What to Do After a Panic Attack

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If you have panic attacks, you know they can be a frightening experience with after effects that can be extremely challenging to manage. However, by following the steps provided here, you may be able to find some relief and get back on track after panic strikes.

What a Panic Attack Is Like

Imagine that you're driving to work when you're suddenly overcome with feelings of dread and fear. Your heart feels as though it's pounding out of your chest, causing pain throughout your upper body, and you have difficulty breathing. You become increasingly afraid as you begin shaking and sweating. Your legs and hands feel like there are pins and needles in them and you begin to have a sense of nausea come over you.

You think that this can’t be happening to you. You almost get a sense that you're watching yourself from a distance, feeling completing disconnected from yourself and your surroundings. You pull over to the side of the road, fearing that you will lose control of your car or possibly pass out behind the wheel.

Just as quickly as your symptoms set in, you notice that these sensations are gradually subsiding. But even when you realize the panic attack has passed, you still feel anxious and keyed up. It takes you awhile to refocus and get back on the road. The rest of your day is marked by a sense of nervousness and apprehension.

These attacks can have an emotional, physical, and cognitive impact that may affect you long after the attack has diminished. After experiencing a panic attack, you may find it difficult to pull yourself back together.

Here are some ways to find relief after a panic attack.

Stop and Breathe

During a panic attack, you may experience constricted breathing and chest pain. This shortness of breath may have caused you to feel like you're not getting enough air or to experience suffocating or choking sensations. Constricted breathing often contributes to a sense of chest pain that's common with panic attacks. Chest pain and difficulty breathing can be very frightening, leaving you feeling anxious throughout the rest of your day.

To counteract panic-induced shortness of breath, try deep breathing. Once you notice that your symptoms are lessening, begin to breathe slowly and purposefully. Take a deep, smooth, even breath through your nose. Once you have taken in as much air as you can, hold your breath for a moment or two. Then gradually exhale through your mouth until you feel as though there isn't any air left in your lungs.

Try repeating this pattern of inhaling slowly through your nose, briefly holding your breath, and exhaling slowly out of your mouth. By practicing deep breathing exercises throughout your day, you may be able to manage your anxiety more often, leading you to feel a greater sense of calm.

Use Positive Self-Talk

Panic attacks can leave you feeling worried, nervous, and afraid. When the attack is occurring, you may have fearful thoughts about losing control or even possibly dying from the attack. Once the attack begins to dissipate, you may feel embarrassed or down about your experience with panic. You may even begin to ​stress about when the next attack is going to occur.

To overcome the negative thoughts that panic attacks can bring on, try using positive self-talk and affirmations to enhance your mood and gain a sense of control. When the panic attack is ending, remind yourself that it will be over soon and that it cannot hurt you. Think empowering thoughts and affirmations, such as repeating silently to yourself, “I am in control of my anxiety,” “This will pass,” “I am a worthwhile person with a lot of great qualities,” or “I am stronger than my panic attacks.” If thoughts of self-blame arise, try your best to forgive yourself, counteract the self-blame with affirmations, and move on with your day.

Talk to a Loved One

If possible, it may be helpful to contact a loved one to talk things through. You don’t even need to tell your friend or family member that you just had a panic attack. Rather, you can call your loved one up to merely chitchat. You may find that simply talking to someone you trust will make you feel better as your panic attack symptoms decrease.

If no one is available or it’s impractical for you to contact someone after your panic attack, then try to consider what a trusted friend or family member would say to you. Think about how a supportive friend may tell you that you will get through your anxiety or that he or she is proud of you for handling your panic attack so well.

Refocus on Something Else

After a panic attack, your personal thoughts and energy may be overly focused on your anxiety and other symptoms. Instead of feeding your anxiety with more attention or worry, try to concentrate on something that brings you some happiness or sense of peace. For example, you may find it helpful to bring your awareness to something fun you plan on doing in the future or to joyful times from your past. If possible, try taking a walk in fresh air or engage in an activity you enjoy to help clear your mind.

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