Affect Regulation

Emergency Plan for Panic

The sensations of panic can either rise-up suddenly and out of the blue, or amp up slowly until they are in full swing and derail your day. When the full force of panic hits, it can feel so incredibly frightening, that every subsequent panic attack can often be triggered by thoughts of that very first one. This article will briefly outline the nature of panic, then move into emergency strategies to settle panic when it rises up.

This article is not an alternative to counselling. If you experience panic, please seek out a mental health professional to walk alongside you as heal and build the skills you need to live panic-free. And, while these ideas are shared as strategies anyone can use to settle panic, there are times when what we need most is a person to wait out the storm with us. If you are struggling to settle the strong sensations of panic, please reach out to a support person.

The sensations we so often associate with actually panic serve an important purpose. Panic is the intense side of a response that is actually very adaptive. Low levels of anxiety mobilize us to take action, to get safe from harm, and to be adequately prepared.

Perhaps you are familiar with the sudden flash of activation that sparks up in your body when a car suddenly swerves into your lane. That sudden activation that sparks up is exactly what enables you to pull your car to safety. It may take some time, but once we are safe that activation starts to settle. When it doesn’t settle, or when no event tends to trigger it, that is when we need to seek help. Click here to learn more about anxiety and panic.

Panic is about a Faulty Switch. When the sensation of panic hits us out of nowhere, or when we awaken in a panic, we are bombarded with highly activated body sensations and emotions, and our mind is often flooded with confusion.

The sensations of panic can include:

  • racing heart,
  • sweating,
  • shaking or trembling,
  • shortness of breath,
  • chest pain,
  • chills or hot flashes,
  • upset stomach and/or nausea,
  • dizziness or lightheadedness,
  • numbness or tingling sensations.

The sensations can feel incredibly confusing, and thoughts tend to spiral around “Why is this happening to me? There is no danger, I must be going crazy. Maybe I’m dying”.

When the full force of panic hits we need to switch gears, so to speak. Check out the strategies outlined below, and give each one a practice now. Then, should you find your self in panic, please turn to one of these strategies to shift gears back into emotional safety.

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Experiencing panic doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Please use the ideas here to interrupt the escalation of panic, in order to return to the present moment. Check out the resources in your community, or access a mental health professional for help stepping out of the pattern of worry, anxiety, and panic.

Let’s all keep sharing what works. Please use the comments below to share what works for you to navigate out of panic.

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