How to cope with panic attacks

You can’t always get rid of panic attacks completely, but you can learn how to live with them.

You will need:

  • acceptance
  • deep breathing
  • visualisation
  • muscle relaxation exercises
  • a support group
  • a cognitive behaviour therapist
  • anti-anxiety medication
  • Optional: a paper bag.

Step one: Accept the fact that you are having an attack. Facing panic head-on reduces its intensity.

Step two: Be realistic. Remind yourself that you are not in any real danger.

Step three: Rate your level of panic on a scale of one to ten. Sufferers find that this simple exercise somehow makes an attack more tolerable. When you have a calm, quiet moment, think about what triggers your attack. If you understand what causes them, you might be able to reduce them.

Step four: Take a few deep breaths. Place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach as you inhale deeply and exhale slowly. The hand on your chest should barely move, the other should rise up and down.

Step five: Now picture yourself in a favourite, peaceful place, like in the mountains or on the beach.

Step six: Release tension by tightening each muscle in your body for approximately five seconds before moving on to the next. If you begin to hyperventilate, breathe into a paper bag for about 10 minutes. This will diminish your symptoms by raising your carbon dioxide levels.

Step seven: Join a support group where other sufferers can share their tips and techniques for coping with and conquering panic attacks.

Step eight: Consider getting therapy. Cognitive behaviour therapy is especially useful in helping panic attack sufferers learn to cope with their fears.

Step nine: Ask your doctor or therapist if you are a good candidate for anti-anxiety medication.

Did you know, for unknown reasons, women have twice as many panic attacks as men?