The following article was kindly written and contributed by Lewis Robinson.
Panic attacks can be frightening and can come out of nowhere. They can take over your emotions, thoughts and body. A panic attack can be very troubling, and not knowing when one will happen can result in greater levels of stress.
The good news is that there are ways that you can help reduce the likelihood of a panic attack happening, as well as slow one down once it has started.
Get More Physical Activity In Your Day
One way to help reduce the frequency of panic attacks is to get more exercise into your day. Working out is beneficial for a couple of different reasons and can increase your levels of endorphins and other happiness hormones which can improve your mood. These happiness hormones also aid in reducing stress, which can greatly contribute to panic attacks. Regular exercise helps to keep your blood pumping in a healthy way which can contribute to keeping your nervous system calm.
While exercising is good for prevention, it should be kept in mind that it may not be the best idea to do a strenuous workout while experiencing a panic attack, and that a gentle form of movement like walking may be more effective. Additionally, make sure that you're prepared for workouts by eating or drinking something like protein pre workout to help balance blood sugar. This can also be beneficial for preventing panic attacks.
Acknowledge What's Happening
One of the simplest things you can do while you are experiencing a panic attack is to acknowledge what is happening. Many who have panic attacks may experience feelings such as impending doom and may perceive they are experiencing a medical crisis, like a heart attack.
By understanding and acknowledging what is happening, you can help to take some of the power out of the attack, and reassure yourself that you will soon be feeling better.
Try Deep Breathing Exercises
Your breath is directly tied to your feelings and greater nervous system. When you are stressed, chances are you will be taking much more shallow and fast-paced breaths than if you were calm. For many who experience panic attacks, hyperventilation is a common symptom that can be troubling and can create a negative feedback loop. What this means is that when you are stressed, you are prone to hyperventilating. When you hyperventilate, it sends a signal to your brain that you are stressed, and so the cycle continues. By making an effort to take deep, slow breaths, you can help stop this cycle and calm your nervous system.
Try a Visualisation
If physical actions like gentle movement or deep breathing don't help, a visualisation may be a good idea. When it comes to visualising, what it is that you envisage doesn't matter as much as the feelings that accompany it. To get the best results, picture something that makes you happy - a good memory or the face of a loved one. You can also picture a scene or setting that makes you feel calm and happy, whether it's a real place, or one that you have imagined.
Start a Meditation Practice
Even though it may be difficult to try and meditate during a panic attack, regular meditation practice can be beneficial when it comes to reducing the overall likelihood of panic attacks. Meditation can not only generate feelings of calm and peace while practicing, but also afterwards as well. There is even some evidence that with regular practice over time, meditation can rewire your brain and help reduce anxiety.
A Final Word
Panic attacks can be frightening and unpleasant, not only because of how they feel, but also because of how stressful it can be to not know when one will hit you. However, this does not mean that there is nothing you can do to ease your situation. By better understanding your symptoms, you will have greater control over your reactions.
Use the above techniques like gentle exercise, deep breathing and meditation to assist you in reducing the frequency and intensity of attacks and don’t be afraid to contact family, friends or helplines to support you through.