While most people occasionally deal with some form of anxiety or fear, others experience these emotions much more frequently and intensely. Sometimes, anxiety and fear can take the form of a panic attack—where your heart is racing, you feel out of control, and you struggle to breathe. Panic attacks can be debilitating, and over time, they can actually impact your physical health. As your Hermosa Beach psychologist, my hope is to not only help you manage anxiety attacks but also to uncover the root cause of these panic attacks, so you can overcome them and live life to its fullest. Here are some practical steps to take when you start to spiral into panic:
When you feel the swirl of panic coming on, train your mind to focus on something other than the anxious thoughts that are barreling in. Look around your surroundings and find something you can see, something you can hear, something you can touch, and something you can smell—and say each one out loud as you identify it. This will help pull you out of your head and into reality.
When your heart starts to race, distract yourself from your anxiety by counting by 3’s up to 100, or reciting the alphabet. If you have any loose change nearby, grab it and start adding up dimes and quarters. Focusing on things other than your racing heart and racing mind may help you calm down.
One of the best things you can do to alleviate a panic attack is to breathe deeply. This can be difficult when it feels as though things are getting out of control, but if you intentionally practice breathing, your symptoms will likely decrease and may subside altogether. Breathe in slowly through your nose, hold it for five seconds, and then slowly exhale. Repeat this until you have a better handle on the situation. There are also classes available on breathing techniques and meditation that can be very helpful.
Light exercise releases endorphins—hormones that boost your mood and help your body relax. Try to go for a short, brisk walk when you experience a panic attack. This will help your body release endorphins which can dissipate the panic, and the rhythm of walking can help regulate your breathing and heart rate.
Anxiety and panic attacks don’t have to be part of your life. If you are overwhelmed with panic or find that fear is controlling your life, or if you would simply like some additional help in dealing with anxiety, talking to your South Bay and Hermosa Beach psychologist can make a huge difference. I can help you create a practical plan to manage your anxiety and stop the frequency—and intensity–of panic attacks, so you can live a life free of these debilitating symptoms. If you’re ready to stop feeling overwhelmed, book an appointment today, or feel free to call my office at 310-892-2572. I look forward to working with you!