If you’ve had a panic attack before, you know that they can be incredibly frightening experiences. The physical symptoms can be so intense that you feel like you must be having a heart attack or dying. Due to these intense and alarming symptoms, people who experience recurring panic attacks may experience intense fear about when they might have another episode. While there is no magical ‘fix’ to eliminate or prevent panic attacks all-together, there are some lifestyle changes that can support your mental health as you manage anxiety and panic attacks.
Signs of a Panic Attack
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that is accompanied by physical symptoms including:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Racing heart
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Numbness in the hands and feet
- Trembling or shaking
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
These symptoms reach their peak in about ten minutes, then start to subside. Panic attacks may occur as a result of situations that generate extreme fear, while other times they can emerge unexpectedly without a clear cause. Experiencing recurring panic attacks as well as intense fear about when the next attack might occur may indicate a mental health condition called Panic Disorder. It is also possible for a person to experience panic attacks in the context of other mental disorders as well.
For more articles and information about panic attacks, visit https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/panic-attacks/.
5 Healthy Habits for Managing Panic Attacks
- Limit substance use. While some individuals may turn to alcohol or other substances in order to cope with their anxiety, using substances has been proven to only exacerbate symptoms of anxiety. If you are experiencing challenges stopping or reducing use of a particular substance, seek out support in order to address this, as it may be contributing to cycles of increased anxiety and panic. It is also important to be aware of your caffeine intake on a daily basis, and how it may be affecting your anxiety levels. Consuming caffeine can mimic symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate and feelings of nervousness, which can potentially lead to panic attacks in people who are sensitive to these physical sensations.
- Get enough sleep. It is common for individuals living with anxiety disorders to have challenges with falling or staying asleep. However, insufficient sleep can worsen symptoms of anxiety, creating a vicious cycle. One study found that certain individuals who experience anxiety are even more sensitive to the effects of lack of sleep. To support your mental health, experiment with some sleep hygiene strategies to help you to get a better night’s sleep.
- Engage in regular exercise. Research has noted the numerous benefits of physical activity for stress relief and improving symptoms of depression and anxiety. Thankfully, exercise doesn’t have to look like an hour at the gym. Find something that you enjoy and are likely to stick with- whether it’s going for a walk around your neighborhood, attending a group fitness class with a friend, or dancing around your living room.
- Carve out time to de-stress every day. If you experience recurring panic attacks, it can be very beneficial to find healthy outlets for managing stress. Maybe for you, that’s meditation, or taking a bubble bath, or reading a good book. Whatever it is, prioritize time every day to do something that curbs stress and helps you to feel grounded.
- Build and maintain a strong support system. Having support is essential in living with mental health challenges. Continue to invest in relationships with trusted family members and friends, and be open to new avenues of connection as well. You might consider joining a support group where you can connect with others navigating similar struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. Maintaining a strong support system can help you to cope during difficult times and remind you that you are never alone.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.