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Panic Attacks: What Can I Do?

written by: alexisaiger • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 11/24/2010

Panic attacks make an individual feel as if they cannot control their bodies. The physical symptoms appear to occur instantly, overwhelming the individual. However, self help for panic attacks can help alleviate both the symptoms and the cause of the attacks.

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    Relaxation Techniques

    According to the Mayo Clinic, yoga and meditation provide self help for panic attacks. Both are good practices in providing self help for panic attacks . Dr. Timothy McCall, reporting in an article for the Yoga Journal, explains that the use of yoga techniques may help individuals burn nervous energy and give them better insight into the changes their body experiences when anxiety begins to set in. Further, Dr. McCall explains that meditation may help individuals recognize the incessant chatter in their minds and identify repetitive thoughts that escalate worry and panic. Regularly practicing yoga and mediation gives individuals better insight into the inner-workings of their bodies and gives individuals the tools to calm unnecessary anxiety before it develops into a panic attack.

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    Practice Deep Breathing

    When an individual has a panic attack, their heart rate increases and breathing becomes difficult. In reality, the individual is usually able to breathe, but their breathing is shallow and rapid. Self help techniques for panic attacks include practicing deep breathing. However, when an individual suffering from a panic attack takes a deep breath, they often do not do so correctly. Learning the technique of actual deep breathing is essential to calming the breathing pattern and reducing panic. First, the individual should place a hand just above the belt line on their abdomen and the other hand on their chest in order to feel what muscles are being used when breathing. Next the individual should sigh lightly as if slightly annoyed. While sighing, the shoulders should relax and dip down releasing tension in the upper body. After relaxing the upper body the individual should close their mouth and pause for three seconds. Then the individual should keep their mouth closed and slowly inhale through their nose by expanding their abdomen. After inhaling as much air as possible without involving the chest muscles, pause for a comfortable amount of time. The person should then exhale through their mouth slowly. Pause again and repeat the inhalation and exhalation until feelings of panic and anxiety recede.

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    Challenge Panic-Inducing Thoughts

    Panic attacks come from absurdly exaggerated thoughts that are untrue and unfounded. Although these thoughts are absurd and unfounded, the individual's body reacts to these thoughts as if they were real and possible, hurling the individual into the midst of physical symptoms in the form of a panic attack. An individual may obtain self help for panic attacks by challenging these exaggerated thoughts. Challenging the frightening thoughts helps the individual feel in control of the situation once again, thereby lessening the feelings of panic. To challenge the thought, the individual should first identify the situation that causes anxiety and panic. Once the situation is identified, the individual should identify the physical sensation the situation gives them and the frightening thoughts that accompany the sensations. When the situation, sensation and thoughts are identified, the individual should challenge the thought by identifying that the thought is ridiculous, exaggerated and unfounded. Challenge the thought out loud, silently or on paper. Whatever the method used for challenging the thought, the individual should make note of reduced anxiety caused by disputing the thoughts and congratulate themselves for reducing the anxiety and heading off a panic attack.

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    Educate Yourself

    Perhaps one of the most helpful tips for self help for panic attacks is to educate oneself about panic attacks and anxiety. Through education an individual should come to realize that a panic attack is the body responding properly to what it perceives as an actual threat thanks to exaggerated and unfounded messages sent from the mind. When the individual predicts or envisions failure in a future situation, the body responds to the perceived threat of the situation. Realizing that a panic attack is simply the body responding to untrue thoughts will help an individual realize the need to change the images, thoughts and predictions in order to control the body's physical reponse and reduce anxiety and panic.