Life is difficult enough and when a crippling wave of anxiety and fear overwhelms, it can be hard to move forward. But often, the solution is simpler than we think. By becoming aware and understanding the root causes of panic, we can build a path forward. This article will cover how to be mindful and use grounding techniques to master panic attacks. This guide taps into inner strength, offers practical steps and provides a plan to beat the feeling of being overwhelmed.
A Breath of Fresh Awareness: Understanding Panic Attacks
When we think of panic attacks, it’s easy to imagine a person gasping for breath, with a racing heart. But panic attacks also show up in less visible forms — like skin prickling and a feeling of unreality. Panic can come with a rush of fear and blind us from all other emotions. To rediscover control and to put the power back in our hands, we need to gain insight on the condition and to comprehend the inner workings of panic.
What Panic actually is
- Panic is an extreme form of fear.
- It’s a psychological state where an individual feels overwhelmed by a situation.
- It leads to physical reactions in the body, like a racing heart, trembling, sweating and an inability to think.
- It’s a hyperactive response to danger or threat even when there is none.
- It is triggered by episodes of extreme stress that the person’s body is unable to cope with.
What Triggers Panic Attacks
The triggers vary from person to person and can include:
- Excessive stress
- Unresolved trauma
- Panic over past events
- Anxiety about events in the future
Panic can also be set off by severe physical exhaustion or sudden shocks. It’s important to identify our unique triggers, so that we can better prepare ourselves for a panic attack.
Exploring Grounding Techniques as a Way to Tame Panic
Grounding techniques are simple exercises that bring our mind and body back to the present. When we become aware of our surroundings, it can help us activate new neural pathways and rapidly refocus our energy. This can interrupt a cascade of intense feelings and sensations associated with a panic attack.
Using Senses to Ground
Our senses give us a gateway to instant grounding. We can use them to step out of a mental loop and to observe our environment instead.
- Notice what you’re seeing: the colors, shapes and textures around you.
- Listen for the sounds around you: bird sounds, wind or even the silence around you.
- What does the air around you smell like?
- Feel the texture: the cushion your sitting on or the ground underneath your feet.
- Taste something that’s nearby: a cup of tea maybe or that chocolate bar from before.
Doing Something Here and Now
Doing something in the present can also be helpful to calm down — even if it’s something as simple as counting to five out loud. Some other examples include:
- Making a drawing: drawing circles, writing words or whatever comes to mind.
- Journaling: by writing out the situation, we can start to make sense of our experience.
- Making coffee: organizing and preparing the coffee can give us space to gather ourselves.
- Taking a nature walk: walking can help us to move away from a fixed point, distracting us from the present.
Taking a Step Back: Here’s Your Guide on How to Calm Down
During a panic attack, our body is flooded with stress hormones, which activate our fight-or-flight response and make us ready to take action. For us to understand how to move forward, we need to identify the blockage and find a way to pause.
Taking a Time Out
Being aware of an upcoming panic attack can help us clear our head and maintain clarity, so that we can understand the origin of our fear.
- Take a few moments to observe your body: what is it feeling and what is it saying?
- Sit down, take a few deep breaths and mentally scan your body.
- Become aware of your tension and consciously relax your body.
- Identify the inciting incident and focus on this one emotion.
Sometimes, simply grounding ourselves isn’t enough. We can also use body resources to soothe anxiety that comes up. Body resources are resources that are readily available to us in the body and help to keep us safe and calm. They include:
- Lay down, close your eyes and imagine that you’re breathing in a blue color.
- Listen to a soothing piece of music and allow yourself to drift away.
- Focus on your heartbeat and feel the gentle rise and fall.
- Picture a safe place or moment in your life, and let yourself stay there for a while.
Focusing on the Now: Techniques to Calm Your Mind and Body
One of the most powerful tools to relax is to become aware of our surroundings. Coming back to the present is an exercise that we can practice anywhere, anytime. It helps to:
- Decrease our focus on the past or the future, preventing us from catastrophizing.
- Gain perspective from outside our own thoughts and allow us to observe them.
- Engage our senses, releasing them from the internal dialogueing loop.
- Restore a sense of calm and clarity, opening up new pathways to think.
To truly focus on the now, keep your attention in the present, focusing on the physical sensory inputs around you. It could be the ticking of a clock or the sound of a car passing by. Notice the different elements of the moment, appreciating them in turn.
Inner Strength to Reduce Anxiety: Regaining Perspective and Clarity
When we can take a step back, we can start to regain our sense of perspective and to understand what is causing the cycle of anxiety. This can help to redirect our attention and to reorganize our thought patterns.
One way of reaching our inner strength is through writing. Taking a few minutes to write down our feelings on a piece of paper can help us gain clarity and be more objective with our thoughts. We can ask ourselves:
- What am I feeling and why?
- What is causing this fear or panic?
- What am I learning from this experience?
- How can I use this lesson to move forward?
Another way of reclaiming our inner strength is through thought reframing. We can change our thoughts by identifying patterns and choosing alternatives to our existing feedback loops.
- If our thoughts are negative: replace them with positive, empathetic alternatives.
- If our thoughts are extreme: replace them with calming, rational statements.
- If our thoughts are circular: break the cycle by introducing a new thought or idea.
Embracing the Moment: Overcoming Panic Attacks with Self-Awareness
Our self-awareness is our greatest power. By engaging in self-reflection and understanding our inner world, we can learn to manage our feelings and develop resilience to our triggers.
Self-Help and Self-Care
Self-help and self-care are great tools to confront anxiety and panic attacks. We can create a personalized plan that taps into our strengths and helps us identify our weak points.
- Take time for yourself.
- Practice breathing and mindfulness exercises.
- Get enough sleep.
- Talk to someone you trust.
- Maintain healthy coping mechanisms, an example being creative outlets.
Resilience is key to moving forward. It’s essential to learn how to cope with challenging situations and to take things one day at a time. To build resilience we can practice:
- Paying attention to the triggers and warnings of panic.
- Realizing that no emotion is permanent and that our feelings will pass.
- Avoiding the use of unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse.
- Increasing our self-confidence and self-esteem, by balancing negative and positive remarks.
A Calming Path Forward: Steps to Make Panic Attacks a Thing of the Past
The path towards reducing panic takes practice and patience. It takes time to create new neural pathways and to understand our emotions better. But the reward is unconditional freedom and mindfulness.
Stop: Step Away and Say No
The first step is to stop engaging in the endless loop of panic. To do this, take a pause and make conscious decisions:
- Take deep breaths and allow yourself time to think.
- Identify why you’re feeling this way and what you can do about it.
- Learn to say no, to protect your mental health.
- Let go of expectations and do what works for you.
Start: Move Towards What You Believe In
With a clear set of steps, we can start to feel in control:
- Create a game plan to tackle your fears one at a time.
- Focus on the things that you want, rather than trying to avoid the things that are causing you anxiety.
- Be kind to yourself: remember that progress takes time and that failure is part of the journey.
- Trust in yourself and know that moments of panic don’t define you.
Panic can take away our sense of control, but with the help of grounding techniques, self-awareness and resilience building, we can unlock our inner power and return to the present. We can understand our emotions better, instead of letting them overwhelm us. Then, we can courageously move towards creating a path that is free from fear and anxiety.