Saturday 27 June 2020

Technqiues for Controlling Your Panic Attack

Ruby shares some ways to deal with a panic attack through the process of grounding.

- Ruby

Becoming conscious and aware when we feel the sensation of a panic attack approaching is key. What are the stimuli that make us feel this way? For example the environment, task and time. Then it is about deciding how to deal with this feeling. To me, this is all about becoming focused and in tune with yourself. Now that I have returned to work since the lockdown, I experienced a panic attack before my first shift. I was aware of why this occurred: because I had gone from only seeing people in my household, to being in contact with lots of people. I was also aware that the routine I used to know at work would be significantly different to keep staff and customers safe. As I have learned how to handle a panic attack in my degree and mental health first aider training, I now find it easier to manage my own. 

In this post I will focus on the process of 'grounding' as a means to regain calm during a panic attack.

The aim of 'grounding' is to feel in control of your surroundings, since panic attacks can cause a feeling of detachment or separation from reality. This can help combat your panic attack as it's approaching or actually happening. An example of grounding is to focus on what is around you. For instance, find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and, if safe to do so, 1 thing you can taste. The reason why grounding can be helpful is because a panic attack can make you feel like you have lost control of your surroundings. By addressing and concentrating on what is around you, you will see that you are safe, able to distract your mind and regain a sense of being in the 'here and now'. This is similar to the 3-3 rule. This includes noticing 3 things you can see, 3 sounds you can hear and 3 parts of your body you can move. 

Secondly, using a square to control breathing can help relax the body when it is in an overwhelming state. To do this, find a square within the room. This could be a pattern on the wallpaper, tv screen, the pavement etc. Breathe in for the first line of the square and exhale on the next line. Repeat around the square until breathing and heart rate becomes regular. Controlling your breathing by taking long breaths in and out helps to:
  • Increase levels of oxygen taken in and release a sense of calm throughout your brain and body.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Reduce your heart rate.
  • Relax your muscles.
  • Focus your mind on your body and away from whatever is making you anxious. 
Furthermore, holding an object and analysing it is also a method of grounding. If the object is small, it can be carried with you so that you can grab it when you feel like you need to. You can focus on:
  • The colours.
  • The shape.
  • If it has any patterns.
  • The weight.
  • The texture.
  • If it makes any shadows when placed down.
This technique allows you to divert your mind away from anxious or stressful thoughts and focus on the moment. 

Even though these are useful techniques that can be tried, these are just suggestions. You should seek help from a GP if your panic attacks are continuous. It is possible to control your panic attack very safely in any environment when you find the technique that works for you. 

For more information on looking after your mental wellbeing, please visit the Student Minds resource page.  

Hello! My name is Ruby, and I am 20. I study at a university in Kent and have just finished the last of my essays from home and year 2 is now done! I have wanted to get involved with this blog because I study BA Counselling, Coaching and Mentoring, and my aim is to become an integrative counsellor. 

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