Written by Samantha Wall, LCSW
In the moment tools/skills:
- Recognize you are having a panic attack. Once you can recognize you are having a panic attack, you can remind yourself that this is a temporary state and intentionally use the other skills below!
- A great skill to start with is deep breathing. With all of the physical reactions and symptoms our body has during the panic attack, it is important to first regulate our breathing. This calms our nervous system and sends signals to our brain that we are not experiencing a threat because we are able to slow our breathing and heart rate. I have listed some helpful techniques and visuals to support taking deep breaths when hyperventilating.
- Breathe in for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds
- Lazy 8 Breathing
- 4-7-8 Breath
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose for a count of FOUR.
- Hold your breath for a count of SEVEN.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound for a count of EIGHT.
- This is one breath, now inhale again and repeat the cycle three or more times. (https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing-three-exercises/)
*There are many more breathing techniques, so if you try these and you don’t like them, feel free to send me an email asking for more techniques. You can also look them up online!
- Close your eyes. Panic attacks can be overwhelming and are made more overwhelming with any additional input/stimuli around you. Removing stimuli can be helpful to calm your body and brain to focus on breathing!
- Find a focus object. If closing your eyes does not feel safe or feels overwhelming, focusing on one object can help bring your mind and body back to the moment. Looking at the object and noticing its colors, patterns, size, shape, and texture can also help you ground yourself in the moment.
- Remind yourself what day and time it is. “It is May 18th at 1:30.” This can also be a helpful way to ground you in the moment and take you out of the physical and mental panic you are experiencing.
- Muscle relaxation techniques can also support your mind and body to get back in the moment and increase your control of your body response. Consciously relax one muscle at a time and start with something simple such as the fingers on your hand and move through your body.
How to Get Through a Panic Attack (4 mins): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xZ2L8il6W4
Tips to Stop Panic Attacks (11 mins): This video is a more in depth explanation of panic attacks and how to stop them. If you are struggling with panic attacks currently, I would recommend watching this video. Kati Morton is a licensed family therapist and is amazing at explaining different mental health disorders and coping skills. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bphhWzXeQKU
These are only some coping skills/tools to use, so if you try all of these and none seem helpful, please reach out to me via email for more ideas or contact a mental health professional. The most helpful coping skills/tools for panic attacks include a grounding element to help us get back to the here and now.
These techniques are also most helpful when you practice them BEFORE you have a panic attack. So if you are just hanging out and you remember a technique, practice it! It also can be helpful to practice these skills during smaller stresses throughout the day so you can build the skills to use them in the midst of the BIG panic. For example, I am feeling rushed and stressed because I am running late for work. I can use some deep breathing to stay in my window of tolerance and regulate!
Remember, this is just the tip of the iceberg! Mental health is a unique and in depth process for each individual. If you have additional questions, concerns, or want more information about a specific topic, please email me or seek additional mental health support with other professionals!