There are a great many ways to put the breaks on a spiraling panic attack. I thought this to be a good time to list a few of them as sort of a “gift” to many of my followers. (Please note that these can be used alone or in combination with other techniques, and that some will not work for everyone. My best advice would be to try these out and see what works for you.)
It is very important, however, that you learn to recognize the signs of your panic attack as early in its life as possible. Once you learn to do this, you will be way ahead of the game, as you will be able to employ these techniques when the attack is still weak.
List (A few of the many):
1. Close Your Eyes: This may sound beyond silly (as will others) but it does work. Closing your eyes stops the flow of input to your brain, and that is a KEY factor in the unraveling of a panic attack.
2. Meditate: This can be done almost any time or place. It is usually done with your eyes closed; and its goal is to have you visualize a calm and relaxed place in order to soothe your nerves and slow down your heart rate. You can repeat a mantra (relaxing phrase upon which you focus) if you like.
3. Make a “support list”: Write down a list of your “supporters,” the people who make you feel strong, who help you, and who make your life better. Such examples would be: family, friends, doctors, clergy, counselors, me, and others. The idea is to see how loved you are and to know that these people are there to help you and keep you strong.
4. Take cleansing breaths: This will slow down your heart rate and relax you.
5. Touch something cool: Place something cool against your forehead or press your wrists against a cool object such as a window pane, metal object or furniture. You could even run cool water over your wrists if you like. This will not only distract you (disrupt flow of input to the brain) but also reduce body heat. It can stop you from sweating, which is common in a panic attack.
6. Stay in a “safe” place: You may feel more comfortable in a place from which you know you can easily leave if necessary. For example, in a movie theater you may feel more secure in an aisle seat. This alone may relax you enough to keep you calm.
7. Have a cool drink of water: This is elf-explanatory.
8. Self-talk: This is a relaxation technique in which you mentally (or even out loud if you can) tell yourself all sorts of positive things to reinforce a good mood and the feeling that nothing bad is going to happen to you. In some cases you can use this in number 9…
9. Tell someone: If you are lucky enough to have a sympathetic person who is willing to lend an ear, it might help you to relax by “unburdening” all of your fears to them. This will help you eliminate irrational thought and enforce the rational.
10. Visualize success: Don’t simply tell yourself that good things will happen, visualize them. Shut your eyes and have a little “daydream” in which you go through your upcoming events with a positive outcome. This technique has been used by athletes for decades. Practice success and it will happen.
11.Inspirational messages: Find a positive or inspirational message someplace, (anyplace – even try Googling it). Find something that inspires you with confidence and good feelings. Then, print it on a piece of paper and carry that paper with you. When you feel bad, pull out the piece of paper and read it over and over.
12. Pray: some people get great results from the power of prayer. If you feel like it, then pray.
13: Music: Some people use music to relax. Music is often employed in mediation. They have special music designed for this. This does not mean that you have to do it this way. You can listen to any music you like if it helps. Personally I find that dark music just makes me feel darker, so I usually stick to uplifting sounds.
14. Television: Some people can relax by watching a TV show that distracts them. Personally, I find that comedies work best for me because they make me laugh and that releases endorphins. If I am in a panic mode, I avoid crime dramas, hospital shows, and TV news, though others may prefer to be scared as a distraction. Whatever works best for you is fine (This also applies to movies.)
15. Play a game: Sometimes games can distract us and put us feeling back to normal (whatever that really is). I often find that games such as solitaire and other games that put things in order help give me a sense of structure and calmness. (This also applies to puzzles if you like them – they also work well.)
16.Play an instrument: If you are lucky enough to be able to play a musical instrument, this would be a good time to play it. A person can transfer their emotions into a song. I often play my guitar right before I do something that makes me nervous (but I close my door because I am so bad at it that I don’t want anyone else to hear me.)
17. Exercise: Expending physical energy will often relax you. Do something physical, even if it is only a household chore. And if it doesn’t work, at least your house will be clean. (Having a clean house alone might give you a better sense of order and control.) Take a walk, mow the lawn, shovel snow, cook – whatever.
18. Write: Some people find that if they can express their feelings in the written word, the leave their body and are captured on the page. Poets are notorious for being dark and depressing people, except for Dr. Seuss; but I bet even he had his blue moments other than “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.”
19. Punch a pillow or soft furniture: This best helps if there is a large component of anger in your attack. It is a way to transfer feeling into something else. Note: do NOT hit anything hard or solid – I know from personal experience!
20. Positive future: List the positive things that are upcoming in your future. This might be something as simple as a birthday, holiday or vacation. List the reasons for you to be happy. No matter how bad you feel, everyone has at least a few – and if you don’t, call me up and I will give you some.
21: Take a drive: This one does not work for me, but some people find this relaxing. It gets their mind off of their problem and onto a relaxing drive.
22. Sit in an isolated place: Places such as beaches and parks are well-known relaxers. This is because they have very little stimuli, other than what is relaxing. However, if you encounter a bear, I retract that last statement.
23. Take a shower or bath: Do I really need to explain how this relaxes a person? I didn’t think so. And don’t give me the excuse that there’s no more hot water. If so, then come to my house – I have plenty to share – that’s where I have group sessions. Just don’t tell my wife…and that leads us to number 24…
24. Laugh: Read a joke…SMILE!!