Panic attacks are, unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence. Many people experience a panic attack at some point in their life. What is important is to recognize what’s happening and how to cope in order to get through it safely.
The best way to cope with a panic attack is to train yourself to respond in a calm and accepting way. An easy way to remember the 5 steps to coping with a panic attack is by telling yourself to be AWARE.
A - Acknowledge
Verbally acknowledge, without judgement, the fact that you are starting to panic. When you acknowledge what it is, a panic attack, you are also able to acknowledge that while you feel like you’re in danger, the reality is that you are not. Accept the knowledge that you will be feeling uncomfortable for a little bit without trying to force your way out of the situation.
W - WaitIt’s natural to want to jump into action the moment you feel a panic attack begin - it is part of your fight-or-flight instinct. However, one of the hallmarks of a panic attack is that it robs you of your ability to think straight. By taking a moment to breathe and focus your mind on what is happening, you will then be able to decide what the best next step is.
A - ActionsYour job during a panic attack is NOT to make the attack end. The panic attack will end no matter what you do, that is just part of the makeup of a panic attack - it is temporary. Your job during a panic attack is to see if you can do anything to make yourself a bit more comfortable while you wait for it to end. There are many techniques you can try such as belly breathing, talking to yourself, or meditation.
R - RepeatYou may make it through the first three steps feeling better and start to see the light at the end of the tunnel….then it all goes black again. Ebbs and flows during a panic attack are completely normal. You may start feeling like it’s almost over, then all of the original feelings come back up. Don’t worry - just take it from the top again!
E - EndThis is the only step that requires absolutely nothing of you. All panic attacks end. Just like the beginning of an attack is something you can’t control, then ending isn’t something you can control either. Remember, your job isn’t to make your attack end, that will happen on its own. You just need to focus on making yourself as comfortable and safe as possible as you wait for that end to come.
If you or a loved one struggle with anxiety or panic attacks and need someone to help guide you through the process above, I would love to connect with you. Life isn’t meant to be lived alone and life is also not meant to be lived in a constant state of fear or panic. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at (310) 614 - 0323 to set up a time to connect.