Anyone who has experienced a panic attack can tell you it’s a terrifying event. Symptoms of a panic attack can range from dizziness and shortness of breath to feeling like you’re choking or experiencing a heart attack. What’s worse, these attacks often occur unexpectedly, forcing people to alter their lives to avoid triggering panic attacks (or live in fear of having one).
During Mental Health Awareness Month, we want to arm readers with tools that can help during a panic attack. We talked with intuitive counselor, therapist, and “anxiety tamer” Jodi Aman, who shared her go-to hack for dealing with panic attacks.
We first want to break down what a panic attack is. Aman told us that panic attacks — and anxiety as a whole — boil down to adrenaline.
When having a panic attack, your prefrontal cortex will pump adrenaline through your body — even when it recognizes that there is no physical danger present, Aman explained. If there is no actual danger and therefore no physical reason to panic, yet you still are, you’ll feel out of control. This lack of control makes the panic worse, increases adrenaline, and the cycle continues.
Knowing that adrenaline is at the root of the issue, Aman told us that we can actually convince ourselves to stop panicking by using logic to, interestingly enough, outsmart our brain. She said,
After telling your brain that there is no reason to produce adrenaline (because panic itself is not physically dangerous), Aman recommends focusing in on your breathing and then moving on to another action.
The next time you feel panic creeping in, remember that it cannot hurt you. It might take some time to persuade your brain to stop producing adrenaline, but the result is a calmer and more confident existence.