According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, roughly six million adults in the U.S. suffer from panic disorder, and women are twice as likely to have PD as men. A panic attack can last for mere minutes, but it feels a whole lot longer. Recently on Reddit, users offered their own tips for getting through a panic attack — an experience that can leave you with a tight chest, sweating, shaking, dizzy, and feeling totally out of control. Scary? Definitely.
Although researchers don't know with 100 percent certainty what causes panic attacks, we still have a rough idea. As HelpGuide.org explains, panic attacks are largely hereditary, for starters. Huge life transitions can also trigger them — like graduating or getting married. Severe stress is another culprit, as are medical conditions including hyperthyroidism and hypoglycemia.
Anyone who has had a panic attack knows simply being told to calm down doesn't cut it. When you feel like your life is spinning out of control and your body is working against you, getting a grip can feel next to impossible. There are things that can help, though. Here's what 13 people have to say about simple things they've done to take the edge off their own panic attacks.
1. Practice Mindfulness
Your thoughts totally lose focus when you're having a panic attack; it makes sense, then, that doing something to bring things back in focus could help you calm down. One study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found a combination of mindfulness, self-compassion, and "psychology flexibility" could aid in recovery for people with PTSD. Another study published in Reviews in the Neurosciences found mindfulness might help reduce stress and improve the quality of life in people with Alzheimer's. Yet another study published in Stress and Health found mindfulness can encourage stress reduction.
The next time you start to panic, try finding something tangible and concrete, and zero in on it until the worst of the attack passes.
2. Keep Yourself Grounded
Having a to-do list helps us stay organized and on-track throughout the day; why not have a to-do list for when a panic attack strikes? Having a step-by-step plan for how to chill out could be just what you need.
3. Set Yourself Up For Easy Breathing
Even the thought of a tight collar or a dry throat can make it harder to breathe; so, take steps to make it easier. If it's as simple as always making sure your have water on you and not wearing restrictive clothing, make sure you're properly prepared.
While a panic attack makes it feel like everything is closing in on you, sometimes, all it takes it little adjustments like this to help you feel like you have some room to breathe — literally.
4. Make Your Breathing Deliberate
If all else feels impossible, aim to keep breathing, and leave it at that. Research published in the International Journal of Yoga concluded slow breathing exercises can effectively reduce stress. More research published in Medical Acupuncture found controlled yogic breathing helped alleviate the symptoms of PTSD in three veterans.
Breathing is so simple, and yet science says it can have a significant impact.
5. Cuddle Up With A Furry Friend
You already know pets are good for your health; but they may be particularly beneficial when you're in the midst of a panic attack. A study published in Hypertension found a connection between pet ownership and lower blood pressure response to mental stress. When you're feeling totally overwhelmed and like the walls are caving in on you, a little quality time with your four-legged friend might ease your stress.
6. Let It Be
We all deal with panic attacks differently. If riding it out and letting it happen is what works for you, then do it. The important thing is to remember it will end — it's only a matter of time. Focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.
7. Take Magnesium
Proper supplementation can make a world of difference in your physical and emotional wellbeing. In the case of people who have panic attacks, magnesium might be something you consider. While more research is needed, in one study using dogs published in the Open Veterinary Journal, researchers found magnesium levels might be influenced by nervousness and stress — leading to a depleted storage. Does it stand to reason supplementing with magnesium could possibly help bring relief from panic attacks? Maybe.
8. Find Perspective
Panic attacks can make it seem like a problem that, in truth, is minor is actually monstrous. Even if you don't feel this way, simply reminding yourself that your problems aren't unbeatable like they seem they are might be enough to help you find your happy place. You know what they say: fake it 'til you make it.
9. Find Something Square-Shaped
It's a random little trick, but maybe it works by giving you something so specific to work on and a sort of task to complete. Keeping your mind busy when you're falling apart at the seams could likely work in your favor. If this doesn't cut it for you, another form of distraction might.
10. Look For The Bright Side
Positive thinking is always a good idea. Even the Mayo Clinic says focusing on positive thoughts can help you better manage stress and improve your health. Even if it's something really small, find a silver lining when you're mid-panic attack. It might be the beautiful sunshine, your make-up (which is totally on point), or how much you love your dog.
11. Shock The Body
Hopping into a cold shower (or pool, or ocean) can increase your tolerance to stress and possibly even disease, according to one study published in ScienceDirect. It does this by decreasing your uric acid levels and increasing the gluthathione — which helps antioxidants perform at optimum levels.
12. Get A Foot Massage
ChineseFootReflexology.com says you can alleviate your state of stress simply by massaging five specific spots on your foot. Also, it feels amazing — which may help fight panic in and of itself. Who doesn't love a good foot massage?!
13. Belt Out Some Tunes
A study published in Music and Health pointed out what many of us already know to be true: singing can lower stress, reduce anxiety, and boost your endorphins. Even if it's just in the shower, singing along with some of your favorite jams could bring your mind some peace and quiet.