Now when you read the title of this post you might have thought “cope with a panic attack? Is that even possible?” It is kinda hard to understand how one could cope or negotiate with such a stressful and seemingly out of control event but it can be done.
Let’s start by looking at the word cope. To cope means to manage a taxing circumstance. The operative term being manage, not defeat, conquer, vanquish, etc. We have to start out with the understanding that we cope with anxiety and panic we don’t and cannot will it away or destroy it.
However although we can’t blink our eyes and have it disappear we can master the skill of anxiety management. With respect to panic attacks this is a skill that is crucial to helping us live with our daily angst.
There are a few things you can do to help calm yourself when panic does overwhelm you.
1. Recognize and pay attention to your thoughts.
Sometimes panic attacks can come out of the blue and have no trigger. You might even be in bed when one strikes. However much of the time it could be a certain type of situation or event that gets you anxious. When our anxiety levels go past a certain threshold, which varies for all of us, we go into panic mode.
In other words, your thoughts can lead to a panic attack after you allow them to go there. And when our thoughts are allowed to slip away into anxiety, panic can follow swiftly. You have to recognize the nervous thought when it comes, but you have to take it a step further and not just recognize it but negotiate this occurrence carefully.
When the thought arises and the nervous feelings follow – you have to intervene on your own behalf. You have to literally do something to calm yourself and not allow the nervous thought to pass your threshold. If your at home this can be done by lying down and resting.
If in public the calming response can vary but can include sitting, breathing slowly, playing with a napkin, excusing yourself to the rest room for some quiet time, be creative but suppress the desire to overreact.
A panic attack will peak in about 10 minutes and will gradually deescalate after this time frame. You need to tell yourself that although you feel bad it won’t last forever – you are o.k.
2. Knowing the facts about panic attacks and accepting it.
When panic overtakes us we get all goofy and scared and lose control of our normal rationale selves. But believe me when I tell you that even in the midst of a panic attack you can do a lot to slow it’s escalation.
When a panic attack occurs you will have strong physical symptoms. Sweaty hands, pounding/racing heart (palpitations), racing thoughts, trouble breathing, and so on. You feel like your going to drop dead at any moment. O.k. clearly panic attacks feel bad on a lot of levels but they don’t kill.
Knowing this before a panic attack is a definite perk since it can be used as a self talk mantra. Your heart will not stop, your lungs will continue to function, and you will not lose your mind.
Although it’s difficult to think of anything but panic when you are in fact panicking you have to take positive action. During a panic attack you can’t run out of a meeting because you have bad nerves so you’ll have to find creative and subtle ways to occupy your mind.
You have to do the opposite of what your mind is telling you to do and engage the activity that is going on in front of you or engage in some creative napkin origami while the panic dies down.
Counter intuitive I know but a must if you want to regain control. Although a panic attack can peak in ten minutes it can also last only 3 minutes or 7 minutes. You have to actively manage this fear event and use the above information in tandem – all together as it were to make good on calming your nerves.
Having anxiety is like living at the top of a slippery slope because you never know when you’ll lose your footing and slide down the anxiety superhighway. Mind tingling fear notwithstanding you can cope with panic attacks when they happen.
Panic has a way of making you feel and act vulnerable, but that’s because when you’re in a state of panic you are. You are afraid and suggestible because you’ll do anything to be free from those feelings. So don’t feel bad about feeling this way. And above all understand that you can learn to cope if you practice anxiety management. Panic is sweeping mental and physical feeling but it’s not the end of you – it will not harm you.
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