What to do during a panic attack

Panic attacks are sudden and intense onsets of fear that makes one feel as if they are dying, going crazy, or otherwise in some sort of danger. The panic attack presents itself with psychological and physical symptoms and can be so frightening that many sufferers go to hospital – despite there being nothing wrong. If you or somebody you know has panic attacks, take a look at this brief guide on what to do during a panic attack so that you may be more equipped in the future.

1. Take control of your thoughts and speak positive affirmations
One of the most immediate things you can do when you are experiencing a panic attack is to take control of your thoughts. It sounds simple – and the more we do this in our everyday lives, the easier it becomes – but it is really quite effective. For example, if you keep repeating that you are losing your mind, stop doing that! You’ll have to take a step back to take note of what negative thought keeps running through your mind, but once you have, it can be under your control.

Don’t be afraid to shout “no!” or “stop!” out loud. The point is that you need to command that thought pattern to stop before you can alter it. Once you’ve done this, you can replace it with a healthier thought. Say out loud “I take control of my thoughts. It’s only a panic attack. My mind is healthy. This will past soon. I can overcome this.”

2. Relax your body
Once you’ve taken control of your thoughts, you should already start to feel slightly better. The next step for what to do during a panic attack is to relax your body; as you are without a doubt experiencing the physical symptoms of anxiety. While anxiety or fear can’t directly harm you physically during the panic attack, it can make you feel as if you are having a heart attack, dying, or unable to breathe.

Breathing techniques can calm the body (and mind) in just a few minutes. Have a seat or lie down and take a minute or two to slow your breaths and feel the tension melt away with each exhale. Visualization is a powerful tool you can add to this, where each inhale invites calm and relaxation, and each exhale expels negativity, tension, and fear.

3. Accept your feelings and let it pass
Don’t underestimate the power of acceptance. Accepting that you are having a panic attack makes it that much easier to deal with it. It brings you “back to reality”; and reminds you that you are not dying or sick, or losing your mind. This is much easier if you have had a panic attack before, and in this case you are also able to remind yourself that you have been through this before and that it will pass.

4. Find help/ support
If you still feel unwell, it’s absolutely fine to call for help. Don’t be ashamed if you need to reach out to a colleague or neighbor, or even a friendly stranger. Tell them what you are experiencing and allow yourself to be supported and comforted. Sometimes, what we need to do the most during a panic attack is to just receive help. And that’s absolutely fine.

Finally, once the panic attack has passed, you’ll want to identify what triggered it and deal with this effectively. If you were worried about having a heart attack, then you should get regular check-ups, exercise, and eat properly. You may also want to look into methods of coping with anxiety and stress in day-to-day life, so that you reduce the chances of having a panic attack again.