The Symptoms Of A Panic Attack
When you experience a panic attack, you will often show the following symptoms:
- You may feel nauseous, numb or lightheaded.
- You might experience strong chills throughout your body.
- Your heart will often begin pounding with force or you will feel discomfort in your chest.
- Your body and hands may tremble uncontrollably.
- You may experience hot flushes.
- You might begin sweating profusely.
- You may find that you have difficulty breathing. This normally manifests in a shortness of breath.
- You will often be riddled with thoughts of losing control of the situation.
- And finally, you may have a strong desire to escape the situation .
These are typical symptoms of a panic attack. However, your symptoms may vary and could be different depending on the situation you are experiencing.
Continue To Provide Support
Friends offer emotional support when you need it. It is why theyre an essential part of life. Its imperative to continue to support your friend as they learn to manage their panic disorder.
They might feel embarrassed about you having witnessed their panic attacks, but you should let them know that youre there to support them fully. Check-in from time to time and learn the best ways to help them.
When your friend doesnt have to worry about feeling embarrassed, theres one less thing they have to feel stressed about. It can help them work through their panic disorder too.
Here Are 2 Simple Techniques You Can Use To Overcome Panic Attacks
1. Use a physical grounding technique.
You might think of a grounding technique like your “yogic mountain.”
You stand straight with your bare feet rooted on the mat, pull your arms to your sides, facing hands forward with fingers stretched open, suck your belly in, and draw your tailbone down, drop your shoulders, and square your hips.
Then stare straight ahead, staunch in your mountain.
Yes, having your feet literally grounded and your body confidently posed does help, and you can try that if you need physical grounding during a panic attack.
2. Use an emotional grounding technique.
You can also ground yourself emotionally rather than physically. This helps you focus on the moment and draws your attention inward, instead of stressing about something outside of yourself.
This technique creates your own personal safe space, right here, right now.
My go-to grounding technique for panic attacks is the “5-4-3-2-1 Method.”
Its structured and easier than managing your breath, which you might struggle with when you’re in the middle of a panic attack or when your breathing feels like its taken on its own fast-paced life, dragging you away with it.
The 5-4-3-2-1 Method goes like this:
5: Name five objects or sights you see around you.
4: Name four tangible things you feel .
3: Name three sounds you hear.
2: Name two scents you smell.
1: Name one thing you taste.
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Remove Yourself From The Situation
Circumstances bring on many panic attacks. For instance, if you and your spouse are arguing, it can send your anxiety soaring. One of the simplest things you can do during a panic attack is simply removing yourself from the situation.
You can calm yourself quite quickly when the stimuli are removed. However, it still might take a few minutes for you to regain total control of yourself again.
Quick Ways To Ground Yourself When Anxiety Hits
We all know how terrible anxiety can feel. From the nauseous feeling before you give a presentation, to the panicky sensation when you have to try something new, to the overwhelming anxiety that incapacitates you.
Grounding is a simple but effective therapeutic technique that can help you when strong anxiety hits. You can use grounding when you feel like the anxiety is taking over, when you feel numb, like you are in a dream, lost in past events, or having an out-of-body or out-of-reality experience.
Grounding helps to bring a person back to the here and now, to realise that they are safe and in control of their reality and emotions. It helps a person to refocus and find calmness and strength in the present moment when they are highly anxious and emotional.
There are many different grounding techniques for anxiety and the following 5 ways are some of my favourites:
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Best Grounding Techniques For Anxiety
Medically Reviewed By: Rashonda Douthit , LCSW
If you’re struggling with anxiety, you’re not alone it’s one of the most common mental health conditions. It’s also highly treatable. With some self-care and know-how, you can do much to help your situation. Though anxiety may at times seem overwhelming, this condition doesn’t have to drag you down or get in the way of doing the things that you enjoy. You deserve inner peace and a sound mind free of distractions.
Grounding Techniques For Anxiety
You might feel as though you’ve tried everything to rid yourself of anxiety, but to no avail. Good news grounding techniques are here to help! If you familiarize yourself with these methods and they help you, you can have them in your arsenal anytime anxiety creeps up. This way, you can help yourself become a more relaxed, happier person, better equipped to deal with whatever life and anxiety might throw your way.
A few grounding techniques include deep breathing, meditation, and journaling. These are easy practices that you can incorporate into your life with minimal effort. And you will likely notice some benefit from them almost immediately. We’ll talk more about these strategies, and many others, later in the article.
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Call a friend and have a chat. The chat can be about anything at all, but focus your attention on the conversation.
