I haven’t always been open to talking about my mental health struggles to random people on the internet. I mean, IT IS pretty personal, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t common. I suffer (and no, the word suffer in this sentence is NOT an exaggeration) from panic attacks. The more I talk to my friends and family, the more I realize that other people have panic and anxiety attacks, too. I have come up with this list of six things I do during a panic attack that always help me make it to the other side.
Drink a glass of ice-cold water.
Get ready… I am about to throw some science your way. Cold water activates the Vagus Nerve, which slows down our heart rate and breathing. This can help take our bodies out of the Sympathetic Mode (you may know this as the Fight or Flight Response) and into a Parasympathetic Mode (also referred to as Rest and Digest). If you are experiencing an anxiety or panic attack, start taking small and frequent sips of cold water.
Do a gratitude practice.
Do you have a gratitude practice? I do. It not only stops a panic attack dead in its tracks, but it also helps prevent them from happening in the first place. I have a journal that I keep on my bedside table, and every night I sit down and write three things that happened that day that were positive. I make sure to write specific things like, “The weather was perfect today and made the zoo trip that much more enjoyable for my family,” rather than big picture items. I do the specific ones because it makes me really have to sit down and think of all the big and small blessings that I have in my life. Doing a gratitude practice during a panic attack helps us to focus on the blessings and not the fear we are feeling in that moment.
Talk to someone you trust.
This may be obvious to some of you, but to others, this is difficult. Being open to others about your panic attacks is really hard. Finding someone you trust to talk you through it is key. People love and care for you and want to help. Let them. My husband and sister-in-law, Ashley, are usually my go-to people while I’m suffering through a panic attack.
Do a grounding technique.
Most panic and anxiety attacks are primarily centered around your worries about the future. Grounding exercises help you refocus your mind on the present. Here is a common grounding exercise you can try next time you are having a panic attack…
The 54321 Method: Identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
Open a window.
I don’t know about you, but fresh air does wonders for my mental health. I do not care if it’s cold out or hot, opening a window to get a breath of fresh air helps to ground me. You can take this one step further and think about the smells, sounds, and temperature.
Stand or sit. Don’t lay!
Laying down in a flat position can restrict breathing, making a panic attack worse. Try sitting up or standing instead.
I hope this list helps you if you find yourself in the middle of a panic attack. Friends, I want you to know that you are not alone in this. You CAN and WILL get through it, and I am so proud of you.