While there's no denying that breathing exercises have done a lot of good for people suffering from panic disorders, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to easing symptoms of a panic attack. Some individuals living with anxiety disorders may find that being told to focus on their breathing actually exacerbates their anxiety as they may worry that they aren't breathing correctly which could even lead to hyperventilation.
If you're one of the people living with anxiety who needs more tools in their arsenal to combat panic attacks, these tips may come to your rescue:
- Bite into a lemon
It may sound bizarre, but many people suffering from panic disorders have had surprising success with this method. The shock to your senses that a bitter lemon provides forces your body to pull its attention away from a panic attack and focus more on one thing: "Wow, this is a really sour lemon!"
- Smell something strong
Essential oils have experienced a huge boom lately, and for good reason. Aromatherapy has tons of benefits, from easing insomnia to taking the edge off of anxiety. Strong scents also give your brain something else to focus on, much like biting into the lemon as mentioned above. Even better, find an essential oil or essential oil blend that are known for their calming properties such as Lavender or our Calm Essential Oil Blend for some extra soothing vibes.
- Recall a good memory
Whether it's a happy childhood memory or something as small as a kind word from a stranger ‒ if it comforts your brain to focus on, pour yourself into it. Really put yourself back into that good moment. Try and recall what you were wearing, what the weather was like, and what scents and sights were around you. Fully immerse yourself into these good memories as a way to break the cycle of negative, intrusive thoughts.
- Imagine a bucket tipping over
Visualization has always been touted as helpful for panic attacks, but this image in particular really does the trick. When a bucket is too full, its only option is to tip over and spill ‒ panic attacks are very similar. Envisioning your mind as an overfilled bucket emptying itself of panic symptoms can help remind you that panic attacks, while very uncomfortable, won’t last forever ‒ the bucket will be empty again soon.
- Rate your fear
There may be a temptation to immediately rate your panic a 10, which is valid ‒ panic attacks are scary! But if you think of a 10 as a truly once-in-a-lifetime scare, like being chased by a bear or seeing a shark in the water while swimming, it can help put your current fear in a more grounded perspective. By rating your panic at, say, a 7 rather than a full blown 10, it forces your brain to reconsider the threat you're facing as an uncomfortable, scary experience, but one that will pass.
If you find that your panic attacks are going well beyond the scope of what you can handle, or if they're frequent enough to disrupt your life, please reach out to your doctor and/or mental health professional. There's no shame in seeking out medication or therapy to ease the burdens of panic disorder. With the proper care tailored to your experiences, panic attacks don't have to rule your life!