A panic attack is a sudden surge of intense fear and anxiety. It can be very frightening and can lead to a sense of being out of control. It is common for people to have their first panic attack without knowing what is happening, or why it happened.

This article will provide you with some tips on how to survive your first panic attack in order for you to get back in control and feel more confident about the situation.

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear or discomfort, which can be either physical or emotional.  It can happen any time and to anyone. A panic attack is not the same as having a phobia.

The most important thing to remember about panic attacks is that they are not harmful. They are uncomfortable and frightening, but they will eventually end. The first step in managing a panic attack is to remind yourself that it’s just an anxiety reaction and not something more serious, like a heart attack or stroke.

If you’re wondering how to get through a panic attack, here are some tips on what you should do:

  •  Steady your breathing: When you feel a panic attack coming on, it’s important to remember that hyperventilation can make the symptoms worse. Take deep breaths and focus on slowing down your breathing pattern.
  •  Ground yourself: The physical sensations of a panic attack may make you feel detached from reality or like the world is spinning around you. You can try grounding yourself by focusing on something in the room that feels solid and stable, like furniture or floors beneath your feet. Go through each of your senses and find as many things as you can see, hear, feel, taste & smell.
  • A quick way of interrupting the pattern of behaviour of a panic attack is to take a deep breath hold it as long as you can and look up as high as you can.  Keep repeating this until the panic attack dissipates.
  • You can also do things to keep the mind busy.  Often it’s thoughts spiralling out of control that create anxiety.  Doing some silly task like counting backwards from 500 in 7’s occupies the brain. At first it can be really difficult to think straight and be a slow process, continue with it and you will find that the rational part of your brain will engage, the task will become easier and be a great distraction.  Try using different numbers, say the alphabet backwards, any task that you really need brain power for will get the mind away from spiralling thoughts and back to the task at hand.
  • Stick your tongue to the roof of your mouth and open your mouth slightly.  This will help to slow down any inner thoughts.
  • Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel this way because panic attacks do not last forever.  Most panic attacks only last around 10 minutes. 
  • Go in to peripheral vision.  Fixate your eyes to a spot in front of you and bring your hands up to the side of your body.  Wiggle your fingers as you move your hands further to the side and back.  Notice how you can see or sense the fingers wiggling in your periphery, how you can see more around you, up, down, left and right.  Then imagine you can also see or sense what’s behind you.  Stay in peripheral as long as you need to and wait it out.  Tell yourself positive calming things. 
  • Take 3 breaths, then using two hands give yourself a hug, you may want to pat your arms or rub your arms to help soothe yourself. Close your eyes and focus on the breath entering through your nose. How does it move through your body, how does the breath feel as it changes to an out breath? Breathe out through the mouth.  Do this whilst hugging yourself for at least a minute.  This will help you bring yourself in to the here and now.

    Above all, from my own personal experience I have found that accepting the panic attack rather than resisting it really does reduce its severity and intensity, it takes away the hold it has on you.  Say the words out loud “I’m having a panic attack and I’m going to be ok. I am safe, I’ve got this” Tell someone that you are having a panic attack, and ask if they would you stay with you until you feel safe again. 

    It is best to focus on the methods above rather than analysing what is going on.  Allow the mind to quieten, allow the breath to regulate.  If you feel dizzy close your eyes.  You may get a bit of the shakes as the adrenalin surges, just know that this is your body running through a natural process, the fight, flight or freeze response and it will stop.  

    After the panic attack has ended

    It is a good idea to keep yourself well hydrated with water and rest afterwards as the body recovers.  There’s no point in asking the why questions, they just lead to the never ending loop and create more anxiety.  Instead, ask yourself what can you do to manage it better if you have one in the future.  Ask yourself how you can overcome panic attacks. 

    As unpleasant as they are, you can and will get through this.  At one point in my life I thought that I would live in fear of panic attacks for the rest of my life.  I never thought it would be possible to live normally again.  Thankfully, I changed that belief through hypnosis.  I’ve so many clients who are now living in the driving seat of their lives rather than being controlled by panic and anxiety.  If you are ready to change your story, I would love to speak to you and see what plan we can put together to help you. 

    Remember panic attacks are just your body’s warning light coming on to say its time to slow down, re-fuel or take a break.