My therapist taught me another really great technique. She told me to get in touch with my senses. Think of five things I can see, five things I can hear, five things I can feel, five things I can smell, if not five than just however many are present. It helped a lot, just like the breathing exercise you're talking about. Hope this trick can help some others out there. Panic attacks are awful, and I'm so grateful I was able to find ways to shorten them.
A panic or anxiety attack is a radical and quick acting physiological reaction the human body can have when we feel fear. As people who have know true and profound fear we survivors are more prone to them than most. If you have them, you are not alone. Most survivors have had them.
# Signs of A Panic Attack Your heart may be beating quickly or seem to be skipping beats.
# You may have difficulty breathing or catching your breath.
# Constant shaking and/or twitching
# You may feel like you can't think straight, like you can't make decisions or have too many thoughts bouncing around in your head.
# Your mouth may become dry and you may find it hard to swallow.
# You may feel ingling in the hands, feet or other parts of the body (I get it in my back)
# Tense muscles, clenched jaws.
There are many more, but these are some of the major ones. Keep in mind, you don't need to have all of these to be having a panic attack. A friend of mine only has difficulty breathing but she was diagnosed as having panic attacks. If you have some of these symptoms I hope you'll talk to a counselor about them.
Thoughts on Confronting Panic Attacks
* It's OK to be having them. It doesn't make you wierd or abnormal. You'd be surprised at how many people have them. In fact, I had dinner with three other girlfriends and told them about my panic attacks, and they all told me that they also have panic attacks. We decided that only boring people don't have them.
* Many of us fear having one in public, at work or school etc. First of all, even though you feel like you are going nuts, there are few outward symptoms. If you are scared of having one in public give yourself permission to go to the bathroom and spend some time by yourself.
* A lot of people are terrified of having them. Look at it as practice, to gain control of them and learn techniques to deal with them, what works, what doesn't. Fearing them gives the panic reaction more power over you than it deserves.
* Putting pressure on yourself to deal with them RIGHT now is not a great idea. It makes them worse. Try and give yourself permission to have them wherever you are. Find a quiet place, go to the bathroom, go outside. Do whatever makes you comfortable.
* If you are going to be in a stressful situation and fear panicking, it may help to visualize yourself going through the experience calmly before it actually occurs.
If You are Panicking
* Take deep breaths from the stomach, not the lungs. Lie down and watch your tummy move up and down to practice these deep breaths. Someone gave the tip of lying down with a book on your stomach and watching the book. I don't remember who, but I can't take credit for this brilliant idea.
* I try to stay focused on my breathing, by counting the breaths or just thinking.
* I might inhale and thing "Focused" Exhale and think "Centered"
* Sometimes I inhale and think "It's going to be..." Exhale..."Okay"
* Simple repetitive tasks can help. At work, I used to make flashcards for my students, which is dull but focusing. One good idea might be to organize all of the change in your pockets. Put the pennies in year order, then the nickels, then the dimes, then the quarters. Just a stupid non-thinking but focusing task. Count how many people are wearing red and how many are wearing blue and compare the numbers.
* Herbal remedies have helped me. Lavendar essential oil is a very calming scent. I used to wear it constantly. In addition, I like Rescue Remedy, which is a natural solution for stressful moments. However, my doctor did prescribe medication for me and I carried it around with me for months, just in case I had an attack.
While you try these it's important to think positively. Thinking "Why isn't this working? It has to start working!" doesn't help and makes the situation worse. It may take a few minutes, it may take more. That doesn't mean that you are doing anything wrong. It just means that it's taking time.