Take Control Over Panic

I started having panic attacks in my twenties.  I don’t know if it was a result of all the alcohol in my system, bipolar disorder, life, or a combination of all three.  I’m leaning towards that last one.  They can seem life threatening and certainly can be devastating.  The first one I had I was in a grocery store standing in line and I literally thought I was going to die.  How did I deal with them back then?  I drank.  How do I deal with them now?  Many ways.  One important aspect to realize as you read these steps (and these are just a few that help) is control.  Remember you have control not the panic.

1. Take deep breaths.  You’re in complete control of your breaths not the panic.  It’s your lungs, you are the one breathing.
2. Rub your temples in a circular motion.  Again just this simple act can make your mind realize you are in control of your body, not the feeling of panic.
3. Drinking a glass of chilled water can actually help you feel better get your nerves in order.  I don’t have a PhD and I have no clue why but I know it works.
4. Force yourself to get your mind involved in something; watching TV, reading a book, writing.  It’ll take a little while to force your mind onto something else but with practice you’ll be able to get there and hey you might (I can’t promise this) accomplish something meaningful in the process.
5. If you can’t sit for obvious reasons stand up and pace around (I’m surprised I haven’t paced through my kitchen floor yet) or walk or jog in place until your mind eases.  Jumping jacks also can help.  Don’t forget to breath as you are doing this!
6. Rational thinking – All kinds of negative thoughts pass through your head when you experience a panic attack. These thoughts are unfounded. It can help to shout STOP!!! inside your head to stop your negative thoughts in their tracks.  Or hey shout it out loud, it’s sure to stop something or well someone.  It’s also a great way to remind your thoughts that you are the one in control not the feeling of panic.
7. Breathe into a paper bag. This trick really does work, I’ve done this one more than one occasion.  Of course doing it in the check out line at the grocery store gets you a few looks but it can also get you ahead in line.
8. I suck at math, it’s not my cup of tea unless I have a calculator handy however simple math can pull you out of your panic filled thoughts, again it reminds you of the fact that you do have control over your body.  If you don’t want to do multiplication or division just do the simple act of counting from 1 to 100 or 100 to 1.

And lastly there are many medications out on the market that can help you with a panic disorder, if you can afford them why not seek that help out?  I would if I could.

If you have ever had to deal with a panic attack, what helped you?

20 thoughts on “Take Control Over Panic

  1. Good tips. I especially like screaming STOP (to myself of course) … i’ve tried the other methods and they work … but once my head is off to the races i get stuck with the racing thoughts and panic, it takes a lot to get myself out of the onslaught of weird thoughts. Thanks for sharing. I feel calmer already.

    • I KNOW! It can take a lot of work to overcome a panic attack. Normally it takes me all 8 of those to just start feeling like I have some sort of control over me again but occasionally I can get back on track quickly and start to feel like I’m not dying in that moment.

  2. Hello, Bats! Glad to see you back!
    I don’t know what is going on with me before I have to perform in public, either speaking or music, but I do have about 100% saturation of adrenalin during those times and I just have to get a huge drink. (I think it dilutes the adrenalyn in my blood) and move around. A short run helps,but usually I am dress too formally for that, although I just now thought I could bring along low shoes, couldn’t I?
    The other thing I do is to imagine I’m some bigshot and all these folks in front of me are peons. Not nice, but they don’t know I’m doing this,and it gives me that upper-hand feeling I think you were meaning, about feeling in conrol.
    You know, I never feel these things when I am in front of children. Wonder why . . .

    • Hi Katharine!

      Jumping jacks, I can not say enough about them. If you are able to wear low shoes you should be able to do a few.
      I like your idea (however mean it may seem which I’m not positive it is) it’s almost like imaging everyone naked.
      Your children comment brings my thought process back full circle to control. We feel in control when it comes to children or sometimes we do. Maybe it’s also the fact that when we make mistakes and children laugh at us it’s not out of being mean, it’s out of pure fun and happiness or with most children it is.

      • I’ve heard the “naked” idea before, but with most groups, that sort of grosses me out. Too distracting.
        However, I think with children, I know I know more than they and also I think they trust my knowledge. With adults, I think they question my expertise and, well, really, I do too. So maybe it is a thing of, um, lack of confidence or something?
        Or maybe I just think about self too much and need to dwell on them and how I can help them.
        Oh, and I thank you for re-emphasizing the jumping jacks! I just thought–I could do those barefoot, if I had to, in a spare room where no one could watch. Thanks! 🙂

  3. Every one of those things work, and they work well. The thing about panic is that, unless there’s a doctor standing by with a handy injection, there’s no one who can help me but me. I just have to remember that all the crap falling down on me is coming from inside my head. I know that, in my case, the panic comes from the fear of losing control – we addicts are such control freaks at heart. But giving in to the panic is a form of abdication, of going down without a fight – from an enemy that doesn’t even exist!

    Ans speaking of panic. The comment I made on your last post didn’t show up. My fingers are crossed for this one! 😯

    • Last night I was thinking it’s not all about control, hang with me on this thought. Maybe it’s about choices also, which I’m not too good at. The choice between fight or flight even though in the moment I really have no excuse to have to make a choice because you’re right, nothing exists that makes me in danger in the least bit. Make any sense there?

      • Damn, this thing froze up on my first attempt at a reply!

        I think we’re both right. It’s about control and choice. The desire to control things is an inescapable part of our nature, but so is free will and the high intelligence needed to properly exercise it. So. IMHO, it comes down to choosing to work on that which we can actually control and not get all stressed out over the things we can’t.

        Of course that’s easier said than done, as our own experiences have taught us very well. 😐

  4. I’ve found repetative actions work well, like playing solitare on my phone…The secret is that they can’t involve anything difficult because, well, your brain won’t allow it. Simple math, like you said, seems to do the trick as well.

  5. man. perfect post. perfect timing! I sometimes think if there was a competitive panic team I could be the captain. I am really triggered now and the whole breathing thing is REALLY important. My friends and family are pointing it out to me: I just stop breathing. Now that is NOT a good idea. I have tried visualization etc and find that My Brain Is NOT my Buddy. Breathing is key for me. Perhaps I should tattoo BREATHE on my fingers. of course, that means I would need to think to look at my fingers. Breathing is key. Duh. I sometimes count but have had a battle with OCD and though the counting works, it leads to more Crazy Counting later. Geesh. Thank you for the post. Excellent timing…. I am going to go catch up on some breathing now….

  6. In the first months of my sobriety i had a couple of these so asked people with more recovery than i had for advice.

    What worked was:

    1) Deep breaths
    2) Choosing the one big thing i’d been avoiding doing and doing it first thing in the morning
    3) The Serenity prayer in a mental loop (“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” –Sorry, you asked! lol)

    Hang in there, Bats!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s