3 Skills For Calming Panic Attacks


Mental health / Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

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I still remember my first panic attack. Like many people who experience them for the first time, I was convinced that I was dying and there was something horribly wrong with me. I had started getting panic attacks at night and was terrified of sleeping, fearing the inevitable thump of my heart and the blood in my chest as the lights went out.

As I got older and learned how to calm panic attacks at night with a little more ease, the prospect of living with Generalised Anxiety Disorder wasn’t as grim.

In a recent pity party that I was holding myself, the DJ of my mind let the record scratch as I had the following stupid thought:

“I’m not getting ANY better at managing my anxiety”

-Renee, Pity Party 2019

What nonsense! I’ve been battling panic attacks and debilitating anxiety for years. And although I’m not cured, I’ve gotten a lot better at helping myself manage symptoms. In the interest of passing on knowledge, here’s what I’ve found works.

This post may contain affiliate links, which allow this anxious mama to fund her tea-drinking habit, which as you’ll know, is rather serious. For my details click here

Panic Attack Tip for people with anxiety from This Anxious Mum

How I calm a panic attack?

Sometimes, in the midst of panic, it’s easy to forget that the body is rather proficient at protecting itself and figuring out what’s best.

For example, it’s highly unlikely that you WILL actually pass out, or be sick from a panic attack, or that your chest will burst open like the dude from Alien.

What’s far more likely is that your panic attack, like most, with last for a maximum of 30 or so minutes before easing in severity and then eventually disappearing.

One of the keys to helping fade panic into the background is breathing, with a technique I mentioned in the graphic above.

Taking a slow, measured breath for the count of 4, holding for 4 and breathing out for 7 (or as long as I can) is the first step in how I calm panic attacks at night (or in the day!)

Using the breath is one of the fastest ways to “hack” the body into a state of calm. This is via the parasympathetic nervous system.

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How I calm down? By accepting reality

ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) involves a combination of dbt-like skills eg: (mindfulness and defusion) to move through emotions rather than using traditional thoughts based therapy like CBT.

In an ACT approach to panic attacks, instead of trying to “logic” my way out of a panic attack, I will first ACCEPT that this is my reality, that I am experiencing a moment of panic.

Perhaps I’ll name the worry or anxiety out loud.

Along with immediate thought defusion activities, daily mindfulness practice has also been extremely helpful to me when I’ve remembered to engage with it.

Below is one of the best books I’ve read on Acceptance & Commitment Therapy and the mindfulness script and exercises are often used in group therapy sessions.

I’ve also included a link to my favourite weighted blanket, which has helped me through many an anxious moment.

How I calm panic FAST? With TIPP skills

What is TIPP?

TIPP skills are a part of DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) a branch of CBT developed in the 1980’s to help treat patients with borderline personality disorder. The acronym stands for.

T- Temperature.

Make changes to your temperature (hot to cold, cold to hot) to bring your awareness back to the present

I- Intense Exercise.

A spurt of intense exercise to match your anxiety levels can be useful in regulating the breath.

P- Paced breathing.

As discussed above, paced breathing is a key way to “hack” your body into relaxing. The important part to remember about paced breathing is your exhalation should be longer than your inhalation.

P- Paired muscle relaxation.

Also called progressive muscle relaxation, this is one of the tips (or TIPPS) I do when I have more time on my hands, or if my panic happens at night before sleep. Here’s a favourite video of mine to listen to.

Summary:

Acknowledge the panic

Accept the situation

Use TIPP Skills

Looking for more help with calming panic attacks at night?

I want to recommend a self-development and mental health blogger named Kim Banwell (fellow Australian) who runs a series called Unmasking The Stigma. She interviewed me once too!

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that reading about thriving despite mental illness uplifting and inspiring, especially when you’re feeling down.

What’s helped you through a panic attack before? I’d love to know in the comments.

This Anxious Mum

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3 thoughts on “3 Skills For Calming Panic Attacks

  1. Great post! Some techniques I’ve tried is: realizing that the state of panic cannot and will not last forever. When I’m alone I’ll sing, which is a great way of regulating breathing. When I’m not alone, I’ll put a hand on my lap and concentrate on how it feels on my leg.
    And my husband figured out that when I’m talking my panic will go away, so he’ll keep me talking by asking questions.

    Best,

    Marisol

    1. Singing is the best! It is such a great way of regulating the breath and my grandma used to use it all the time when I was having a panic attack when I was little! 🙂

      Your husband sound like a great guy to have around in a panic attack too.

      All the best Marisol.

      Renee x

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