Panic attacks are the body’s responses to intense fear, anxiety, or discomfort that reach their peak in a couple of minutes. Panic attacks are characterized by racing heartbeat, palpitations, cold sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, dizziness, and various muscle pains. A triggering event often causes a panic attack, such as a frightening situation, an incident that brings back previous traumatic experiences, or certain tragic life events. However, it can also happen unexpectedly even in a calm state.
What makes panic attacks difficult is that most of the time, you never get to prepare for it beforehand. It can happen while you are walking or even while writing an article. This suddenness is why DIY calming tips come very handy especially when you are caught in a place or moment wherein you cannot quickly turn back. Calming tips include closing your eyes, picturing a happy place, diverting your attention, and even taking medicines or resorting to essential oils. Should these things not work out, you can also try to control your internal and physical body. Two common ways by which you can do this is through deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises.
For deep breathing, preferably go to a quiet place for a few minutes for you to do the exercise correctly, but if you can’t, stay in your position instead and then focus. Sit up straight and relax your back as you lean against a chair. You can either close your eyes or look downwards to avoid distraction. Start to pay attention to your inhales and exhales, taking them slowly one breath at a time. Inhale deeply through your nose and gradually exhale through your mouth. Continue this for five to ten cycles of slowly paced breathing.
The benefits of deep and focused breathing include its cleansing effect. It clears your mind for the moment and pays attention to your body. Proper breathing does its wonders in terms of regulating the flow of blood and energy through your body. It makes you feel more relaxed and energized. For better results, you can practice deep breathing immediately when you wake up in the morning to prepare you for the day ahead.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
The standard flight-or-fight response in cases of panic attack causes you to feel physically uncomfortable as your stress hormones rise exponentially. PMR addresses exactly that by systematically restricting and then relaxing your body’s muscle groups to subdue the physical and mental stress that panic attack brings about. You can start PMR with deep breathing as a warm-up then work your way from the bottom to the top, starting with your toes.
Tighten the grip on your toes like a clenched fist, squeeze them tightly for a few breaths, and then release. Flex your feet, hold them for a few seconds, and then release. Move up to your legs, keeping your lower leg close to your thigh for a few seconds, and then stretch and relax. Do the same flex-tighten-hold-relax sequence up to your abdomen, back, arms, hands, neck, and head. Repeat the motion on any muscle group if you feel the need to do so, and then relax your whole body.
Both exercises are ways by which you can reverse the effects of a panic attack all by yourself, without any prescription medicine. It elicits a relaxation response by lowering your heart rate, regulating the flow of oxygen and blood, calming your mind, and relieving your muscles from the tension. It takes practice to be able to develop both skills, but it will surely come in handy as you overcome panic attacks wherever, whenever.