Survival tips for coping with panic attacks

Understanding the nature of panic attacks ----- Learning the survival tips for coping with stress and negative thinking ----- Practicing self-love and self-care to help maintain a healthy emotional balance ---- Dealing with catastrophising thinking

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Do you often wonder that you are going mad? Or about to lose control? Or that you are about to die? These thoughts are often mistaken and are misinterpretations what is actually going on. They can often be associated with panic attacks.

Panic attacks affect about 5% of the population and are defined by a sudden onset of intense apprehension, fear or terror accompanied by physical symptoms such as dizziness, shaking, palpitations and sweating.

Panic attacks are one of the symptoms of a build-up of stress. They are maintained by a combination of stressful life events, hypervigilance, avoidance and safety seeking behaviour and catastrophic misinterpretation of bodily symptoms and worry about the consequences. The problem with panic attacks is that your fear reaction has become oversensitive and is being triggered in a variety of apparently normal situations.

Here are some tips on coping with panic:

  • Try to remind yourself that feelings of panic are essentially normal reactions that are exaggerated. They are not, in themselves, dangerous and they will pass.
  • Slow down, relax but keep going. Try to observe what is happening in your body in the present tense. Keep your focus on now, not what might happen in the future.
  • Try not to fight the panic. Accept the feelings and let them run through you. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Breathe from your stomach and say the word ‘calm’ as you breathe out.
  • Try to stay in the situation, if it is safe to do so. To run away, avoid or escape will make things more difficult in the future. The temptation to avoid situations that cause anxiety is entirely normal. However, avoiding some situations that cause panic can lead to the development of phobias and loss of confidence.
  • Consciously relax your tense muscles. Drop your shoulders and feel yourself relaxing. Now begin to concentrate again on what you were doing before.

Once you understand what is going on with your body, half the battle is won. Learn to accept that you catastrophise your thinking and try to confront the situations you have been avoiding. 

Therapy will help in confronting 'here and now' feelings by creating a safe place to discuss your troubles and past emotional wounding. Dealing with anxious feelings might be challenging but will ultimately prove to be very rewarding. Learning to master difficult feelings can be hugely transforming and can lead to a new and empowering life.

Noel Bell

I have spent the past 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. I am integrative in my approach and tune my work to the uniqueness of each individual I work with.


Go to the profile of Chris Vincent
almost 4 years ago

Although this is a familiar presentation with clients, I find it really helpful to get a reminder of the basics of coping with panic attacks.   When there has been a gap in seeing a client with these symptoms it is easy to forget what might be helpful to offer them in terms of their everyday experience.   Thanks Noel, a helpful article.