Coping Techniques for Panic & Anxiety

Calming Breaths or "Deep Breaths"

    (1) Inhale slowly through your nose filling your belly, *not* your chest for five seconds.
    (2) Hold for about 5 seconds.
    (3) Blow air out slowly through your lips, as if you are blowing out cigarette smoke.
    (*) Repeat the process 3-5 times.

Act As If

    This is one of the best overall techniques -- your brain both observes and drives your body. You can best break bad internal cycles by using your muscles to disrupt the pattern. Act as if you are brave and strong. Act kind and confident. Put on an act until it is no longer an act but a habit. This can work. Not all the time, but practice makes perfect eventually.

Relaxation Skills

    Meditation. There are many types of this:
    Progressive muscle relaxation
    Mental relaxation
    Autonomic relaxation
    Visualizations

    Progressive Muscle Relaxation
    Close your eyes and start from your head or toes and first tense a muscle, then let it go and try learn the feeling of the muscle letting go and relaxing. Do for all major muscle groups, especially neck and head. Do this for 2-3 weeks straight until you learn it, then sporatically thereafter. Don't do it so much that you train yourself to strain to relax.

    Mental Relaxation
    follows progressive. Once you learn the feeling of letting go, let muscles go without first tensing them. Do this for 2-3 weeks and once
    a day for life. An image that sometimes helps (don't now why) is if you find a muscle that's real hard to relax, view a kind of large glowing cotton ball rotating in space above the tense muscle. See each of the cotton fibers kind of pulling at the muscle to loosen it up as the ball turns.

    Autonomic Relaxation
    Slow your heart down, shift blood to your limbs, dilate blood vessels. This must be done indirectly. First, 10 deep breaths, then mentally relax, then try saying and gently feeling "my heart is slow and smooth" over and over. "My limbs are heavy and warm", "My skin is limp and loose", "My breathing is calm and rhythmic" are other phrases to use. Can induce deep deep stages of relaxation.

    Visualizations
    This can be done to music or to anything. 10 deep breaths, mentally relax then:

      Take a mini vacation.
      Imagine yourself playing your favorite sport; dancing for God or creation; flowing as water down a stream; lying in the warm surf; you surrounded by friends at a fun beach party; dancing with someone you love; go to a favorite place etc. Can be quite fun.

      Go to a favorite place in your imagination and get calm. Then switch to the first part of the stress scene and see yourself acting calm and successfully there with confidence. If you feel stressed, return to the calming scene until you're calm, then try again. Do this again and again until you can go through your whole "stress scene" feeling calm and confident. May take days or weeks sometimes. Use well before any major life changes.

      View yourself succeeding at a task or goal over and over in realistic detail.

    Holistic Approaches
    diet
    exercise
    meditation
    ignoring symptoms
    replacing negative thoughts
    positive attitude
    acceptance
    spirituality

    Healing
    To cope with and eliminate panic and the fear of panic is the crux of healing. It takes time because you are caught in a cycle. You may consider medications for this, but many have stopped panic without medications -- listen to yourself, you'll know what's right for you eventually. The panic coping skills are necessary to learn in either case.

    The approach to stopping panic is to lose your fear of it. To view panic in your gut as just a behavior that you do, to recognize and not fear or regret it. Once the fear of panic is gone, so is the panic. But I do not know how to tell you how to lose the fear, it's an experiential thing.

    A good technique for minimizing panic is "grounding oneself" -- switch to deep breathing, and then cycle through your senses slowly, naming or even pointing to each sensory datum: what are you seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, smelling. Cycle again and again. Don't judge, just record and notice. Or alternatively add an "that's good" after each sense is named. Don't hurry away from a situation that invokes panic -- that just triggers a more intense conditioned response later. Try and stay there and calm down, or else leave slowly acting "as if" you are calm.

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