6 Tips to Help Manage a Panic Attack
It started as a beautiful summer hike in the Malibu Canyon with my friend….
I remember the day like it was yesterday. I love hiking and what better way than to enjoy a hike in Malibu! The hike started like any other hike, birds chirping, the warmth of the sun on my face, a light, cool breeze coming from the ocean. My friend and I were chatting away as we were hiking. As we continued on our hike I remember thinking, “wow, this trail is becoming narrower” but didn’t think anything of it because we had been following the trail and would see trail markers from time to time. I went back to engaging in conversation with my friend. The next thing I remember was looking up and realizing I was in the heart of the canyon, brush was all around me, the trail had become non-existent. Even though I was outdoors, I felt the canyon walls closing in around me and started to feel like I couldn’t breathe. The brush I felt on my legs and arms felt like it was going to choke me. My heart was pounding, I couldn’t catch my breath for the life of me. I was feeling light-headed, my legs were shaking, and I felt disconnected from my body. I remember the only thought I had was “I have to get out of here”. I took off running in a panic, desperate to get free and get to a clearing…. I ran for what felt like eternity and don’t know how because I could barely catch my breathe. I remember seeing a bench and collapsed onto it. Shortly thereafter, my friend reached me and honestly everything was a blur.
Later I learned that what I experienced was a Panic Attack! For those who have experienced panic attacks, one panic attack is one to many in my book. I didn’t understand what caused the attack since I am not claustrophobic and I go hiking quite frequently…
Panic attacks are a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening and when they occur, you might think you're losing control, having a heart attack or even dying. Some people will only have one attack in their life where others may experience series of Panic Attacks. There is not a pattern of how frequent individuals may experience Panic Attacks. If you have ever experienced a Panic Attack, or know someone who has, here are 6 tips you may find helpful.
1. This Feeling is NOT Final – Remind yourself that this feeling is temporary. You will get through this. As intense as your feelings are, the feelings WILL reduce and disappear.
2. Ride the “WAVE” – Picture the feelings of a panic attack like a wave. It came on suddenly and your job is to find your “balance” in the middle of a panic attack. Knowing just like waves fall and crash, so will the feelings of the panic attack. Keep yourself grounded to regain your balance.
3. Breathe – Don’t forget to breathe. SLOW…DEEP… BREATHS. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds.
4. Move – Moving helps your mind and body stay empowered. Pace the floor, walk around the house, go outside for a walk.
5. Grounding using your 5 senses – 5 things you can see… 4 things you can hear… 3 things you can feel… 2 things you can smell… 1 thing you can taste
6. Talk it Out– Anxiety held in has more power. Stay with people, call someone. What are you noticing/observing in your body. Say aloud what you are noticing/observing in your body without judgement. This takes the power away from them.