Panic Attacks Advice
Patience Domowski, LCSW
Panic attacks usually include difficulty breathing, hyperventilating (short, shallow breaths), trouble controlling your breathing, feeling overwhelmed, severely anxious, sometimes racing thoughts, pounding heartbeat, and other symptoms.
Panic attacks usually occur when in an anxiety-producing situation like a large crowd, feeling confused and overwhelmed over school or work assignments, or other environments or thoughts that cause anxiety. Sometimes panic attacks come out of nowhere too for no specific reason.
Here are some ways to calm down during a panic attack:
If possible, Go to quiet space away from crowds and people (At school go to the hallway, bathroom, nurse’s office, guidance office. Don’t stay in a crowded hallway or classroom, if possible). If you feel the panic attack is going to start soon, try to preemptively leave the area.
Focus on breathing. Try to take Deep Slow Breaths from your stomach, not from your chest. You can try breathing into a paper lunch bag too, if available.
Don't think about why you are panicking, or what is causing the attack. Try not to think about anything anxiety related, or trying to figure out why you are panicking. Focus on calming. Think about a happy place or memory. Say in your head a calming word over and over like “Peace”, “Calm”, “Chocolate”, or the name of your pet, for example. Pick a calming word in advance to use for when you’re having a hard time.
If your panic attacks are happening several days a week and also affecting your life – such as interrupting school day, causing you to not be able to go to school or work, etc, consider medication and therapy. Therapy can help you discuss what makes you anxious and come up with some coping strategies. Medication can help calm your anxiety in general, and a rescue medication you can take when you’re panicking that can calm your body down immediately.