Expose Yourself To Uncomfortable Situations
You feel panic because you are potentially being thrown into an uncomfortable and unexpected situation that causes you to freak-out a little. This is understandable. Anything thats new, unfamiliar or anything that you tend to fear and feel somewhat reluctant about can certainly get the adrenaline glands going and as a result, you may very well experience a panic attack.
If new things can do this to us, then how about things that weve done numerous times before. These things are not new or unexpected. They are now familiar and we become comfortable with the things we have done time and again over an extended period of time. And within this lies the key to desensitizing yourself emotionally from uncomfortable situations.
To desensitize yourself, you must expose yourself to uncomfortable circumstances that you might fear or feel uncertain about in small doses over an extended period of time. This essentially means taking chances and risks to stretch your comfort zone using small daily steps. Yes, initially you might feel somewhat uneasy and may begin to feel that adrenaline building up inside your body. However, with continuous exposure over time, this feeling will subside and will instead be replaced with the knowledge and certainty that you can actually get through this situation successfully without losing control of your emotions.
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Carry Essential Oils A Plush Fabric And Other Multisensorial Objects
One of the worst symptoms of panic attacks in my experience is that sense of unreality like Im somehow outside my body. Dr. Rodriguez recommends carrying items with you that can help engage your senses to help ground you.
Things like essential oils can help bring you back into your body, she says, adding to carry a soft, fuzzy piece of fabric or even feel your own shirt. Feel it, think about it, listen to it.
Other ways of anchoring yourself during an attack include rubbing your hands or bare feet on a surface such as a chair, couch or rug, says Dr. Schaeffer. Put an ice cube in a paper towel and squeeze it as hard as you can in one hand for a minute until you can feel the coldness and discomfort. Switch hands and repeat until you have the same sensations in your other hand.
When we avoid panic or treat it like an enemy, we make it stronger.
Relax Your Breathing And Muscles
If you feel an attack coming on, simple breathing and relaxation techniques can help you feel more in control. But dont wait until youre having a panic attack to perfect the techniques. Practicing them twice a day for just 10 minutes at a time may make your panic attacks less frequent and easier to conquer.
Relax your breathing. Put one hand on your upper-chest, and the other over your diaphragm .
- Take in a slow, deep breath through your nose while counting to five. The hand on the chest should stay still, while the one over your diaphragm should raise with your breath. This is how you know the breath is deep enough.
- When you reach the count of five, let the breath out slowly at the same rate. Concentrating on your hands and the counting will help focus you and calm you down. Continue these breaths until you feel relaxed.
- Relax your muscles. Find a comfortable position to sit in .
- Close your eyes and begin to focus solely on your toes. Curl them under tightly for a count of five, squeezing the muscles together as hard as you can, then relax.
- Next, concentrate on your feet. Contract all of their muscles tightly for a count of five, then relax.
- Continue up your body, isolating each muscle group all the way up to your face.
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What Are Grounding Techniques
Grounding techniques are coping strategies to help reconnect you with the present and bring you out of a panic attack, PTSD flashback, unwanted memory, distressing emotion, or dissociation. They help separate you from the distress of your emotional state or situation.
Talkspace therapist Joanna Filidor, LMFT says, Grounding techniques are tools used to self-regulate in moments of stress and anxiety. They serve as gentle reminders to stay focused and anchored in the present moment, which is what helps reduce the feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. Further, she states that Grounding techniques can be anything that brings your attention to the present. When the brain is experiencing a threat , it affects the nervous system similarly as it activates our threat response. Grounding techniques allow for the body to calm itself so that it sends the signal that there isnt an actual threat present.
In other words, grounding techniques can help switch off that fight, flight, or freeze portion of the brain. These natural instincts often kick in when it comes to anxiety, panic disorders, and PTSD. But feeling disconnected can apply to other disorders, too, such as depression, which can make one feel fuzzy and cut off from reality. Filidor adds that these methods can really help anyone, saying, Grounding techniques can be used for day-to-day stressors. Anyone can benefit from these.
Prayer As A Grounding Technique
Prayer is an amazing tool to combat anxiety. Prayer can be similar to meditation. To meditate, you get in a quiet place, find a place of stillness, and focus on one word or one thought, allowing the rest of your thoughts to fade away. Its taking the focus off everything else, so you can quiet your mind and body. Its the same when you pray. You are getting in a quiet place, finding stillness, focusing on God and what you are praying to Him about. You are shifting your awareness from your anxiety to God, which calms your nerves and reduces stress. When you pray, you are taking your focus away from your problems and putting your focus on the problem solver.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. I believe God told us that in the Bible because He knows we are going to worry, but yet he tells us to bring it all to him. The Bible also says, You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you. What a promise! By focusing our thoughts on God, which we do through prayer, we will have the peace of God.
