6 mins read
September 24, 2021

How To Help Yourself During A Panic Attack

Panic attacks make any situation worse. This blog uncovers the symptoms of an anxiety attack. It also shares grounding techniques, mantras, and positive affirmations that help to get rid of it.
Courtney Hyzy
Courtney Hyzy
"I had a panic attack while in line to grab a bagel. It was terrifying, and I haven't returned to the restaurant since because I'm scared I'll have another while I'm there. It's been nearly two years, but I just can't make myself go back."

According to the Cleveland Clinic, 11% of Americans experience panic attacks yearly, and approximately 2-3% will develop panic disorder.

If you've ever experienced unexpected panic attacks, you know how frightening and all-consuming it can be. At the drop of a hat, it feels like your world has turned upside down - your thoughts spiral, your body feels strange, and you want the feeling to stop, but you fear it will never end.

  • Frequent panic attacks build anxiety disorder gradually.
  • Anxiety attacks cause restlessness and emotional distress
  • It can last for an extended period, causing apprehension and worry.

This blog uncovers the symptoms of panic disorders. It also shares panic attack treatment options, grounding techniques, mantras, and positive affirmations that help with severe anxiety and associated issues, like heart palpitations, rapid breathing, chest pain, and intense fear.

Let's get started reading!

Panic Attacks: Major Life Change

There is no time or place for panic attacks, as they can worsen any situation. Sometimes, the comfort of our homes can help us feel safer versus a public environment, but neither is ideal and knowing how to ground yourself from panic can help reduce the length and severity of an attack.

Unexpected panic attacks are the main feature of panic disorder. But they can happen alongside other conditions, such as:

  • Phobias
  • Substance use
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Trauma- and stressors
  • Certain medical conditions

Panic Attacks and Mental Health Conditions

Many mental health conditions can cause panic attacks. It can be sudden, intense fear caused by apparent reason. Some people who experience cognitive behavioural therapy develop a strong sympathetic nervous system. Treat your mental health condition before it worsens and becomes compulsory to have medical care.

Panic Attack Symptoms

Before discussing the solution for panic disorder, it is necessary to know "What are the panic symptoms of a panic attack"?

Panic attack symptoms tend to be intense and exhausting. It’s not uncommon for people to fear having a heart attack or stroke. Understanding the critical warning signs of anxiety disorder is essential for you and your loved ones.

Common Panic Attack Symptoms

It might come on suddenly with little to no warning. A panic attack usually lasts around 30 minutes, with a peak in less than 10 minutes. Common panic attack symptoms include:

  • ‍Heart attack
  • Rapid breathing
  • Short breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating or chills
  • Overwhelming fear
  • Intense fear
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Anxious thoughts
  • Chest pain
  • Stressful situation
  • Tingling sensations
  • Dry mouth

Panic attack symptoms sound reminiscent of anxiety because anxiety and panic attacks overlap emotional and physical symptoms. If not grounded, anxiety attacks can sometimes turn into panic attacks.

What Causes Panic Attacks?

Researchers don't know what causes panic attacks, but certain risk factors can prime the body to activate the fight or flight response wrongly. People with anxiety disorders may be more susceptible to experiencing panic attacks. A major life change can increase your likelihood of experiencing a panic attack.

Common Reasons Behind Panic Attack

  • Intensive physical exercise
  • Excessive caffeine intake
  • Acute and chronic stress,
  • Certain medications
  • A sudden change in the environment
  • Being in a crowded place
  • Changing temperatures drastically

Panic Attack Treatment

Your healthcare provider can help you identify triggers that bring anxiety or panic attacks. During exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, you learn techniques to address any triggering event and prevent any stressful situation, like compulsive disorder, real danger, abdominal distress, etc. You can follow a mental health professional to lower your risk of having panic attacks caused by certain situations.

Avoiding Recurrent Panic Attacks

Even though you can't stop recurrent panic attacks as soon as medical conditions start, there are panic attack treatment options you can take to deal with these recurrent panic attacks.

➤ Practice breathing exercise

Panic attack causes rapid breathing, making you feel more scared. During a panic attack, breathing exercises can help ease the signs of fear. Take deep, slow breaths through your nose and slow, deep breaths through your mouth. Shut your eyes and pay attention to how you're breathing.

➤ Realizing you are having a panic attack

Knowing that you're having a panic attack or simple social anxiety disorder can help you deal with your overwhelming fear. Remember that the anxious thoughts of panic disorders are short-term and will end soon.

➤ Relaxing your muscles

A panic attack triggers your muscles and it may get tight. Focus on relaxing one group of muscles at a time to lower stress and stay in the moment.

➤ Mindfulness

A panic attack can make you feel like you're not in your body or touch with reality. Focusing on the present moment will help you bring your thoughts back to the present and settle yourself.

