7 Ways to Handle Panic Attacks

  Anxiety is one of the most frequent disorders we see among addicts at our treatment center. Through years of helping addicts recover not just from addiction, but also co-occurring psychological disorders and the latest scientific advances into mental health recovery, we have come up with seven easy, holistic activities you can do when you’re feeling anxious.

What is Anxiety?

What is Anxiety yogatraveltree

You know the feeling all too well. Your heart starts beating rapidly, you begin to sweat, your stomach feels nauseous, you begin to shake and have that sinking feeling that imminent doom is just around the corner. Anxiety is a feeling of stress, worry, or nervousness. These feelings can escalate into a panic attack – a sudden feeling of anxiety that becomes disabling.

You don’t need to suffer from anxiety or panic. Here are 7 ways to help you regain your composure and help tone down your anxiety before it gets the better of you.


1. Breathe

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Breathing comes natural until you experience an anxiety attack. Take control and begin to concentrate on your breathing. Try to discover which type of breathing helps calm you most. Start with slow, deep breaths. If after a short time that does not help, experiment. Find the rhythm that feels most comfortable for you. Concentrating on your breathing helps break the panic cycle anxiety put you in.


2. Call a friend

Do you have a friend who seems to be able to say just the right thing when you need to hear it? Someone calm and collected who can help you get through your anxiety and start thinking about something else? If so, talk with them in advance about your anxiety and ask permission to call when you are feeling anxious. That way you won't feel as if you're imposing and your friend will be able to lend an ear when you need it.


3. Pet your companion animal or someone else's if possible

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Barring any dog or cat phobias, petting an animal can be very calming. Think pet therapy. The tactile comfort that comes from petting an animal will not only benefit you, but also the critter you're loving on.


4. Cool it on the caffeine drinks

Caffeine is a stimulant that can actually trigger a panic attack. The next time you have a panic attack, think back to see if caffeine may have been a contributing factor.


5. Aromatherapy - dab on an essential oil

A sniff of an essential oil, such as lavender, can be an instant mood-changer. Scents affect people differently. Take the time to find the scent that works best for you. Lavender oil is recommended for calming, citrus oil for depression and rose oil for calming the heart.


6. Cardio-walk it out

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Pop in your ear buds and drown out the anxiety. Create a custom play list of energetic, upbeat tunes to help crowd out the negative thoughts and get moving. Walk at a good clip or run and get the added bonus of endorphins to lift your mood.


7. Say a little prayer for you

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If a traditional prayer isn't your style, try a chant or a mantra, and keep repeating it until you calm down. No chant, prayer or mantra? How about a childhood lesson from The Little Engine That Could? Keep repeating, “I think I can, I think I can,” until you find yourself calmed and then congratulate yourself with “I knew I could.” The Little Engine would be proud.


Do you have any specific ways to deal with stress or anxiety? Share them in the comments below!


Constance Scharff has a PhD in Transformative Studies, specializing in addiction recovery. She is the Addiction Researcher and Transformative Studies Scholar at Cliffside Malibu Treatment Center and coauthor of the #1 best-selling book, Ending Addiction for Good. She speaks worldwide to healing professionals on the science and spirituality of addiction recovery –- from the neuroscience of addiction recovery and depression and trauma as related to addiction, to the concepts of vulnerability and hope. She has also traveled extensively in Asia, Africa, and North America, learning how to help individuals evoke life-transforming experiences and use those experiences to heal addictions and trauma.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this post included an expletive in the title that was not originally provided by the author. We'd like to apologize to anyone the title may have offended and our deepest regrets to Dr. Scharff. We hope you enjoyed her wonderful advice! 

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Images via: David Mansaray, Telegraph UKDog Art Today, Newton, Shelby Blog