panic attacks

Panic Attacks: 4 Quick Tips to Help Cope

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article is Catherine Barstow, LGSW, Outpatient Therapist  If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know that they are an extremely difficult experience. Panic attacks are characterized by intense anxiety and can happen anywhere, at any time. The onset comes without warning and an intense wave of fear sinks in. Your breath becomes short and you might start feeling dizzy or start to sweat. However, there are things you can do to cope with panic attacks.   Catherine Barstow, Outpatient Therapist at Nystrom & Associates, delves into some of the ways symptoms from panic attacks can be managed: 
Panic attacks can be overwhelming due to the sudden increase of anxiety or feelings of intense fear. While these feelings can be frightening, there are effective intervention methods available! Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), mindfulness skills, and relaxation techniques are just a few options out there to help decrease panic symptoms. 
In addition to therapy, there are other tips you can implement to help cope with panic attacks in the moment.   Related: 5 Effective Stress Management Tips

1. Stay in Place 

When you’re feeling a panic attack coming on, it’s important to stay in place if possible. Panic attacks typically last 5-30 minutes, and in rarer cases, up to an hour. Try not to move around and sit down if you are able to. Pause and know that your symptoms will pass – your body’s alarm system just needs some time to settle down.  

2. Try to Relax Your Muscles  

During a panic attack, it’s likely that your muscles will contract and tighten up. While you're in place, unclench your jaw and relax your shoulders. Intentionally move through your body starting with your face and relax each muscle group until you get to your feet.   Related: How Therapy Helps With Depression

3. Control Your Breathing 

Shortness of breath is a common symptom of a panic attack. Hyperventilation occurs and can make your feelings of anxiety worse. Bring awareness to your breath. Focus on taking slow, intentional breaths by placing your hand on your stomach or chest. Feeling your lungs rise and fall can ease the symptoms of panic.  

4. Challenge Unhelpful Thoughts 

While you’re working on your breath, observe your thoughts. If they are spiraling about all of the things that could go wrong, swap it with a positive coping statement. For example, “My anxiety and panic will pass,” or “Panic is simply high levels of anxiety.” You can also shift your focus and distract your mind by observing the details of a nearby tree, flower, or object.  

A Word From Nystrom & Associates 

Left untreated, panic attacks can be disabling. However, you’re not alone. In a given year, one in ten Americans experiences a panic attack. Our best tip is to follow a treatment plan with a qualified professional. Contact our coordinators today to get connected with a therapist who specializes in panic disorders.   For more information on panic attacks, click here. Related: 3 Ways Meditation Helps Your Mental Health 

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