Perhaps just as bad as a panic attack is the long process of trying to feel better after a panic attack. If you've ever had one, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. The fearfulness can subside. The heavy breathing can calm down. And yet you're still left feeling like a shell of a human, with no idea what to do next.
This is the nature of panic attacks. They are scary, and they are draining. "After a panic attack the body is exhausted," says Dr. Michele Barton in an interview with Bustle. "Some have termed this feeling 'emotional hangover,' which is exactly accurate. After firing on all cylinders, the body has depleted its most needed resources and used up almost all the energy you had available."
Some people compare this "hangover" feeling to the flu, or even an actual hangover, according to Barton. And others say they feel a bit depressed afterwards, too. Depending on the severity of your attack, these symptoms can last for days, which isn't good when you'd really like to feel better now. So let's make that your top priority, shall we? Below are some tips for righting yourself, and feeling better after a panic attack ASAP.
1. Replenish Your Body
Since your body was just put through the ringer, you're going to want to replenish it in as many ways as possible — kind of like you would with a real hangover. As Barton suggests, you should rest, drink plenty of fluids, restore your electrolytes (think Gatorade), and eat a good meal. Covering all these bases will hopefully set things right, and help you feel better sooner rather than later.
2. Focus Your Attention On Something Else
After a panic attack, your personal thoughts and energy can zone in on your anxiety and symptoms, according to Katharina Star, PhD, on VeryWell.com. So lying around and mulling it over isn't always the best idea. Instead, you'll want to focus your attention elsewhere, like on a relaxing task or hobby. Occupying your mind will ward off negative thoughts, and help keep the panicky feelings at bay.
3. Think Of Positive Mantras
Yes, panic attacks can leave you feeling pretty crummy physically. But they can also have quite the mental affect, too. You might feel that depression I was talking about, or a sense of embarrassment (even though you shouldn't.) You might even feel some intense brain fog. If any of that's the case, it can help to think positive thoughts. As Star said, "... try using positive self-talk and affirmations to enhance your mood and gain a sense of control." Thinking along the lines of "I am in control of my anxiety" can help.
4. Try Some Herbal Supplements
Knowing you should relax is one thing, but being able to do so is something entirely different. So if you need a little extra help chilling out, you might want to try herbs such as Kava, Passionflower, or Valerian Root to help the process along. "Those three are the most effective herbs for relieving anxiety," noted an article on CalmClinic.org. Just be sure to check with your doctor first.
5. Chat With A Loved One
Not everyone "gets" panic attacks, but you still might want to reach out to friends and/or family for some moral support. "You don’t even need to tell your friend or family member that you just had a panic attack," Star said. "You may find that simply talking to someone you trust will make you feel better as your panic attack symptoms decrease." It's definitely worth a try.
6. Pay Attention To Your Surroundings
Since panic attacks can make the world look and feel unreal, it can really help to focus on the sensations around you as a way of coming back to reality. What do your clothes feel like against your skin? How do your feet feel on the floor? What sounds can you hear nearby? Paying attention to these senses will hopefully shake off that bizarre dreamlike state, and make you feel human again.
7. Take Some Deep Breaths
A panic attack can really affect your breathing, so you might feel lightheaded or out of breath post-attack. If so, deep breathing can really come in handy. "Once you notice that your symptoms are lessening, begin to breathe slowly and purposefully," Star suggested. Breathe in and hold, and then breathe out slowly. It'll help your body return to normal.
8. Take A Nap
If you feel utterly drained — and you probably will — don't hesitate to hop into bed for a quick nap. Just don't turn it into an all day thing, as it might make you feel worse. "Set your cell phone alarm for 30 minutes or less if you don't want to wake up groggy," noted Jennifer Soong on WebMD.com. That short rest should be just what you need.
9. Go For A Walk
If a nap is out of the question, then at the very least get yourself outside for a walk. "Walking provides visual stimulation and improves blood and air flow," noted CalmClinic.org. If you're still feeling dumfounded by the whole experience, a breath of fresh air will help bring you back to life.
10. Spend Five Minutes In Meditation
If your mind is racing, then purposefully slow things down with a bit of meditation. A simple five minutes to focus on your breath should do the trick, especially if you're still feeling so out of control.
11. Be Really Nice To Yourself
Above everything else, be really nice to yourself after a panic attack. Those things are mighty draining, and scary, and uncomfortable, so the least you can do is treat yourself well afterward. Take a bath, curl up with some snacks, watch your favorite movie — anything that will make you feel comfy and relaxed.
And remember, there are treatments for panic attacks. If they keep coming back, don't be afraid to ask for help.
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