Coping techniques: Panic attacks

Please note that you should always consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet, your level of exercise and activity, medication or behaviors related to substance use.

The best way to make use of these techniques is to read through them, select three that stand out to you and practice them. I would be glad to hear from you on your responses.

  1. Consult with your physician to rule out any medical issues.
  2. Although a frequent perception during a panic attack is “I’m dying” or “I’m losing my mind,” panic attacks have not been correlated with either heart attacks or psychotic breaks. During a panic attack, remind yourself that as unpleasant as it is it is only a panic attack.
  3. Therefore while experiencing a panic attack, stay where you are if possible. This will increase your insight that there is no danger, and will decrease the possibility of associating panic to whatever the situation is.
  4. Acknowledge and accept the feeling of panic, rather than trying to suppress it or avoid it. Remind yourself that there’s no need to act on it because it’s not in response to a dangerous situation.
  5. Make use of a calming phrase (such as “There is no danger, I am safe”), mantra or prayer, repeated during the course of the panic. This will act to limit anxious associations, center you in the present moment and provide you with something to occupy your mind.
  6. Rather than practice deep breathing—increasing oxygen intake—during a panic attack it’s useful to decrease carbon dioxide. One way to accomplish this is to inflate a paper bag by blowing into it. Another method is to breathe in to a count of seven and out to a count of eleven.
  7. Maintaining an awareness of the current stressors in your life decreases the likelihood of anxiety building up and unexpectedly flooding your awareness in the form of a panic attack.
  8. Consider decreasing use of caffeine and nicotine.
  9. Consider integrating regular exercise into your daily routine.