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Time To Assimilate These Concepts
Did you gain value from this article? Is it important that you know and understand this topic? Would you like to optimize how you think about this topic? Would you like a method for applying these ideas to your life?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then Im confident you will gain tremendous value from using the accompanying IQ Matrix for coaching or self-coaching purposes. This mind map provides you with a quick visual overview of the article you just read. The branches, interlinking ideas, and images model how the brain thinks and processes information. Its kind of like implanting a thought into your brain an upgrade of sorts that optimizes how you think about these concepts and ideas.
How To Practice Panic Attack Skills
It can be hard to remember these tools in the middle of a panic attack, so I recommend writing them down somewhere easily accessible, like your phone, a post-it note, or a planner. If you start to feel an attack coming on, look at your notes to remind you what to do.
Again, since our brains go offline during an attack, we cant solely rely on ourselves to remember everything. Practicing every day helps and if nothing else, just make sure to take deep belly breaths whenever you can.
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Why Grounding Works To Calm You Down
Before I start describing some grounding techniques lets talk about why grounding works and the science behind it. When we start to think about something stressful, our amygdala, a section of the brain located in the temporal lobe, goes into action. The amygdala, simply put, is the part of our brain that is responsible for our emotional responses, especially fear. It is great for preparing for emergency events but sometimes it kicks in to action and detects a threat where there really isnt any.
Here is a typical process we have a negative thought about a situation , our amygdala says emergency! emergency! and initiates changes in our body such as increased muscle tension, rapid heartbeat and faster breathing. The amygdala then interprets these body changes as further evidence that something is actually wrong which of course further activates it and creates a vicious cycle where you become more and more anxious and physically and emotionally overwhelmed.
Thankfully, we can use grounding techniques to break out of this vicious cycle. By re-focusing on your body and what youre physically feeling, you get out of your head and divert your mind away from anxious or stressful thoughts and into the moment.
Describe Whats Around You
Spend a few minutes taking in your surroundings and noting what you see. Use all five senses to provide as much detail as possible. This bench is red, but the bench over there is green. Its warm under my jeans since Im sitting in the sun. It feels rough, but there arent any splinters. The grass is yellow and dry. The air smells like smoke. I hear kids having fun and two dogs barking.
You can use these techniques to comfort yourself in times of emotional distress. These exercises can help promote good feelings that may help the negative feelings fade or seem less overwhelming.
Most People Make These 3 Mistakes During A Panic Attack
Your heart is racing, youre sweating, and you feel as if you have a heart attack. Youre sure that this is the end, as the feeling of impending doom is making you dizzy. You struggle to catch your breath, and you feel as if something is sitting on your chest. Are you having a heart attack or panic?
Its really challenging to know whether your body is responding to extreme anxiety or if its going into cardiac arrest. According to the University of Michigan medical newsletter, Heart Health, a heart attack has pain that radiates from the chest to other areas. In contrast, panic produces stabbing pains in one location. Additionally, the pain with panic only lasts for a few seconds, whereas cardiac arrest brings unrelenting discomfort.
Still, if this is your first anxiety attack, its hard to distinguish between the two. Thankfully, emergency rooms can quickly tell the difference by doing some blood work and an EKG. What you do during a panic attack can mean everything. You can make things much worse or learn to control the symptoms and de-escalate the situation quickly.
According to medical expert Micah Abraham of The Calm Clinic, it takes about thirty minutes for a person to recover from a panic attack fully. However, the actual attack may last only a few minutes. It takes time for the body to return to normal, mainly involving rebalancing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
Recognize The Panic For What It Is
Panic attacks often get triggered by something called catastrophic misinterpretation of bodily symptoms. Typically the process begins when you notice an uncomfortable or unexpected physical feeling in the body, such as a heart flutter, muscle tension, or mild dizziness. If you are prone to panic attacks, you might interpret these innocent bodily sensations as dangerous and react with fear to them.
This, of course, triggers the fight-or-flight response which includes increased heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension, etc. and only intensifies the sensations. You might then react with even more fear to these more intense sensations , intensifying them even further, and leading to a panic cycle that ends up in a full blown panic attack.
One of the best ways to prevent this panic cycle is to recognize those early sensations for what they are namely, innocent bodily sensations that may be uncomfortable but are not harmful. Often just the recognition of this can stop panic in its tracks, since its not being fueled by the catastrophic misinterpretation of those sensations. Rather than respond mentally to those sensations with an oh no attitude, you start viewing them with an oh well attitude, which does not trigger fight-or-flight activity like the oh no stance. In other words, gasoline is removed from the fire and it eventually burns out the panic cycle gets interrupted and a panic attack gets pre-empted.
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