Although it may feel like you’re going to die, panic attacks aren’t fatal and the uncomfortable physical effects will pass. If your body has begun its “fight or flight” response, you cannot stop or control it, but there are several ways to help symptoms subside more quickly.
• Focus – Rub your fingers over the edges of a key, snap a rubber band on your wrist or concentrate on tightening and relaxing each muscle group as your body returns to balance. Once adrenaline enters your bloodstream, it takes time for the effects to wear off. Watch the clock for 10 minutes while practicing deep, regular breathing.
• Assess – Rate the severity of your panic on a scale of one to 10.
Notice your surroundings and level of safety.
• Accept – Is your level of panic higher than the situation calls for? If so, note that you’re experiencing sensations caused by a biological malfunction. Notice your thoughts about the experience. Think realistically about the situation or better yet, take notes. Keeping a thought journal during panic attacks may reveal patterns and offer deeper insight into your individual physiology.
• Get Comfortable – Sit or lie down if you can. Take a few moments away from the situation without escaping.
• Let Go – Don’t waste energy trying to control something you can’t control. A panic attack is not a symptom of insanity. You’re not going crazy, and panic attacks do not cause psychosis. Avoid adding scary thoughts to your symptoms, and the fear will eventually fade by itself.
• Move On – Once symptoms have cleared, don’t be ashamed or embarrassed about the experience. It’s natural to be fatigued afterward, but try to continue with your day as normally as possible.
Most people will experience a panic attack or two at some point in their lives. However, if frequent panic attacks, the fear of recurring panic or continuing anxiety discomfort severely affects your quality of life, see your doctor to refer you to a specialist trained to diagnose and treat anxiety disorders.