When you’re in the middle of a panic attack, regaining control may seem all but possible.
The overwhelming sense of fear and physical symptoms—racing heart, sweating, shakiness, and stomach issues—combine to make you feel helpless.
As much as it may not feel like it, though, there truly are steps you can take to overcome anxiety. Both your body and your mind are part of the panic cycle, so finding ways to distract and refocus each of them are vital.
It sounds simple, and maybe impossible, but start by reminding yourself that the anxiety is just a feeling, like any other feeling. The thoughts you create in your mind can influence the way your body feels. So talk back to the panic and challenge your perceptions.
Employ elements of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to question your fearful beliefs and ask what evidence there is for them.
Many therapists recommend simple mental refocusing approaches to combat panic. Mindful sitting is a place to begin.
Find a comfortable place to sit, close your eyes, and settle in comfortably. Tune into what your body is feeling—the sensations of clothing, carpet, or cushions on your skin, or any areas of muscle tension. Listen to quiet background noises that you might not usually notice.
Also, don’t try to empty your mind, but do try not to pay attention to your thoughts. Just let them flow past. Even five minutes doing this can be incredibly valuable.
Because panic attacks manifest themselves physiologically, employing techniques to help your body refocus are also extremely helpful.
Exercise offers immediate assistance for panic symptoms. Brisk walks around the block are an excellent way to start.
Whatever your level of physical fitness, try to push yourself just a bit. As you focus on challenging your body, your thoughts can refocus away from the sense of fear.
Plus, the feel-good endorphins released during exercise are mighty combatants against anxiety.
Bounce and Count
A quick-acting step to take when overwhelmed by panic is to bounce and catch a ball while counting at the same time. This ball-catching works well if you have a friend or child to throw a ball back and forth with. But if you don’t, you can still use this method.
Alone, you can bounce a ball against a wall, the pavement, or the floor while counting. Or, you could toss a tennis ball from hand to hand and count. When your brain has to focus on both the physical act of catching and the mental act of counting, it is less able to focus on the feelings of anxiety.
If you are in a place where you can’t bounce or catch a ball, you can also focus on counting calmly from one to four repeatedly, letting no other thoughts intrude. You could also count by twos, fours, count backward from 100, or use other similar counting methods.
As strange as it might sound, another technique to fight panic is to reach into your freezer for a handful of ice cubes.
Holding one in each hand, slowly rub them around your eyebrows and down beneath your eyes in circles. The cold chill of ice on your skin helps break through the physiological symptoms you’re having.
You might also hold an ice cube in the palm of each hand and focus on how long they take to melt.
Panic attacks do not have to rule your life. Learning practices such as these are a powerful way to push back.
Working with therapists who specialize in anxiety and panic disorders, can also provide much-needed guidance, encouragement, and support during your journey.
Contact our office today if you’d like to find out more about how we can help you move from fear to a deeper place of calm and confidence.