Note: Presented by BetterHelp.
Calming panic attacks when they happen, as opposed to after the fact, is one of the great dilemmas of anxiety. Since panic attacks can be so immobilizing and scary, it’s hard even to be able to take a breath, let alone think about helping yourself through it.
Here are the quickest fixes for panic attacks that you can use at the moment you have one to calm down enough to then focus on other coping mechanisms. These methods are meant to be used even when you’re not feeling rational.
Taking medication for anxiety is not shameful. In fact, over 6 million adults have anxiety or an anxiety disorder type (such as panic disorder). That means millions of people do utilize an as-needed medication at times.
If you find that your panic attacks are pretty debilitating and scary, you may not be able to make a choice to utilize a coping skill at the moment that you’re having one. A medication can calm you down, sometimes in less than 30 minutes.
If you need help, have someone you trust bring you your medication when you have a panic attack. You can even train your dog to do this for you.
For those who don’t freeze up in one spot during a panic attack, moving locations may help you. Try to find a wide-open space or a very tight space, depending on which brings you the most comfort. If you like to feel like you’re being hugged or held, try sitting in your closet, underneath your clothes. Wrap a blanket around yourself until the panic attack passes.
If you don’t like being in small spaces, you can try to move to a less cluttered room and remove clothing items that feel restricting. Open some windows and allow yourself to breathe as deeply as possible. If you like being outside and are able to go outside safely, sit in the grass or go for a brisk walk.
Put Ice on Your Chest
Temperature changes can trick your body into thinking an emotion has ended. If you want to quickly relieve a panic attack, try putting ice on your chest or your head. The cold of the ice will shock you enough to put you into a calmer state, where you can think more clearly.
Dunk Your Head in Cold Water, Take a Cold Shower, or Go Swimming
Going off of the previous point, you can also utilize cold water for a more intense effect. If you want to really shock your body and reset your mental clock, jump in a cold lake (safely). You can also do this at home by dunking your head in the sink or bathtub full of cold water.
Once the shock has worn off, sit down and practice some of your more regular coping mechanisms to calm down even further.
Have a Panic Attack Art Project
During days when you’re not feeling anxious or panicking, try setting up a long-term art project that you can put focus on when you do have a panic attack. Some people need something to distract their minds while panicking, and an art project is just the thing to do that.
Here are some excellent detail-oriented art project ideas to set up for yourself:
- Diamond painting
- Paint by numbers
- Journaling with stickers/collages/photos
- A painting that will take a while to finish
- A painting that you add something to every time you panic
Be creative and find something that works for you.
Chat With Your Therapist
Although some therapists don’t offer crisis support or online chat, some do. There are many online therapists these days that are available whenever you need them within your online paid plan.
You can chat with them over a secure messaging platform, call them on the phone, or even video chat. It’s up to whatever you’re comfortable with. The chatting option can be comforting for those in an active panic because it allows you to cry and shake and feel your emotions without someone watching you or hearing you.
If you want to learn more about the options for panic attacks and online therapy, check out this site here: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/panic-attacks/.
Rely on a Partner, Friend, or Family Member
Sometimes having someone else to help you get through panic is the most valuable thing, especially when your panicking feelings have something to do with attachment, loss, or feeling lonely.
For someone who isn’t used to panic attacks, you’ll need to communicate with the person in your life about what helps you most. You don’t want them to accidentally make things worse. Give them a list of things they should and shouldn’t do when you’re panicking.
For example, perhaps you don’t like to be touched when you’re panicking, but you would appreciate it if they sat near you and read you a story or talked to you about their day.
Or maybe you just need a hug but don’t want them to try to tell you what to do or go into detail about your anxiety with you.
Communicate and find something that works for both of you. Remember that it’s totally fine to take space if you need to, and your friend/family member/partner should respect that.
Destroy Something (Safely)
Sometimes, your anxiety just wants to take action, and you might be panicking due to the feeling of being full of anxiety. Having an outlet for your anxiety that is immediate can help. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean hitting a wall or hurting someone or yourself.
Here are some ways you can be safely destructive and get out those feelings:
- Scream into a pillow
- Go into the woods and scream
- Throw rocks into a lake
- Cut wood
- Go to the gym or utilize gym equipment at home
- Buy a punching bag to use
- Rip up paper
- Draw how you’re feeling and crumple it up or cut it into pieces
- Break glass into a dumpster
There are other ways as well, but the most important thing is that you don’t hurt yourself or someone else in the process, so always practice safety and don’t do something that might make your anxiety worse.