If you have ever had a panic attack, you understand just how debilitating and terrifying they can be. When you are experiencing a panic attack, your body and nervous system go into fight or flight mode, battling off an unseen threat that attacks from within.
Often, after a panic attack there may be a feeling of guilt that surfaces. It can be incredibly difficult to move forward after going through this, as we may wonder “why wasn't I able to calm down? Why couldn’t I help myself?” we may even feel embarrassed or ashamed of going through this. I want to let you know that there is no shame in this experience. We will only hurt ourselves more by berating or punishing ourselves after the fact.
Instead, with immense courage, we can choose to move forward after a panic attack in grace, compassion, and dedicated recovery. It is possible to heal from this, and to create safety within our bodies and minds so that panic attacks become less frequent, and less damaging when they do occur.
Read on as I share 3 tried and true ways to navigate the beginning, middle, and/ or end of a panic attack with grace and compassion for yourself:
-Create a Care Kit. There are certain sights, smells, and feelings that can dramatically help us to calm down and find comfort in moments of need. Take a moment to write down a few things that you already own (or that are inexpensive to buy) that genuinely bring you a feeling of comfort and ease. This can be a stuffed animal from childhood (or a new one!), your favorite sweatshirt, a lavender scented candle, a weighted blanket (or normal blanket!), photos of people you love, a box of chamomile tea, and anything else that feels supportive and cozy. Gather these items into a cute basket or drawer so that they are easily accessible and already gathered together. Next time you feel anxiety or a panic attack coming on, go ahead and grab your Care Kit and focus your senses on the comforting sights, smells, tastes and feelings of the items in it. Focus on making yourself as comfortable as possible, and check in with what you’re noticing in your body and mind as you start to feel a little safer.
-Affirmations and breathwork. These tools have drastically helped me to move through and recover from panic attacks. It is so important to tend to the mind and to the breath as these two factors can cause us to spiral deeper into panic, or they can help to pull us out quickly and safely. First, find an accessible resource of affirmations that you can easily connect to and listen to anytime you need. There are a few affirmation practices in the Vibes Tribe Affirmation Studio that focus on panic attacks and anxiety, so give those a look. Otherwise, I recommend searching ‘Affirmations for Panic Attacks’ on Youtube, and possibly even downloading the track to your phone or laptop. When you feel a panic attack coming on, don't wait- queue up your affirmation track and begin listening and repeating the affirmations. Keep this playing until you start to feel your body coming back to balance and your mind relaxing. Do your best to incorporate breathwork by taking one deep breath between each affirmation. To quickly soothe and shift your nervous system into the Parasympathetic state, make each exhale one or two counts longer than your inhales. Stick with this breathing pattern as long as possible.
-Phone a friend. Connecting with someone who genuinely loves, understands, and supports you can be deeply healing. Not everyone may have someone they can call for support during or after an experience like this and that’s okay. Perhaps you can call a therapist or even call a crisis hotline, as they will help to talk you down from your panic. There is no shame in reaching out for help! If you have a partner, best friend, or trusted person in your life that you feel safe discussing these things with, share with them that you sometimes struggle with anxiety and panic attacks and ask them if they feel comfortable holding space for you either during or after these moments. Respect their boundaries and move forward from there. Remember, crisis hotlines are always an option to remind you that you are not alone and there are people who will listen right now. Additionally, if you feel the need to share your experience but don’t want to talk about it, write about it in your journal and don’t hold back. You are not alone, and there are people who love and support you.
Remember that panic attacks and anxiety do not define you. You are not your feelings. You are so much stronger than these challenges that you face and you are worthy of love, peace, and healing. Give these tips a try and remember that it is your responsibility to care for yourself and to honor your needs. While that may be a little scary, it can also be deeply empowering.
You are so loved.
Check out the crisis hotline numbers below and don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you need it.
9-8-8 : Suicide and Emotional Distress Hotline for USA
Remedylive.com : Online 24/7 chat center for mental health and emotional distress