Her Check-Up: How To Cope With Panic Attacks 6 years ago

Her Check-Up: How To Cope With Panic Attacks

Panic attacks and anxiety can affect anyone at any age.

Thanks to recent campaigns for mental health awareness, and inspiring speeches like Niall Breslin’s personal experience, more people are now becoming aware of the difficulties facing those suffering from panic attacks.


While we would always urge anyone suffering from panic attacks to seek out medical assistance, knowing the physical symptoms, learning strategies to cope and talking to family and friends can help alleviate some of the stresses associated with an attack.


So what is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a sudden rush of physical symptoms — like shortness of breath, muscle spasms, and nausea — and usually accompanied with overbearing anxiety. Panic attacks can leave sufferers feeling isolated, out of control and often times scared.


What are the symptoms of a panic attack?

Although symptoms may differ from person to person, common side-effects to look out for when suffering a panic attack include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Choking sensations and nausea
  • Shaking and sweating
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Chest pain and heartburn
  • Muscle spasms
  • Hot flashes or sudden chills
  • Tingling sensations in your extremities
  • A fear that you’re going crazy
  • A fear that you might die or be seriously ill

How can you manage the severity of a panic attack?


Although it is difficult to bring a panic attack to an end, adopting some exercises and practices can often help in reducing the symptoms and making yourself more comfortable while the attack plays out.

Techniques that can help those suffering a panic attack are:

Deep belly breathing

Breathing deeply through your nose and into your stomach, concentrate on breathing in and filling out your lungs. Exhale slowly through your mouth.


Although this can appear difficult to do at the start, regulating your breathing and concentrating on counting your breaths can alleviate some of the fear associated with stressing.


Keep talking to yourself

Reassuring yourself and talking through the process may help give you a feeling of taking back your power. Realising it’s ok to be afraid, talk slowly to yourself about where you are, how you’re feeling and how you want to feel.

Picture a calming influence and talk yourself through this memory or feeling to try concentrate your thinking to a new phase.


Work with your body

Try keep a record of body parts that commonly tense up durng a panic attack. This typically involves tensing muscles, with neck, shoulders, back and legs suffering from stiffness and tightness following attacks.

If you are mid-attack, try extending your fist one finger at a time. Do this first with your right hand, following with your left-hand and repeat. Again, if you can concentrate your attention to clenching and unclenching your toes, repeat this action.

This will help keep the body from staying rigid, reducing muscle soreness and tension following an attack.

Adopt the AWARE method

The AWARE method is commonly used to help people try to take control of their situation. Although this is a commonly used method, the skills do require training and could take practice to use on a regular basis.

The AWARE method is:

A: Accept the anxiety. Don't try to fight it.

W: Watch the anxiety. Imagine it is outside of you and you are just observing it.

A: 'Act normal'. Carry on as if nothing is happening. Panic will soon 'get bored'.

R: Repeat the above steps until you start to relax again.

E: Expect the best - it will pass quicker and quicker the more times you do this.


Panic attacks can appear to calm down, before another wave hits. If this happens, repeat the steps above to maintain as regular breathing as possible.

It will end

This is here to remind you that your panic attack will end; that all panic attacks end; that they end regardless of how you respond; that it's not your job to make the attack end; and that your only job is to make yourself as comfortable as possible while waiting for the attack to end.

If you’re concerned for yourself or a friend suffering panic attacks, contact your doctor for more advice and to plan a strategy.