Having a Panic Attack? Try a Little TLC

Mags - June 6, 2011

Need help managing panic or anxiety? Give yourself a little TLC:

As Anxiety Sisters, we are first and foremost pragmatists. We know that there are all kinds of treatments out there for panic attacks and for anxiety, and we believe in trying (almost) everything. Sometimes, however, we need help in the here-and-now – something to do that is free, easy, and accessible whether you are on the subway, in the grocery store, or at the office.

That’s where TLC comes in:

Talk to yourself:

“What I am feeling is anxiety, but I am ok.”
“Breathe in and out.”
“This too shall pass.”
“This is unpleasant, but I can handle it.”
“This is temporary; it is just how I am feeling now.”

Remind yourself that what you are feeling is panic. Your physical symptoms are the result of anxiety and they will pass. It’s very important to talk to yourself in a calm and reassuring tone – kind of how you would address a scared child or another anxiety sister. A few times, I’ve chastised myself for having yet another panic attack. Needless to say, this does not help. Likewise, you are not trying to talk yourself out of a panic attack because often that only exacerbates the symptoms. You are trying to talk yourself through the attack. An anxiety sister once told me that she used to think of her panic like a runaway train, something she had to stop immediately. But now she thinks of her panic as a boat that has gone off-course, and her job is to gently and slowly steer it back. It is so important not to go into crisis mode every time we feel panic. Panic is uncomfortable and scary, but it is not a crisis.

Loosen all constraints:

Many of us feel a choking or claustrophobic feeling during a panic episode. One of the things we have found very helpful is to get as physically “free” as possible. If you are home, get naked. This, of course, might not work as well in your office or in the dairy aisle of the supermarket, so what we suggest is feeling as close to naked as possible. Undo your seatbelt, pull out hair clips, ditch the bra and pantyhose, get rid of the belt, unbutton your jeans. Give yourself as much breathing room as possible.

Cool down:

Anxiety often makes us extremely hot (no, we mean temperature). Our fight or flight response has released all that adrenaline which serves to rev up our system (thus the rapid heartbeat, flushing, muscle tightness, and sweating). Cooling down can reset your body and cause it to stop sending out all that adrenaline, thereby allowing your heart rate to slow and your muscles to relax. One of my favorite ways to cool down is to go for a walk on a cold day. If it’s hot out (shout out to our tropical sisters) consider using a cold washcloth or ice pack on your head and neck, blasting your car’s air conditioner, jumping in a cool shower, or even drinking some ice water. Abs keeps one of those water bottles with an attached fan handy for Florida panic. Anything to counter the heat usually helps to calm your body down.

So, the next time you find yourself in the grips of anxiety, give yourself a little TLC. It really works!

10 thoughts on “Having a Panic Attack? Try a Little TLC

    1. We completely get it! So many of us deal with constant acute anxiety…you are not alone! Perhaps some of the information generated by this community will provide you with some help.

      Abs & Mags

      1. Hi Pamela,
        On our site there is a join us button (on top). If you fill out the information, you will be registered. We cannot register you from the comments because we do not get your email etc. to keep things private for commenters. We would love to have you join us!
        Mags and Abs

    1. We understand how you feel! While your anxiety may not ever completely go away (ours sure hasn’t), you can learn lots of ways to manage it (including but not limited to taking meds). We always say that the goal is not to eliminate the anxiety, but to live well in spite of the anxiety. There’s lots of great info and suggestions on this site–not just in our blogs, but also in the comments from others in the Sisterhood. And check out our Facebook page for constant conversation!

      Abs & Mags

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