A panic attack can be described as a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety, intense fear, and apprehension.
People often describe it as a feeling of fear in response to a threat, even though there is no actual threat.
Panic attacks occur suddenly, without any warning. They can last for a few minutes or more but rarely persist for more than an hour.
Recurring attacks may lead a person to avoid certain situations or places when in fact there is rarely a correlation between the activity or place and the attacks.
Symptoms of Anxiety or Panic Attacks
Along with anxiety and fear, panic attacks can have physical symptoms, such as:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heartbeat
- Hot or cold flashes
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- A choking feeling in the throat
Some people who experience panic attacks also report feeling as if they might die or feeling unreal and detached from their surroundings. After the attack subsides, the person may feel fatigued and worn out.
Causes of Anxiety or Panic Attacks
The exact cause of panic attacks is not known, but there is evidence that suggests panic attacks result from a combination of genetic, environmental, psychological, and biological factors.
It is believed that major life changes (like moving out, getting a job, getting married, or having a baby) can also be linked to panic attacks.
For frequent and recurring panic attacks, proper diagnosis and treatment are a must.
Without proper treatment, panic attacks can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. There are also some simple techniques that can help you cope with this condition.
Here are the top 10 ways to deal with anxiety or panic attacks.
1. Slow Breathing
You may be able to put an end to a panic attack before it begins by practicing proper breathing techniques. Taking in more oxygen has a calming effect on your mind and body. This is due to the breath-activated pathways to all major networks involved in emotion regulation, perception, and subjective awareness, as has been shown in brain imaging studies. Slow, deep breaths can ease many symptoms of a panic attack.
Plus, practicing breathing exercises and techniques daily can help prevent panic attacks.
- Sit in a relaxing position and try to relax your muscles.
- Breathe in deeply through your nose.
- Go, breathe out slowly through your mouth.
- At the same time, focus on the word “calm.”
- Repeat until you feel relaxed.
Technology-based programs to help teach and guide people through therapeutic breathing exercises are also available. These programs include audio and video tutorials, web-based and mobile breathing pacers, and even mobile physiologic monitoring devices.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology found that chamomile can help reduce symptoms of mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder.
Chamomile is a rich source of calcium and magnesium, two important nutrients that can help ease the severity of panic attacks. It also contains flavonoids, which employ benzodiazepine-like activity to help ease panic symptoms.
- Add two teaspoons of dried chamomile flowers to a cup of hot water. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Strain, add some honey to the solution, and drink it. Try to drink two cups of chamomile tea daily to promote relaxation and prevent panic attacks.
- Alternatively, you can take chamomile supplements (400 mg to 1,600 mg). Consult your doctor for the proper dosage.
Another popular herbal remedy that can help manage panic attacks is valerian. It aids in calming the nerves by increasing GABA (g-aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system.
A 2017 study demonstrated evidence that valerian has potent anxiolytic properties and revealed valerian’s action mechanism of regulating GABA level. Valerian has also been shown to help promote sleep and relaxation.
- Soak two teaspoons of chopped valerian root in cold water for 8 to 10 hours. Strain the water and sip it throughout the day.
- Alternatively, take 400 mg to 900 mg of valerian extract a few hours before going to bed. Consult a doctor for the proper dosage.
Being an adaptogen, ginseng can also be used for the management of symptoms associated with panic attacks. Adaptogens are plants that improve the nonspecific response to and promote recovery from stress.
Several studies have demonstrated that administration of Panax ginseng or its active components produced an enhanced response to physical or chemical stress. A multivitamin in addition to ginseng can have an additive adaptogenic effect.
- Simmer 5 to 8 thin slices of ginseng in 3 cups of water for 15 minutes on low heat. Strain, add a little honey, and drink the solution when it is cool. Drink one to three cups of ginseng tea daily as required.
- A ginseng supplement can also help prevent panic attacks. Consult your doctor for proper dosage.
5. Hot Bath
A hot bath or shower can help in providing immediate relief from the symptoms of a panic attack. Warm water has a relaxing effect on the body. It also helps combat stress and promotes better sleep.
In response to warm water, your skin releases endorphins, which can help reduce stress and enhance relaxation.
- In a bathtub filled with hot water, add a few drops of any essential oil of your choice like lavender, chamomile, or rose oil.
- Also, add some carrier oil (like jojoba oil).
