit app. He maintains that working with your breath can help control your mental, physical and emotional state, and points out that using your breath with purpose is the easiest way to affect the parasympathetic nervous system.
“Because breathwork bridges the gap between physical activity and things like meditation and mindfulness, it is very appealing for people who are interested in moving into the meditation space, but find that a little intimidating or challenging,” he says. “Breathwork uses breathing patterns, like connecting the inhale to the exhale without pausing between the two. This restores balance to the stress response systems, instantly relieving feelings of anxiety or stress.”
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Why Panic Attacks Cause Shortness Of Breath
Armeen Poor, MD, is a board-certified pulmonologist and intensivist. He specializes in pulmonary health, critical care, and sleep medicine.
During a panic attack, the fight-or-flight response is activated, which can lead to an intense cascade of uncomfortable symptoms, including shortness of breath and hyperventilating. Whether you have had a single panic attack or have been diagnosed with panic disorder, experiencing shortness of breath can feel incredibly unsettling and frightening. Better understanding shortness of breath and its link to panic attacks may help you or a loved one find appropriate resources, support, and strategies that aim to reduce and/or eliminate symptoms.
When To See A Healthcare Provider
Keep in mind that some stress is normal when you’re experiencing a major life change. But you may want to see a health professional for your anxiety symptoms or if you’re having frequent panic attacks.
This is especially true if your anxiety interferes with daily life. It’s also the case if your stress and anxiety are related to existing health issues or if you feel that they may be the cause of new ones.
Psychotherapy may help you better understand the cause of your stress and alleviate its symptoms. Depending on the cause of your anxiety, a healthcare provider may prescribe medication that can help, too.
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Calming Step : Have A Script Ready
A panic attack can fill your head with racing, negative thoughts, which can keep the panic going and make you feel worse. But you can wield a powerful weapon against them: A script of positive thoughts.
Write down encouraging words you can read to yourself during a panic attack, Dr. Josell says. Your script should answer the negative thoughts. So if you feel like youre going to pass out, tell yourself you wont. If you feel like youre dying, tell yourself you wont die from a panic attack. The words you hear are powerful, and over time, they become your truth.
Ideally, write your script when youre feeling calm. Tuck it in your pocket or purse or type it into your smartphone notes so its easy to access.
If youre in the middle of a panic attack and dont have your script, you can fight negative thoughts on the fly. Try repeating in your mind or out loud phrases like, Im strong, and I can handle this, or This is only temporary, and it will pass.
Your script helps you deal with an attack that arises, but its a preventive measure, too. It can calm your fear of having another panic attack because you know youre in control. The more confident you are that you can manage a panic attack, the less likely you are to have future attacks.
Tip 1: Talk To Your Doctor About Anti
When all else fails, it is probably time for you to seek professional help from a doctor.
Consider providing the doctor with a detailed account of your medical history and how your panic attack symptoms have developed over time. It is also important for you to inform the doctor of any potential medical allergies to any medication you might have.
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Panic Attack Breathing Training
Once hyperventilation occurs, it is very difficult to stop entirely. You cannot simply hold your breath and have all the symptoms go away, nor can you stop a panic attack by breathing alone. But the right breathing can decrease the severity of the symptoms, and when your symptoms are less severe you start fearing them less, thus decreasing your risk of panic attacks in the future.
It’s best to start this as soon as you even think you might be hyperventilating, and especially if you start to feel panic attacks coming on:
- Breathe in through your nose for at least 5 seconds. Try to breathe in through your stomach if possible first, and fill up your chest second. Don’t try too hard to expand your chest hyperventilation makes it very hard to get a full breath, because your body doesn’t want a full breath.
- Hold for 2 or 3 seconds. Not too much longer. Most doctors advise against holding your breath very long, possibly because if your body regains the Co2 balance too quickly you may experience a change in your blood saturation that could cause other upsetting symptoms.
- Breathe out for 7 seconds by creating a small hole in your lips, almost like you’re about to whistle. Repeat as needed
Why Anxiety Changes The Way You Breathe
Your brain and body are hardwired for instantaneous response to stress, regulated by the sympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system. When you feel scared or anxious, a rapid-fire sequence of hormonal changes and physical responses prepares you to flee or fight. Our ancestors needed this response for survival. Anytime you feel stressed or anxious, your body responds with the same chemical and physical reactions. Its a natural process meant to protect you from danger.
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Making Conversation And Positive Affirmations
What a person says in response to someone having a panic attack is just as important as what they do. Engaging in conversation can distract from the extreme symptoms and help the person regulate their breathing. It is important to ask whether a person requires help rather than just assuming that they do. Here are some guidelines on what to say and do:
- Ask questions: Introduce yourself and ask if the person needs help. If so, ask them if they think that they are having a panic attack and whether they have had one before. This prompt may remind them about previous attacks and how they recovered.
- Stay or go: Let the person know that they do not have to stay where they are. Leaving a certain situation can take the pressure off someone having a panic attack. Find out what makes them feel most comfortable.
- Kind words: Staying positive and nonjudgmental is important. Help the person understand that you are there to assist them, they are safe, and they are going to get through this. Remind them that the panic attack is only temporary.
- Have a friendly conversation: An engaging chat can help distract a person from their symptoms. If you are a friend, gently bring up a topic that they are interested in to help them think of something else.