It’s easy to lose sight of reality during a panic attack. Raw, chaotic panic seems to impact our emotions, body, behavior and perspective, shifting an otherwise “normal” moment into one of survival. Suddenly, grocery store shopping or a short car drive becomes an act of war, fighting off the terror and warning signals flashing through our heads, telling us we ought to turn around, stop the car, or even call an ambulance.
When an onslaught of panic and stress comes our way, how do we respond? How do we successfully navigate panic attacks to where they don’t steal our peace or joy in a day? We’ve outlined five tools for you to explore, learn, and utilize the next time an anxiety attack heads your way. But first, what exactly is a panic attack and how can you tell if you might be experiencing one?
Panic attacks, also referred to as “anxiety attacks,” are sudden, intense episodes where sensations of fear trigger a physical response such as a racing heart, shortness of breath, and nausea. These can occur without any external threats. In fact, they often happen amidst seemingly ordinary situations like watching Netflix or taking a nap. The panic triggers a “fight or flight” mode, and these non-threatening moments are suddenly recognized as extremely dangerous by our bodies, which release stress hormones into the bloodstream.
Every year, 11% of the U.S. population experiences a panic attack, with up to 35% of the population experiencing a panic attack at some point in their lives. And while this random, unexpected anxiety is common, without being properly dealt with, it can lead to a more serious panic disorder. Oftentimes, people will associate an anxiety attack with a certain place or activity, which can become debilitating and prevent them from engaging in everyday situations that are “threatening.” Instead of facing their fears, they choose to isolate and avoid, which only caters to deeper fear.
Here are some of the most common symptoms associated with panic attacks:
While panic attacks can come out of left field and often have no external triggers, there are a few underlying causes that could make a person more susceptible to experiencing panic attacks. Here are a few:
Sometimes, anxiety attacks are warning signals that help point back to something in our lives that needs our attention. There could be deeper, underlying issues that are threatening our peace and survival. As we move onto five different methods that’ll help you during a panic attack, consider whether there’s something else that’s happened to trigger anxiety, and where you might need to restore balance to your mind and body, recentering yourself with peace. Note: If you need help uncovering some of the deeper, more hidden issues, check out Grouport for different therapy options that’ll help you step out of fear and into abundant living. 
There are all sorts of methods and tips when it comes to navigating panic attacks. It’s easy to give into overwhelm, having zero clue as to where to start. Our five tips encompass a diverse range of methods for you to try. Perhaps the breathing techniques really do the trick. Or perhaps a little release of those endorphins is what you need to reset your mind. Check out the following tried-and-true methods for the next time you encounter a bout of anxiety.
The Tapping Technique, also called the “Emotional Frequency Technique,” is an alternative medicine practice that uses psychological acupuncture to restore balance to the body. The thought is that by tapping on specific meridian points on the face, you can access your body’s energy and send signals to the part of the brain that controls stress. There are eight specific acupoints to tap, and the technique is repeated until anxiety is reduced. In addition to tapping, the tapper is also to repeat self-affirmations and declarations over themselves. These affirmations are to help bring balance to any disrupted energy, recentering the thought space.
The EFT method has been studied extensively for anxiety and depression. One study included 5,000 patients seeking treatment for anxiety. Over the course of five and a half years, patients from 11 different clinics were treated with either cognitive behavior therapy or acupoint tapping. They found that 90% of patients who received the tapping therapy experienced improvement in comparison to an improvement of 63% of those who tried the cognitive behavior. In fact, only three tapping sessions were needed before anxiety levels were reduced, whereas behavioral therapy needed an average of 15 sessions.
If you want to try the tapping method, you’ll want to a) learn the different tapping points and b) create your affirmations and declarations in advance.
Use your index and middle fingers to tap these meridian points between five to seven times, repeating the sequence until you feel the anxiety starting to reduce.
The next step is to come up with your phrases or short sayings that you’ll be repeating throughout the tapping process. This doesn’t have to fall into unrealistic, “positive thinking” (The Tapping Solution). You can be honest about your situation and the panic you’re experiencing, combining affirmation with truth. Whatever declaration you choose -- an uplifting quote, verse, or a short phrase of gratefulness -- will be repeated at each meridian point.
The great thing about tapping is you can do it pretty much anywhere -- traveling, at the office, in the bathroom. Anytime a panic attack hits you out of the blue, locate the eight spots, remember your declaration, and get to tapping!
Slowing down a panic attack often starts with the breath, as learning to control your breathing will reduce cortisol levels that might be blocking your cognition. Deep breathing helps calm down the body, reducing adrenaline and lowering the heart rate. Plus, a rhythm of breathing stale air out, fresh air in, is a wonderful opportunity to help your mind follow a pattern and decompress.
One breathing technique is called the “4-7-8 breath.” First, you breathe in deeply through the nose for four seconds, then hold your breath for seven seconds, and finally release for eight seconds.
You can also try the Calm app, a sleep and meditation tool that offers breathing exercises to help your breath follow a pattern. You can select different styles like “relax” or “unwind” along with a time limit. They also offer different meditation exercises, a method used to lower anxiety levels, which we’ll talk about later.
Exercise is an incredible way to reduce anxiety, releasing endorphins and pumping serotonin into the body. Getting active improves sleep quality and energy levels, while reducing stress and inflammation in the body. According to a study done by the American Academy of Family Physicians, exercising at 60% to 90% of your maximum heart rate for 20 minutes three times a week actually reduces anxiety.
One great exercise to try is yoga, which blends physical movement with meditation. Yoga incorporates several different aspects of balancing and restoring the mind back to its natural state. It’s known to suppress neural activity and influence GABA levels, a neurotransmitter that slows stress, reduces anxiety, and improves sleep. Besides yoga, you can try cardio exercises like running, rowing, or dancing
Spending time outdoors is a great way to reduce stress levels, increase oxygen levels, and clear your head. In fact, many Japanese doctors prescribe “forest bathing” to anxious and depressed patients. On average, Americans spend 87% of their time indoors. Taking a short walk around the block or heading out for an afternoon of hiking are great ways to reduce panic, with nature sending signals to our bodies that help restore balance to our neurochemistry.
Meditation is great at reestablishing the mind-body connection, slowing down the chaos of a panic attack through intentional breath and focus. It helps reduce cortisol levels, improves sleep quality, and helps keep the mind from wandering. Meditation incorporates two other ways we’ve identified -- breath and exercise -- to help the brain stay in the moment, regrounding a person in truth.
You can connect your mind and body together through simple questions like, How do my toes feel? Are they warmer than the rest of the body? Does my back have any resistance? Does my hair feel light or heavy?
There are several different types of meditation that you can try: mindfulness meditation, focused meditation, movement motivation, and progressive relaxation, to name a few. Explore the different options, from self-guided to expert-guided, and see what type of meditation works best for you, particularly amidst the more stressful seasons.
We hope these five methods will help you navigate a panic attack successfully. Some of these are methods that you can incorporate in your daily life (like establishing a workout routine), while others are great for those moments where you’re experiencing an attack full-throttle.
It’s always beneficial to have a support group there for both the ups and the downs. If you find yourself needing additional, professional help, check out the resources we have to offer here at Grouport. We’d love to partner with you along your journey towards healthy, balanced living. 
November 16, 2021