- Soak in this relaxing bath for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Follow this remedy whenever you are stressed or having a panic attack.
A daily massage may also help in reducing the intensity as well as the frequency of panic attacks. The entire process of massage helps calm the nerves and keep your mind more relaxed.
Sesame oil, olive oil, and coconut oil are commonly used for massages. You may also add a few drops of plant-based aromatic oils (essential oils) to promote relaxation.
A 20-minute massage, three times a week, using aromatherapy with lavender, chamomile, rosemary, and lemon significantly reduces anxiety and increases self-esteem, according to a 2005 study.
- Slightly warm the oil of your choice.
- Use the warm oil to massage your shoulders, neck, back, and bottom of your feet.
- Massage your body daily or as needed.
7. Relaxation Therapies
Relaxation therapies or activities like yoga and meditation can also help you deal with panic attacks. These elevate the levels of “feel good” hormones like serotonin in your body. Yoga has also been shown to increase GABA activity, which leads to a reduction in anxiety symptoms.
Yoga, along with meditation, has been associated with decreased cortisol levels, another indication of reduced stress.
A 2010 review of research found that meditation improves symptoms of anxiety and depression, further suggesting that meditation may be associated with a general reduction in stress.
To reap the benefits of yoga and meditation, you must do it on regular basis and in the correct way. Seek the help of a yoga expert to learn the correct postures and techniques.
8. Green Tea
Green tea is good for your mind as well as your body. This healthy beverage has several essential vitamins and minerals that help in managing panic attacks. Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that has been shown to increase levels of dopamine, serotonin, and glycine. These neurotransmitters are commonly associated with the treatment of depression and anxiety.
In a 1998 study, administration of L-theanine induced alpha-brain wave activity, which is associated with a state of relaxation. One may think that since green tea contains caffeine, it would cause stimulation instead of relaxation. However, it was discovered that L-theanine suppresses the stimulating effects of caffeine.
- Add two teaspoons of green tea leaves to a cup of hot water.
- Cover and steep for 5 minutes.
- Strain and add some lemon juice and honey.
- Drink this tea two or three times a day.
A number of herbalists are of the view that passionflower is very effective in managing panic attacks. Like ginseng, passionflower can also increase GABA levels in the brain, helping to decrease stress and anxiety.
A study done in 2008 showed that administration of oral passionflower reduced anxiety in preoperative patients without inducing sedation. Another study found passionflower to be equally effective as oxazepam, a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety disorders.
- Passionflower is available in the market in various forms, including tea, tincture, and capsule. It is recommended to take this herb under the supervision of an herbalist.
10. Exercise Daily
Several studies have proven that regular exercise can help in reducing the occurrence of panic attacks. In fact, people who exercise regularly experience fewer panic attack symptoms than those who do not exercise.
Exercise helps reduce the stress hormones and increase the “feel good” hormones in your body.
Plus, physical activity will allow your body to use up the energy that may be contributing to feelings of panic.
Numerous studies have shown that exercise is associated with decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression. In one study done in 2003, it was shown that regular physical activity significantly decreased the prevalence of both major depression and anxiety disorders.
Regular aerobic exercise at 70%-90% of maximum heart rate for 20 minutes three times a week has been associated with reduced anxiety sensitivity.
However, you need not necessarily indulge in strenuous physical activity to reap the benefits. An activity as simple as walking (preferably brisk walking) can also be of great help when done regularly.
A study done in 2009 showed that in addition to regular exercise, an acute bout of exercise may be used to further reduce anxiety, along with reducing the frequency and intensity of panic attacks.
- Reduce your intake of alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and foods that are high in fat.
- Sleep better by following a strict sleep routine.
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Individual and family therapy may help.
- Join a support group. You don’t have to handle this problem alone.
- Use stress management methods if your panic attacks are related to excessive tension.
- Take more breaks from day-to-day life. Go for short weekend breaks or a holiday with your family and friends.
- Consider keeping a pet to give you company and keep yourself busy.
- Keep a journal to help deal with your feelings, and track stressors that trigger your panic attacks so that you can manage them.
- Get out and enjoy nature. Taking a walk through a park can help you feel better.
- When you feel a panic attack coming on, try drinking a glass of cold water to help you relax.
- Consider taking nutritional supplements with B vitamins, magnesium, and antioxidants.
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