Panic attacks are more common than some people would believe; the disorder affects six million American adults. They are caused by high levels of anxiety and stress and are experienced differently by each person. Here are some ways to cope with anxiety to prevent panic attacks, as well as tips for what to do if you experience one.
We live in a society that’s always on the go, which creates both positive and negative stress in our lives. Oftentimes, we don’t take enough time for ourselves and forget to really live in the moment. Being mindful and focusing on the present helps to reduce anxieties because it allows us to pay attention to the here-and-now without worrying about what happened in the past or what might happen in the future. Meditation, breathing practices and yoga are all excellent ways to reduce stress by focusing on the present.
Recognize Signs and Symptoms
Every person experiences panic attacks differently—some are more subtle, while others are very intense and require medical attention. But there are common signs to look out for if you or a loved on is having a panic attack. These include difficulty breathing, hyperventilation, dizziness, paranoid state, heightened/irrational fears, chest pains or heaviness in chest, tingling in the hands and feet and increased heart rate. Panic attacks can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, and sometimes longer.
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Focus on Your Breathing
A panic attack is the result of the body’s fight-or-flight response to fear—a basic instinct that all humans have. A result of this response is increased heart rate and shortness of breath or hyperventilation. To get your breathing under control again, focus on the inhales and exhales, extending them to four counts each. Count it out in your head or out loud if you’re helping another person. Focusing on your breath will calm the nervous system and balance out your heightened state.
Therapy works to reduce stress and anxiety in a person’s life so they can manage their emotions and stress level in order to avoid future attacks. Panic attacks are treatable and people who experience panic attacks often should consult a medical professional.
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