How to help yourself or your loved one calm down from a panic attack

If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know it’s a debilitating and terrifying experience. You may feel a complete lack of control, like the world is caving in, or like you’re dying from a heart attack. Common symptoms include:

  • Rapid and pounding heart rate

  • Shaking

  • Sense of impending doom

  • Fear of loss of control or death

  • Sweating

  • Shortness of breath and hyperventilation

  • Tightness in your throat and chest pain

  • Chills and/or hot flashes

  • Abdominal cramping and nausea

  • Headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness

  • Numbness or tingling

  • Feeling of unreality

What most people will tell you in the midst of your panic is to “breathe,” which is quite honestly the last thing you are physically able to do during an episode of panic. This can even at times make the panic attack worse. Here is what I recommend you try instead:

  1. Sit down or lean against a wall. This helps your body and nervous system feel more safe and contained.

  2. Look around and notice something that looks pleasing to your eyes. For example: a tree, lamp, or piece of art.

  3. Begin to describe that item in detail. If possible, describe the object out loud. Take your time and use as much detail as possible.

  4. Repeat as much as needed until the feeling of panic subsides. It could take anywhere between three and 20 objects to fully calm your system.

This practice allows your nervous system to realize it is safe, so the mind releases its attachment to your experience. It allows our system to pendulate back and forth between feeling the panic and/or anxiety and sensing the present moment environment, which is likely safe and okay.

It is normal for panic to come in waves during this exercise. Stay with it. Trust you are okay, and you will make it through this. It just takes time. It may take a while to completely integrate and calm the system down.

This practice works more efficiently the more often you do it. It’s even better if you find time to do this practice when you are not in a state of panic, to help your body acclimate and develop your sensory awareness muscles.

If you commonly experience panic attacks, you may also want to look at your lifestyle, diet, and history of trauma to heal your nervous system on an integrative level.

We’d love to hear from you! Have these practices helped with your panic attack symptoms? Are there any other healing suggestions you’d like to leave our community? Leave your comments below.

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