16 Ways to Deal with a Panic Attack in the Live Situation
by David Kraft PhD
The following behavioural strategies are to be used in the panic situation. What I usually say to my clients is that, if one masters one or two of these strategies, one may find that one will experience fewer panic situations. And, if one does start to develop problems, one can simply use one or more of these techniques to stop the panic symptoms in their tracks. Many clients tell me that some of these techniques help to reduce the intensity of the panic attack; and, after a period of time, their feelings of panic reduce significantly. It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list of techniques, and you may adapt them to suit your specific needs. There are others approaches – such as uncovering techniques – that can be used in the consulting room and these are helpful for discovering and re-framing the cause of the anxiety.
- Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. With each breath, tell yourself that you are ‘breathing in comfort and ease’ and ‘breathing out tension’. Imagine the tension is disappearing from your body. Tell yourself that, with every moment that passes, you are becoming more and more relaxed and that the relaxation is spreading across the whole of your body – quickly, slowly or both. Tell yourself that ‘you know what is happening’ and that ‘you are in control’. Change the appropriate pronoun to suit your needs – i.e., use the ‘I’ form.
- Use progressive muscle relaxation (Jacobson, 1938). Start with your head – perhaps, first of all, your face – and imagine every muscle is relaxing with every breath that you take. Work down from the back of your head, all the way down your neck; imagine this comfort and ease spreading all the way down your back and down your spine. Do the same thing for your front and work your way down to the tips of your toes.
- If there is some resistance with the progressive muscle relaxation, clench your fists and focus on tensing your arms – triceps , forearms, biceps. Tell yourself that your arms are becoming more and more tense but that, inevitably, you will have an irresistible urge to relax them. When you do eventually let go, your arms will be more relaxed than before. Tell yourself that this relaxation will spread to other parts of your body and will ease your mind.
- If your body feels hot, imagine all the space outside your head and outside your body is being cool. Unbutton one button or zip down your jacket very slightly to trigger a change in the pattern of your behaviour. With every breath you take, you can increase that feeling of space and control. Indeed, every breath you take, you can imagine the wind and a sense of coolness. You can develop this technique so that you can feel the coolness and wind on your out-breath, too. Some people find that they can imagine being in a cool place – standing next to the fridge, being on the top of a mountain, on the ski slopes or sitting under a nice cool fountain.
- Thought stopping (Kraft & Kraft, 2006). When you imagine negative thoughts about your well-being, say to yourself, “stop “. Ask yourself the direct questions, “Do you want to feel like this?’, and ‘Do you want to feel relaxed and confident?” Answer the question positively. Next, return yourself to your special place where you feel confident.
- Use humour. Become curious about the situation you are in and look down on yourself, seeing the funny side and realising that no harm can take place. You could also watch some comedy on YouTube.
- Special place (Callow, 2003). Imagine going to a special place – a place in which you are your best self and the person of your dreams.
- Act like someone who you know and trust who is really confident in similar situations. You can also choose a film star or the character in a movie or novel. Tell yourself that the more you act like this friend or famous person the more it becomes part of your internal and external reality.
- Imagine two armies in your head. One army makes negative suggestions to you. The other army has your best interests at heart. Imagine the positive army destroying the negative army. As the battle develops, you feel more comfortable and in control.
- Anchoring (Stein, 1963). Clench your fist and tell yourself that whenever you do this you can feel all the senses associated with going back to your special place – a place in which you are confident and in control of how you feel, think, and behave.
- Change the sound of your negative thought dialogue. Once you are able to change the sound of these negative thoughts you can then tell yourself that you can change the content of these thoughts to more positive ones.
- Imagine walking across the bridge (Alladin, 2009) and dumping all of these negative thoughts off the other side.
- Close your eyes and go into your control room. Adjust all the levers and buttons which are labelled ‘hypersensitivity’, ‘fear of the fear’ and ‘anxiety’ so that they are at a normal level. Next, increase all the levers and dials associated with ‘confidence’ and ‘control’. Then, press the update button on your internal computer. Imagine this having an effect on the whole of your body, and your mind.
- Imagine someone else having a panic attack in the same situation and helping them deal with the problem.
- Positive mental rehearsal (Krenz, 1986). Imagine dealing with the whole of the situation – for example travelling to a destination on the underground – in a really positive way. Imagine being in a calm from start to finish, talking to others and being your best self. Be sure also to focus on the end of the journey and enjoy being back at home having completed the task.
- Analyse the pattern of your behaviour and put something in place to just disrupt this. Tell yourself that once you disrupt the pattern it will interrupt the cycle of behaviour.
Some more information
David Kraft is a well-known psychotherapist with a great deal of experience working with anxiety and panic disorder. He has a practice in Harley Street and he has been there for many years. In 2014, he set up an additional practice in Enfield. People come from all over the Enfield area to see David Kraft for a range of psychological problems. The main catchment areas seem to be Enfield, Cheshunt, Forty Hill, Enfield Wash, Enfield Lock, Oakwood, Southgate, Winchmore Hill, Barnet, Palmers Green and Wood Green. However, people come from all over London to the Enfield clinic. David also offers home visits and telephone counselling sessions.
Getting psychotherapy and counselling on the NHS is, nowadays, a difficult task. In most cases, there are long waiting lists. If you would like psychotherapy straight away, perhaps Enfield Psychotherapy and Hypnotherapy would be a suitable option for you. In order to book an appointment, one can simply refer yourself by ringing 0207 467 8564 or by calling the work mobile phone number which is 07946 579645.
Sessions in Enfield town are £100, although David Kraft offers concessionary rates for the military and ex-military, the unemployed, pensioners and for those short of cash. In most cases, the concessionary rates are between £80 and £90.
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