Can you feel your heart racing? Finding it difficult to breathe? Feel like the world is closing in? Feeling a loss of control? Chances are, you're having a panic attack. Here are five ways to help calm yourself down and feel at ease again.
Method One: Go for a walk.
Now bear with me on this one. I know what it sounds like: "A walk?! How's that going to help? What next? Kale?! Yoga?! I need help now, not half assed suggestions!"
It's not your average walk in the park. No, this is called a mindful walk. Go through the motions of how it is you walk, from the sensations of your foot pressing against your shoe, the toe, the ball of your foot, the heal pressing against the ground. The weight that shifts on to that foot. Each individual sensation your body is feeling. It's ok if your mind wanders back to panic; just gently bring your attention back to the physical sensations your body is experiencing as you walk.
This can be done anywhere, even in a room. Just take it slow, pay close attention to the movements of your body, your muscles and your bones. If you turn to walk the other way, think about how that works. How does your body move in the turn?
Method Two: Ice
If you have access to ice, hold it in your hand as hard as possible. Feel the sensation of the cold and how it feels pressed against your skin. How does your hand feel as the ice melts? Really focus on the sensations in your hand.
Method Three: Body Scan
Sit down either in a chair or on the floor. Close your eyes and divert your attention to your scalp. How does it feel? Is it tense or relaxed? What about your forehead? Try to ease the tension in your forehead and smoothen your brow. Now continue with the eyes, the jaw, the neck, the chest. All the way down to where your body is in contact with whatever you're sat on. How does it feel? Is it hard or soft, cold or warm?
Method Four: Drink a hot or cold beverage.
Not only will this help calm your breathing, in turn it will help decrease your erratic heart rate as a result. Take slow, long sips. If you're unable to, start with short sips until you're able to take longer ones. How does it taste? How does it make your tongue feel? Can you feel it travel down your throat? How does your stomach feel? Focus on these sensations. Pay attention to only the sensations. If your attention diverts back to the source of your panic, that's okay. Just lovingly bring your attention back to your drink and how it feels.
Method Five: Lists
Begin to list things around you using your senses.
Think of 5 things you can hear around you. What are they?
Think of 4 things you can see. What do they look like? Bright or dark? Soft or hard? What shapes?
Think of 3 things you can feel; your clothes, your hair, your skin, your shoes, the floor. How do they feel?
Think of 2 things you can smell. Is it something sweet or sour? Is it a good or bad smell?
Think of 1 things you can taste. What did you last eat or drink? Can you still taste toothpaste?
All these methods are based in Mindfulness and grounding techniques. They work for panic attacks and people suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder.
Mindfulness is a psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment. Derived from Buddihst meditation techniques. In Buddhist teachings, mindfulness is utilized to develop self-knowledge and wisdom that gradually lead to what is described as enlightenment or the complete freedom from suffering, brought to us in the West by Professor Jon Kabat- Zinn.
I know first hand the perils of a panic attack, and whilst when reading it can seem kind of silly that something so basic could help when you're this distressed. But trust me, they do help, as long as you're willing to try. Do not berate yourself or disregard these methods if they don't work for you straight away; just bring your attention back to the method with understanding and kindness.
And above all, remember: this too shall pass.