If you have panic attacks often, getting medical help, such as medicine and therapy, is essential.

Panic Attack Treatment Ways

Here are some tried techniques our healthcare provider suggests following for quick recovery.

  1. 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique
  2. Mantras And Positive Affirmations
  3. 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

Technique 1: 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique

A toolbelt of grounding techniques can help you feel more in control of anxiety and panic attacks.

You've probably heard of the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique if you've ever experienced or read up on panic attacks. This technique brings you back into the present moment by acknowledging your surroundings through the power of your senses and helping your brain recognize where you are.

➤ 5 things you can SEE

Look around and notice five things you can see in your present environment. Maybe it's a pencil, a framed piece of art on your wall, or a car parked on your street. Pick five objects around you and acknowledge their presence.

➤ 4 things you can FEEL

Notice four things you can feel. Touch the fabric of your shirt or the hem of your pants. Squeeze a soft pillow or a blanket. Pet your cat or dog and feel their coat under your hands. You can even touch your skin or hair.

➤ 3 things you can HEAR

Listen to the noises around you. Acknowledge the hum of the ceiling fan. The birds or crickets outside (depending on the time of day). Or the faint sound of the television in the other room.

➤ 2 things you can SMELL

You might need to get up and move around for this, but find something soothing to smell. It could be a candle, perfume bottle, or even the hand soap in your bathroom.

Pro tip:

The scent of lavender can be very calming. Consider getting a lavender candle or aromatherapy oils as a panic attack treatment solution!

➤ 1 thing you can TASTE

If you need something nearby to taste (or want to avoid tasting anything), think about your favorite food or drink. Maybe it's the sandwich from your local deli, the delicious bitterness of your morning coffee, or the pumpkin pie your grandma made every Thanksgiving. Focus on the taste and textures of that food or drink.

If you live with roommates or a loved one, consider teaching them this easy-to-remember grounding technique so they can help you during a panic attack. You can also write it down on a flashcard or in a note on your phone for a quick reminder.

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Technique 2: Mantras And Positive Affirmations

Amid a panic attack, your thoughts might move very fast, jumping from one thing to the next. Your body is in fight or flight mode, your hands are clammy, and the weight of the "impending doom" can feel like you're going to die. All of this can feel overwhelming, and it can feel challenging to bring yourself back into reality.
Our words and how we speak to ourselves are powerful, but they can also help ground us when it feels like we're spiraling out of control.

How to do it?

Repeat mantras and positive affirmations that remind you you are safe:

  • "This is just a feeling, and it will pass."
  • "These emotions are only visitors, and they're not here to stay."
  • "My brain thinks I'm in danger, but I know I am safe."
  • "I will be okay."

Whether you say the above aloud or in your head depends on what works best for you.

Pro tip:

Write these affirmations down and have them easily accessible on your phone's notes app or stowed in your purse or wallet.

Technique 3: 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

The 4-7-8 breathing technique helps to regulate and calm your breathing through long, deep, rhythmic breaths. This method is easy to remember and can even help you sleep.

  1. Sit with your back straight against a chair or wall
  2. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue behind your upper front teeth
  3. Exhale through your open mouth, making a whooshing sound
  4. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a count of 4
  5. Hold your breath for a count of 7
  6. Exhale through your open mouth, making the same whooshing sound for a count of 8
  7. Repeat the cycle as necessary.

If you haven't tried this technique before, we encourage you to practice while you're grounded since it can cause lightheadedness.

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Other Ways to Combat Panic Attacks

For some, there is seemingly no direct trigger for their panic attacks. Regardless, it can be helpful to acknowledge any circumstances that are increasing anxiety in your life and work to lower traumatic stress disorder.‍

  1. Set and maintain healthy boundaries in your work and personal life (Read our blog on long-term relationship boundaries)
  2. Eat healthy, balanced meals
  3. Get enough sleep to avoid any anxiety attack
  4. Reduce caffeine consumption and drink enough water
  5. Exercising regularly.
  6. Implementing more mindfulness throughout your day.
  7. Please write down your anxiety triggers and practice alternative coping skills to manage stress when it arises.
  8. Get professional help by sharing your panic attacks with a mental health professional.

Final Words:

Panic attacks can lead to panic disorder, a condition characterized by ongoing anxiety about when the next episode will strike. Panic disorder may cause you to isolate or avoid attending certain events or locations. Over time, it may seriously compromise your quality of life.

If you struggle with frequent panic attacks, we encourage you to contact your doctor or mental healthcare professional to discuss treatment options, including therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Grounding techniques are helpful, but you don't need to suffer alone. Panic attacks may not be entirely avoidable, but specific steps can mitigate or reduce their intensity.

🔍 Have you learned effective ways to lower or better manage your panic attacks?

We'd love for you to share tips that have worked for you with our community!

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