I have noticed that the one incident that is apt to get someone into therapy is when he or she starts having panic attacks. The way I see it, is that a panic attack is your body’s attempt to get your attention. Maybe your mind or emotions has tried to say they are having a problem and you have consistently ignored them. So one day your body goes into a full-blown panic attack and you are all ears. Your body notices and stops everything to listen. After that, whether it is a small or big issue that the body wants you to pay attention to, it throws a full panic to get you to pay attention to the message. People can have many in a day.
Fortunately, you cannot pay attention to other things and the panic attack at the same time. There are a few things you can try to get the panic attack off track.
Write down on an index card or in your notes in your phone exactly what the symptoms of your panic attack are. Everyone panic attack is slightly different. Example; start to feel thirsty, have heart palpitations, get shaky or weak, need to sit down, become terrified or many other similar symptoms. When you start to have a panic attack, look at your list and mentally check off what has already happened and read ahead to what will happen next. By going from your body into your mind by paying attention to your list, you start to feel more in control and less afraid. You will need to go through all the steps, but they tend to last a shorter amount of time and feel less severe. This is especially good if you cannot get up and move.
If you can move then this tip works even better. By doing some kind a vigorous or not so vigorous exercise you can override your body’s desire to be having a panic attack. Running, jumping jacks, standing up then sitting down quickly or any other quick moves tends to short circuit the panic attack. In other words your body can’t be doing two things at the same time.
This is a tip someone recently shared with me. She called it count down 5,4,3,2,1. It uses your five senses to short-circuit your panic attack. First notice five objects near you and pay close attention to each one. Next listen to four sounds you can hear and name them. Follow that with touching three things and thinking about how they feel. Next, identify two smells in the air and lastly notice what you taste in your mouth. For this last one, you could carry a favorite taste with you that you only use when you are practicing this process.
All these tips way lay your panic attack, but realize you got the attack in the first place to get your attention that there is something you need to pay attention to and release. I find this ‘something’ is often an unresolved trauma. When you are able, this is a good time to find someone to help you resolve the issue.