How to Calm Panic Attacks

Have you ever woken in the middle of the night to find that you can’t breathe, or that your mind is racing? Do you get a sudden rush of sweat and feel clammy shakiness too? Maybe you feel you can’t calm your mind during these episodes. Learning how to calm panic attacks is critical, giving you the opportunity to get back to feeling normal again.

A panic attack is your body’s response to stress, fear or ‘danger’. It’s how your body would react if you were faced with a dangerous situation, in fact these bodily reactions helped us protect ourselves and survive animal attacks at one time in our ancient history. It’s known as the “fight or flight” response. Unfortunately, nowadays our bodies do not know the difference between perceived danger, and panic or stress.

When our sympathetic nervous system reacts with the physical sensations mentioned above, it’s important to have some tools to calm this reaction or engage the parasympathetic nervous system. This would be the calm reaction we get after we realize that we are safe. Some ways to stop your panic/stress reaction and fire up your parasympathetic nervous system, involve getting your body to calm down through sensorial stimulation.

Here are some tips and strategies that can provide immediate relief and help calm a panic attack:

  • Getting out of bed if that’s where you are
  • Have a hot shower, or if you can adapt to cold water, a shower that alternates between cold and hot water is even better
  • Place a bag of ice cubes along your jawline, forehead and face for a few moments
  • Do some vigorous movement like 5 burpees or 10 jumping jacks if your physical health allows
  • Try some yoga – a sun salutation done 3 to 5 times is a great idea if your physical health allows
  • Have a cold glass of water or a warm cup of herbal tea
  • Try square breathing: Breath in for 4, hold for 4 breath out for 4, hold for 4

If these symptoms happen frequently or over a long period of time it is recommended that you see your doctor. Therapy is also highly recommended as a preventative method for panic attacks. Therapists at Focus Mental Wellness are trained to help with coping strategies to manage stress and anxiety which can be cause of panic attacks. Feel free to browse the Focus Mental Wellness therapist roster to find a therapist that might be a good fit for you!