The physical symptoms can come suddenly and quickly, oftentimes in the unlikeliest of places. These can come in quick succession and in a jumble – shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, and dizziness and lightheadedness, as well as a sense of inevitable doom. The sense of hopelessness coupled with frustration and desperation about the inability to control these panic attacks becomes a vicious cycle.
While prescription medications, such as clonazepam, can reduce the intensity, frequency and duration of panic attacks, these are just part of a wholistic approach. Studies have shown that most people with panic disorder can control their symptoms even as these happen.
Here’s what you can do when you’re feeling the onset of a panic attack – RACE, an acronym for relax, activity, confront, and encourage.
Breathing and relaxation exercises will ease the physical symptoms that come with a panic attack. Be sure to practice these steps for 10 minutes at least twice a day so you can quickly use them.
- Stop whatever it is that you’re doing and find a quiet place, if you can.
- Place one hand on your upper chest and the other hand over your diaphragm.
- Inhale in a slow and deep manner through your nose for five counts.
- Exhale through your nose for five counts, too.
- Concentrate on breathing and feeling your hands on your chest and diaphragm.
Within a minute or so, your symptoms should have eased off so that you can think in a more rational manner.
You may be tempted to rest for a prolonged period during a panic attack. But you may find that it’s counterintuitive because then you’re more likely to focus on your panicky sensations. When you have relaxed your breathing, you should instead try one of the following activities:
- Walking in a place that relaxes your mind and body
- Performing stretching and yoga exercises
- Letting your field of vision widen by using your peripheral vision.
In case of the third activity, you can also perform the deep breathing exercise above while letting your jaw muscles relax. Your body will be calmer due to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
You have to understand and confront your fears even when it feels so difficult at first. You have so many ways to do so like:
- Writing in a journal to record your feelings and fears
- Talking to a therapist about your worries
- Joining a support group
Yes, it will be difficult facing down your fears but you can do it one small step at a time until you have enough courage to accept what they are – just your fears taking away your enjoyment of life.
You should also be your own best cheerleader and best friend! This way, you will not need anybody else to take you through the steps of controlling your panic attacks even before these happen.
In the end, you can choose to be your own best friend or your own worst enemy!