Here are three cures for overcoming panic attacks that work-and that you can remember in a pinch. Any one or all of these three cure will help you regain control over your emotions and over your situation.
Cure #1. Blow your trouble away.
To overcome an attack, do long exhalations from the bottom of your lungs. Take deep breaths in, but don't hold them. Take at least twice as long to breathe out as you take to breathe in. It helps to practice this technique for overcoming panic attacks when you are relaxed.
In an anxiety attack, the autonomic nervous system, the part of the central nervous system that regulates the acuity of our senses, our digestion, perspiration, and breathing, gets out of balance. When breathing becomes fast and shallow, carbon dioxide can build up and the ability of the brain to deal with the situation is subtly altered. Taking a long breath out expels carbon dioxide. Your lungs will reflexively ensure you get enough oxygen.
Taking care to breathe out during a panic attack can:
• Decrease blood pressure
• Decrease heart rate
• Decrease metabolism
• Decrease muscle pain
• Increase circulation
When you blow out "used" air, you will experience less shortness of breath, dizziness, feeling of pins and needles, racing heart, and pains in the hands and feet. Simply regulating your breathing can completely cure an attack. You get better results the more often you practice the technique.
Cure #2. Stand up (or at least sit up) straight and face your panic attack.
If you experience panic attacks while working at your desk-and the workplace is the number one location for panic attacks-simply correcting your posture can cure the attack.
You already have to deal with poor quality recycled air or air conditioning, a lack of fresh air, mold, too much coffee drinking, long hours, and probably an impatient boss. If you slouch in front of your computer all day, you interfere with your body's defenses against these stresses and increase the risk of panic attack.
The purpose of sitting up straight and standing up straight is the same as the purpose for taking long exhalations above. You exhale carbon dioxide-laden air out and you breathe oxygenated air in. The subtle change in the availability of oxygen calms your autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for panic attacks.
Cure #3. Employ diversionary tactics.
One you have taken control over breathing and posture, and you are not dealing with a genuine emergency, interrupt the autonomic cycles that cause panic. A great way to do this is to splash your face with cold water. This replaces the "startle reflex" that gets stuck during a panic attack with a "dive reflex" that conserves oxygen for the brain.
One other practice will also go a long way toward curing an anxiety attack. In the modern era, most of us have been told that it is a good thing to discuss our feelings. If you have panic attacks, it actually isn't.
Talking about panic reinforces the underlying anxiety. Doing something about panic interrupts the autonomic responses that perpetuate the attack. This does not mean you should never discuss your concerns with a friend, a family member, or a counselor. It only means that you shouldn't talk about panic while you are still panicking. Cure it instead.