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  • Toronto Psychotherapy Space

Don't Let Panic Attacks Steal Your Breath: 5 Strategies to Fight Back


Picture this: you're about to give a big presentation at work, your heart starts pounding, and

your breath catches in your throat. Suddenly, the room feels like it's shrinking, and the only

thought in your head is I need to get out of here! This could be a panic attack.

Panic attacks are brief episodes of intense anxiety that can be incredibly overwhelming.

Symptoms include a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling and muscle

tension. The good news? There are effective strategies you can use to manage them. Let's

explore 5 proven techniques to help you regain control during a panic attack.


Take Control One Breath at a Time

During a panic attack, your body goes into overdrive, mimicking a fight-or-flight response. Deep breathing exercises can be a lifesaver. Try this: find a quiet spot, close your eyes, and inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a second, then exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of six. Repeat this for several minutes, focusing on the rise and fall of your chest. Deep breathing activates your body's relaxation response, slowing your heart rate and calming you down.


Ground Yourself in the Present

Panic attacks can make you feel detached from reality. But, using grounding techniques can

bring you back. Look around the room and identify five things you can see (a painting, a plant, a chair, etc.). Next, focus on what you can hear (the traffic outside, the hum of a computer). Touch something nearby (your clothing, or a cool surface). Can you smell anything? Even a faint scent can anchor you back to the present. Focusing on your senses reminds you that you're physically safe, even though you might feel emotionally out of control.


Challenge Your Thoughts

Panic attacks often fuel negative thoughts like I'm going to faint or I'm losing control. These

thoughts can intensify your anxiety. Challenge these beliefs! Ask yourself: what evidence is

there for this thought? Is it more likely that I'm having a temporary panic attack, or that I'm truly in danger? Remind yourself that panic attacks are uncomfortable, but they are not life-

threatening.


Relax Your Muscles

During a panic attack, tension builds in your body. Fight back with progressive muscle

relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups. Start by clenching your fists for a few seconds, then releasing them completely. Focus on the feeling of relaxation spreading through your hands. Repeat this with different muscle groups, working your way up your body. Progressive muscle relaxation helps release physical tension, which can ease the overall feeling of anxiety.


Seek Help: Don't Suffer in Silence

Panic attacks can be isolating, but you don't have to go through this alone. Consider talking to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist. At TPS Therapy, (LINK TO HOME PAGE) we can provide professional guidance and support to help you understand your panic attacks and develop a long-term management plan.


If you’re interested in meeting with one of our therapists, contact us to book a free 20-minute psychotherapy consultation online.


Looking for a quick fix for those moments when a full-blown strategy session isn't an option?

Consider keeping some Listerine Pocketpak breath strips handy. While it may sound strange,

popping an intense breath strip into your mouth introduces a strong, external sensation that can help distract you from your internal panic. The cool minty flavor also triggers a slight cooling effect in your mouth and throat, which can mimic the calming sensation of deep breathing. While breath strips won't solve the root cause of your panic attack, they can offer a temporary reprieve, allowing you to take a step back and implement a more comprehensive strategy. And, remember, panic attacks are temporary. By incorporating some of these strategies into your self-care routine, you can equip yourself to manage panic attacks and live a full, vibrant life.


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