Experiencing a panic attack is exhausting, draining and can take days to recover from. While we sometimes do our best to prevent an escalation into a panic attack, they still can happen. How do we feel like ourselves again following a panic attack? What are some positive coping techniques we can use to improve our self-care?
Resting and Relaxing
Resting and relaxing helps rejuvenate lost energy after experiencing a panic attack. Taking time to recuperate allows us to clear our minds and take the necessary steps to recover.
Resting may look like:
- Taking it easy.
- Asking for help with chores or errands.
- Taking a break from demanding responsibilities.
- Prioritizing time alone or with trusted family and friends.
Giving ourselves permission to slow down assists our recovery process and opens our perspective to the best methods of self-care.
Mindfulness is the skill and habit of focusing awareness on the present moment. The better we become at cultivating nonjudgmental awareness of our thoughts, feelings, environment, and experiences from moment to moment, the more we can learn about ourselves and our stressors. Mindfulness teaches us to notice, accept, and let go rather than dwell and latch onto past thoughts or future worries.
Mindful Daily Activities
Along with resting and relaxing, it’s also beneficial to practice mindfulness while doing everyday activities like eating, drinking, walking, etc. Becoming mindful while engaging in daily activities enables us to clear our minds only to focus on how we are interacting with our environments and ourselves during each moment.
Tip: To eliminate worry, center the senses in current activities rather than what can happen in the future or what happened in the past. Ask yourself what is happening in the here and now.
Mindful Meditation/Controlled Breathing: Sitting in quiet spaces practicing mindful meditation and controlled breathing are also useful coping mechanisms to calm the mind and body. Creating a rhythm of breaths, inhaling and exhaling for the count of five for example, while also clearing our minds of worry helps in recentering focus and control.
Reminder: Mindfulness reinforces our ability to gain control and restore our inner wellbeing.
Reminders and Positive Self-Talk
Accompanying mindfulness is reminders and positive self-talk to further empower our inner sense of security. Reminding ourselves that we are safe and in control helps us move past our fears and into a calmer state of mind.
Some self-soothing affirmations to try include:
- I am safe.
- I am in control.
- I can ask for help if I need to.
- I release my fears and worries.
- I am powerful and in control of my decisions.
Note: Positive self-talk increases confidence and supports inner strength despite discouraging feelings of doubt and fear.
Our triggers can hinder us from wanting to do the activities we love or want to try. Like mindfulness and positive self-talk, building self-awareness helps us learn more about ourselves and what overwhelms us. One way we can gain self-awareness is by asking important questions.
These questions can be:
- What caused this panic attack?
- What can I do to prevent possible future spirals and escalations?
- What are my next steps?
- How am I feeling right now?
- Who can I go to for help?
- What tools and resources are available to me?
Recognizing and identifying our limits as well as creating boundaries can help us take better care of our mental health. Understanding who we are and what triggers us is a necessary step to preventing future escalations of overwhelm.
Tip: Journaling/Writing can be a helpful tool when attempting to reflect and process what happens after experiencing a panic attack.
Once we’ve gained some energy and given ourselves time to rest and reflect, we can communicate with others we trust about our experience. This step can be taken during or after our reflection time as processing can look different for everyone.
Reminder: Remember to be gentle communicating experiences with others. Panic attacks do not make anyone a failure or stop any of us from enjoying life or taking risks.
Utilizing creativity is not only engaging but can help in the reflection process following a panic attack. We can supplement how we communicate our experience with creative expression.
Asking important questions about an experience can be difficult but using creative prompts in poetry or art can catalyst that process.
Expressing ourselves creatively can be in the form of:
- Poetry/Creative Writing
- Digital Art
With creative prompts like:
If you can describe, craft, or create a physical description of the anxiety or feelings following a panic, what would it look like? Would it be a person, place, or thing? Does it have weaknesses and strengths? What is it’s vulnerable points?
Write a letter to the anxiety that leads you to feel overwhelmed. What would you say to it?
Imagine a tree with its roots. Imagine the tree is you. List everything that makes you strong and firm and put them at the roots of the tree. Now, list all of your accomplishments, talents, things that help you keep going and name them on the branches of the tree. As a reminder of all that you are and motivation to move forward, create your tree of life.
Along with using creativity to help process our experiences, we can also use creativity to distract and calm ourselves too. Learning a new craft is both rewarding and fun!
A new craft to try can be:
- Crafting jewelry
- Making keychains
- Designing and making stickers.
Now that we’ve learned some tools to bounce back from a panic attack, what techniques are most helpful for you? Self-care is different for all of us so what helps some might not help others and that’s okay! What’s important is feeling better.
Never forget that we are still capable, strong and worthy of whatever we set our minds to despite experiencing moments of panic.