TIPS FOR DEALING WITH PANIC ATTACKS
BY KALI MUNRO, M.Ed., Psychotherapist, 2001
Feeling panic or having panic attacks can be very frightening. You might experience your heart racing, have difficulty catching your breath, and feel pains in your chest. You might hyperventilate, perspire, feel dizzy or nauseous, and tremble. Not surprisingly, people sometimes think that they are dying.
There are different ways to deal with and even avoid panic attacks. It can help to recognize the signs of panic as early as possible, because sometimes you can prevent a full-blown panic attack by finding ways to calm yourself in the initial stages. Here are a few suggestions:
- When you’re not in a panicked state, make a list of the things that you’re afraid will happen. Then write out calming things that tell you the opposite of your fears, that you can repeat to yourself when the panic starts to come.
- Prepare a list of things to do in case of panicked feelings and it will be ready for you when you need it. Fill it with lots of soothing messages and ideas of calming things to do.
- Slow your breathing down. Breathing more slowly and deeply has a calming effect. One good way to do this is to let all the air out of your lungs. This forces your lungs to reach for a deeper breath next time. Continue to focus on your out-breath, letting all the air out of your lungs and soon you’ll find your breathing is deeper and you feel calmer.
- Press your feet, one at a time, into the ground. Feel how connected and rooted they are to the ground. An even better way is to lie down with your bottom near a wall. Place your feet against the wall (your knees are bent) and press your feet one at a time into the wall. If you can breathe in as you press your foot against the wall, and breathe out as you release it, it will be more effective. Alternate between your feet. Do this for 10 – 15 minutes.
- Take Bach’s Rescue Remedy (Flower Remedy). This can help to take the edge off a crisis or panic attack. You can take a few drops under your tongue or drink a glass of water with a few drops in it. If you need to, you can take Rescue Remedy every 15 minutes. For terror, take the Bach’s Flower Remedy called Rock Rose, it is excellent. You take it the same way as Rescue Remedy.
- Put a little bit of lavender essence oil on your body, or inhale it. Lavender oil has a calming, soothing effect. Try putting a few drops of lavender essence oil into some oil (olive or grapeseed oil will do) and rub on your body. Keep a prepared mixture in a dark glass bottle for when you need it. You can even prepare several bottles, with a small one to carry with you. You can also put a few drops of pure essential oil on your pillow or clothes, or on a lightbulb ring (especially for essential oils and fragrance). Or place a few drops of lavender oil in a small amount of water in a spray bottle and spray your room with it.
- Essential oils known to help panic attacks are helichrysum, frankincense, and majoram. Smell each of them, and use what smells best to you, or a combination of your favourite oils mixed in olive or grapeseed oil.
- Breathe into a brown paper bag. If you have lavender essence oil, put in one or two drops for added calming. It might sound silly, but it actually helps you to breathe more fully and to feel calmer.
- Use all of your senses to take full notice of what you see, hear, feel, and smell in your environment. This will help you to remain present. Panic is generally associated with remembering upsetting events from the past or anticipating something upsetting in the future. Anything that helps keep you focussed in the present will be calming. Here are some suggestions for doing that: holding a pet; looking around your room and noticing the colours, textures, and shapes; listening closely to the sounds you hear; calling a friend; and smelling the smells that are near you.
Panic can be a very scary thing to go through, especially if you’re alone. Preparing for when the panic comes can really help reduce the panic, and even sometimes help to prevent it.