What To Do If A Panic Attack Strikes

Panic Attack

A panic attack.

If you’ve never had one count yourself lucky, but bear in mind that no one is immune.

We’re in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic so if you were ever going to have a panic attack or suffer from ‘coronavirus anxiety’ the time is now. It’s doubly challenging if you’re going through a symptomatic peri/menopause as you self-isolate.

Let us say right here: You. Are. Not. Alone.

Do you need a sounding board? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us, and may we congratulate you for managing to tear yourself away from the headlines for a moment.

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack comes on suddenly and is a very intense feeling of fear and anxiety. It can be overwhelming and lead to difficulty breathing, a pounding heart and a need to get away or out of wherever you are. Quickly.

That’s a pretty broad overview because just like our peri/menopause journey, a panic attack affects everybody differently. Some people feel like they’re going pass out or experience chest pain, others perspire, and trembling isn’t unusual.

What can you do?

There are some simple strategies you can put in place to help you through. Here are five tried and true tools:

1. Breathe

This is my personal go-to for panic attacks (and anxiety). I picked it up from Dr Andrew Weil (video of him explaining 4-7-8 breathing below). In my experience, it works quickly and effectively.

  1. Exhale all of the air out of your lungs
  2. Breathe in for four counts (deeply into your diaphragm)
  3. Hold for seven
  4. Blow out through your mouth for eight

Do this several times until you feel yourself calming down. There is a plenty of research to back up the positives of deep breathing. This study explains it well.

Dr Weil demonstrates the technique in this video;

Another great tool is the Clarity app which has a specific panic attack exercise on it. Clarity was created by Becks Armstrong who is an Australian living in London.

2. Don’t panic that you’re panicking

Self-talk
Image: John Hain from Pixabay

This might sound like a tall order, but fighting with your ‘inner mean girl’ while you’re trying to calm down won’t help the situation. We all have her, the voice in our head that beats us up at various times.

It’s OK to feel what you’re feeling so acknowledge what’s happening, and try and take stock. If you’re in a crowded room remove yourself if you can, if you’re driving pull over, and sit or lie down if you feel the need and commence your breathing strategy.

3. Learn to meditate

While meditation was once thought of as woo woo it’s becoming more and more mainstream. Indeed, most people are aware there is plenty of science-based evidence to back its positive effects.

The continued practice of daily meditation will help you navigate your day in a healthy, calm way and help you to see things more clearly. There is a multitude of providers online so you can learn and practice in the comfort of your own home.

Deepak Chopra’s centre is a great offering. The Chopra Centre and Deepak regularly team up with Oprah Winfrey to deliver free meditation series. Right now they’re running the #HopeGoesGlobal movement together. Click here.

4. Engage mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and will help stabilise and ground you. We’ve written about it here. This study is helpful too. Essentially, it’s a very simple tool and one that promises to be very helpful during the time of the global crisis that is COVID-19.

5. Make friends with a mantra

Wikipedia defines a mantra as a sacred utterance, a syllable, a word or group of words in Sanskrit believed by practitioners to have psychological and/or spiritual powers.

The mantra originated in India thousands of years ago and is still widely practised in the ancient language of Sanskrit. If ‘om’ sounds familiar, it’s a simple, well-known example. In modern times some of us take a little poetic license and use a group of English words that work for us to create our own ‘mantra’.

Effective words can be: “I am…(fill in the blank”) i.e. relaxed, “this too shall pass”, “all is well”, “I feel calm”. The reason they work well for anxiety and panic attacks is that they focus the mind and can override your ‘mean girl’.

Other tools

Some basic self care techniques may also help you get through self-isolation such as regular exercise, eating nutritious whole foods (overly processed foods don’t make us feel good) and getting your COVID-19 information from reputable sources (some links below).

If getting outside for a walk doesn’t cut it there are some amazing offerings online such as Yoga with Adriene and Walk At Home with Leslie Sansone.

We’d also recommend taking time out just for you. The website donothingfor2minutes.com is the perfect bookmark.

Thank you to Michelle McGregor from the MenoMe community for sharing Leslie with us.

For COVID-19 info:

The World Health Organisation

Unite Against COVID-19

Australian Government COVID-19

Take care, stay safe and reach out if we can be of any assistance.

Main Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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