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Dealing With a Panic Attack

By Paul Rothbart

Panic attacks are scary, especially when you don't know you're having one. It's hard to breathe, many people tremble while feeling lightheaded and dizzy. Is it a heart attack? A stroke? The first time I had one, I was sure I was dying. They are fairly common in this often stressful world. As frightening as they are, a panic attack is all in the mind. As such, they can be brought under control. Here are some effective ways to deal with a panic attack. 

Realize That It's a Panic Attack

The first step in handling a panic attack is recognizing what it is. Panic attacks are temporary and realizing that is the key. Knowing that you are not experiencing a serious medical condition will allow you to start to calm down and apply the techniques that will end the attack. 

Breathe Deeply

Hyperventilation often occurs during a panic attack. Getting respiration under control will avoid that and have a calming influence. Breathe slowly, completely filling the lungs. Feel the belly and chest expand. Count to four while inhaling, hold for a second, then exhale on a count of four. This will slow not only breathing, but the heart rate as well.

Eyes Closed

Panic attacks can be exacerbated by overwhelming stimuli. It is easy to shut out the visual component of sensory stimulus. If in a busy environment, closing your eyes will shut it out and help to focus internally. This works well with the breathing technique.

Relax the Muscles

Since tension throughout the body generally accompanies a panic attack, conscious muscle relaxation is a good strategy. Focus on one muscle group at a time and think about it and relax. Starting with the toes and working up the legs, through the torso and all the way to the head, is a good way to go about it. Think of the muscles as rubber bands slackening. In addition to relaxing the body, this also takes focus off the attack.

Be Mindful

Panic attacks sometimes cause a feeling of disconnect from reality. An effective way to combat this is to ground yourself. Heighten awareness of things like the feeling of clothing, feet on the floor, the sensation of body weight in a chair. Focus on tangible sensations that place you in the moment. This will reinforce reality and combat the disconnect. 

A panic attack can be terrifying. Left unchecked, they feel like death is imminent and the loss of control makes it worse. By recognizing the attack and applying these strategies, the attack will pass and a return to a feeling of normalcy can occur. 

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Danville, Cal.

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