Panic Attacks + Tips for Calming Down

Excerpted from Nailbiter: an anxiety zine

Panic attacks are an exaggeration of the body’s ‘normal’ response to fear. The chemical adrenaline which is normally produced when we need action (to run from danger, to fight, or even to get angry) is overproduced and the result is a multitude of unpleasant sensations and a distressing degree of fear.

During such a surge your breathing rate increases, your heart beats faster, your blood pressure rises, and thoughts race in your head. Every system in the body is affected, including the digestive system. If you are normally anxious you are more likely to have an attack, but anyone can get them.


In the short term…

Garlic can be used to stimulate circulation, which can help ebb panic

The way you breathe (over-breathing) can also be behind panic. Here is a nice breathing exercise to try when you feel anxiety/panic:

  • Breath in quick but gentle, preferably through the nose, for a count of 2 or 3. Do not take deep, gulping breaths. Do not hold your breath. Breathe out gently, letting your jaw go slack to a count of 4 or 6. Do not blow out hard or force the breath.
  • After a weeks’ practice, you can make the ‘out’ breath even longer and keep a gentle rhythm going ‘in’ 1-2-3 and ‘out’ 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9. Take it easy; it takes time to get to this stage.

Relax your muscles by taking a bath or getting a massage

Go outside for a walk to get fresh air or sunlight, if possible. Press pause on the situation you’re currently in.

Benzodiazepines, like Ativan and Xanax, are prescribed specifically for panic attacks, but should be taken with care as they are very addictive and in some cases can make anxiety issues worse over time.


In the long term…

Changes to diet and exercise

Talking through issues with a therapist/counsellor/friends

Drug/herbal therapy—also should be taken with lots of caution, care and discussion.