If you’re reading this, you already know that what you’re experiencing is a panic attack, and you’ve probably experienced one before.
If this was your first rodeo, you wouldn’t have googled “panic attack.” You would have googled whatever disease or illness that your brain was obsessing over.
I need this step to remind myself that panic attacks won’t kill me—even if it feels like they will.
The key for me is not to do this passively.
Panic feels very lonely. It feels like you against the world.
It helps me to remember how many other people are experiencing the exact same thing as me. Especially amidst a panic attack when I’m afraid of whether or not I’m acting visibly weird.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 18.1% of adults in the U.S. have some form of anxiety. That’s roughly 1 in 5 people.
Which means if I’m in public when I panic, I can assume that 1 of the 5 people around me has anxiety too.
To remind myself of this, I look out at the world and count 5 people. Then I like to decide which one of them is having a panic attack too.
Now that you’ve reminded yourself you won’t die, and you’re not alone, you need something that will stop your brain from thinking about the feeling of panic over and over again.
I like to use a technique I call the “Holy Trinity”. Not because it involves prayer (though I’ve heard that works well for some people), but because it involves the three major senses: sight, sound, and sensation.
To do this technique, be still and notice three things you hear, three things you see, and three things you feel (temperature, pressure, your feet on the floor, etc.).
Repeat this three times (or until you feel a noticeable decline in your anxiety).
While noticing sights, keep your gaze on one spot and try to notice things not just directly in front of you but also in your peripheral vision. Otherwise you can close your eyes while listening and sensing.
The body and the mind talk to each other constantly.
I spent a long time trying to get my mind to convince itself and my body to “calm down”. It didn’t work.
When the panicking mind talks to the body, it makes it tense up and prepare for danger.
So the last thing I want to do when I’m having a panic attack is to exercise or move my body.
But one of the most effective way to show my brain that I’m okay is to do exactly that: move in ways that feel relaxed and carefree.