When you’re living with anxiety, you need multiple tools in your toolbox to deal with a panic attack. You can’t just rely on one trick. It’s a good thing to have an idea of what to do when you feel panicky.
After all, a panic attack could happen when you least expect it. It’s a lot harder to go for a walk to work off the anxiety when you’re stuck in your car during the morning commute!
If you’ve dealt with panic attacks your whole life but are still struggling, you need a variety of strategies to fall back on, depending on the situation.
Consider these five ideas for what to do when you feel panicky.
1. Know the Signs
First, it’s really helpful to know the warning signs for when you’re starting to feel panicky.
For example, when you find yourself in a crowded space, do you feel yourself breathing faster first? Or do you get that sweaty palm feeling? Perhaps it’s both, or neither? Everyone is different when it comes to the onset of panic symptoms.
If you’re not sure which ones apply to you, think about these:
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid breathing
- Feeling that your heart is about to explode out of your chest
- Racing thoughts
- Expecting the worst to occur
- Having a feeling of imminent doom
- Feeling jumpy or jittery
- Not feeling like you are in control
Knowing what’s going on can already be a great help for staying calm and level-headed.
One of the most immediate things you can do for when you feel panicky is to breathe (including when you’re stuck in a car!).
Being conscious of your breathing is important because, in the midst of a panic attack, your breathing could become very shallow. And that means that you are taking in less oxygen. The result is that the cells in your body are not receiving enough oxygen either.
Moreover, you may start to feel as if you can’t catch your breath. And that can trigger hyperventilation, which makes you feel even more panicky than before.
To cope, when you start to notice a panic attack coming on, begin taking deep, regular, and consistent breaths. This will help you to stay regulated and can even prevent a full-blown panic attack from developing.
3. Relax Your Muscles
Another thing you can do for when you feel panicky is to relax your muscles. Feeling tension during a panic attack is common but not conscious. It’s something that your body has learned to do when experiencing stress or danger.
To begin a muscle relaxation session, think about where you want to begin. You can start at your toes or at your head.
So, let’s say you want to start at your feet. Lie down someplace that’s quiet (if possible) and breathe deeply while doing this. Imagine working from your toes upward, relaxing every muscle. Either envision the muscles relaxing and feeling less tense or use progressive muscle relaxation, where you tighten muscles groups as you breathe in and then relax them as you breathe out.
If you know that you hold your tension in specific parts of your body, spend extra time focusing on those areas.
4. Redirect Your Thoughts
When considering what to do when you feel panicky, also remember how your thought process influences your anxiety.
People who are dealing with panic attacks often experience racing thoughts. These contribute to that feeling of being out of control as thoughts jump quickly, often from one inaccurate conclusion to another.
To keep this in check, redirect your thoughts to something calming and reassuring. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as that thought is relevant and works to keep your thoughts in control.
5. Use Body Movement
Finally, body movement is really useful for dealing with a panic attack.
It doesn’t have to be full-fledged exercising, but it could be something as simple as taking a walk. Of course, it doesn’t have to be restricted to walking. Squeezing a stress ball works, or engaging in cleaning or organizing—any physical activity that you can do at the time.
The idea is to transfer that nervous energy that is building up inside you somewhere outside your body.
Living with anxiety and dealing with a panic attack takes a lot of experimentation. You have to figure out what works best for you when you feel panicky. Why not start with the above-mentioned ideas?
If you’ve tried different approaches and are still struggling with panic attacks, consider seeking out anxiety therapy. Please, feel free to contact me to learn more about my approach.