How to Manage Phobias and Panic Attacks


How to Manage Phobias and Panic Attacks

Belly Breathing

Panic attacks often cause rapid breathing, which adds to the general feeling of terror. If you feel an attack coming on, try deep belly breathing to gain control of the pace of your breaths. With one hand on your belly and the other on your chest, breathe out through your mouth with a gentle sigh—this will help relax your muscles. Inhale through your nose slowly, expanding your belly out as you breathe in, and hold your breath. Pause for however many seconds feels comfortable. Exhale through your mouth, bringing your belly in as if you were deflating a balloon. Repeat this breathing pattern as many times as necessary to relieve the panic attack.

Managing Muscle Tension

When you suffer a panic attack, your muscles are likely to tighten up with tension. You can learn to relax your muscles and help ease the physical reaction to your attack by practicing muscle control on a regular basis. Simply tense up your muscles and hold for 10 seconds, then rest. Exercising this control can give you confidence in the wake of a panic attack.

Curb the Caffeine

It may give you a much-needed jolt of energy when you wake up, but caffeine can also jolt your anxiety—a feeling you don’t want first thing in the morning! If have a phobia or are prone to anxiety attacks, cutting back on caffeine can help reduce your symptoms. If you can, skip the coffee and soda altogether, or limit your intake to one or two cups throughout the day.

Inhale Vanilla

Snuff out a panic attack with a whiff of vanilla, a fragrance known for its endorphin-pumping effects. Endorphins are the feel-good chemicals in your brain, so inhaling some vanilla extract can help calm your nerves and ease your attack.

Visualize Your Happy Place

When you’re in the throes of a panic attack, remember the mantra “mind over matter.” Think of a place that makes you feel relaxed—such as a sandy beach with a view of tranquil ocean waves, or a mountaintop overlooking acres of green trees. See it in your mind and imagine yourself in that scene, lulling your brain into a more subdued place. Loosen up your muscles and let the fantasy calm your nerves.

Fight the Phobia

When you’re going head-to-head with that fear, turn the tension around and challenge those negative thoughts. Panicking about a networking event at the office? Question the reasons behind your fear: What’s the worst that could happen? What is there to be afraid of? Why do you think your colleagues will judge you and why do you care? Ask questions like these each time you’re faced with a fear to challenge the assumptions behind it and rein in your anxiety.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.