If left untreated, panic attacks can grow in frequency and intensity. Even the fear of having another attack might trigger one. Instead of waiting until your symptoms hamper your life, seek help early on.
- See a mental health professional, particularly one who has experience working with anxiety and panic. Usually, cognitive behavioral or exposure therapies are used. The former addresses your anxious thought patterns; the latter helps you tolerate situations that are stressful for you.
- A doctor or therapist may recommend taking an antidepressant, or a benzodiazepine such as xanax or ativan.
- Join a support group for sufferers of anxiety and panic attacks. You will get support, and members learn a great deal from each other.
- If you opt for alternative treatments, it is always recommended you discuss them with your doctor before implementation, especially if you are on other medications, are pregnant, or otherwise ill.
A Tranquilizing Breathing Exercise
This breathing exercise is simple and does not require a zillion repetitions to be effective. However, it becomes more potent the more you practice it; a minimum of twice each day is suggested. The exercise is great for panic attack prevention because you can use it whenever or wherever you feel an attack coming on, and it only takes a couple minutes.
During the exercise, keep the tip of your tongue against the top of your front teeth, where tooth meets tissue.
The 4-7-8 Breath
- Start by exhaling through the mouth with a shooshing sound.
- With mouth closed, inhale through your nose as you count to four.
- Then, hold your breath for a seven count.
- Exhale through your mouth, again making the shooshing sound, counting to eight.
Repeat this breath three times. The important thing is to keep a steady count of inhale four, hold seven, and exhale eight (4:7:8). You choose the counting speed. Only do four breaths at one time, but you may repeat this exercise throughout the day.
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A Relaxing Yoga Pose
The balasana, or child’s pose, is excellent for reducing tension and relaxing the body.
- Kneel with feet slightly apart, resting your behind on your heels.
- Lean forward at the waist until your torso rests against the thighs.
- Stretch your arms forward or in front, with palms against the floor and relax your body, or fold your arms like bird wings against your lower legs, palms up.
- Relax into the pose and let your thoughts sink through the floor; do this for a half minute up to several minutes.
If you cannot fold yourself up, lay on your back with legs a few inches apart and arms comfortably out to the sides. Let the floor support the relaxed “dead weight” of your body as you let your thoughts and tension melt away. This is called the corpse pose.
And of Course . . .
Eat your fruits and veggies while avoiding sugary and fatty foods. Aerobic exercise is recommended for relieving stress and tension (walking, swimming, biking), and if you smoke seriously consider quitting. Get plenty of sleep and don’t forget to play and have fun.