Mental Health

How to deal with a panic attack

It’s an uncertain time for everyone. This article highlights information about how to deal with a panic attack.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing panic attacks, however there are certain techniques and tactics you can employ when you feel as though you are in the grips of one.

When you begin to feel the rise of panic building, first of all it is important to leave your current situation and take yourself somewhere that you feel safe and comfortable. Whether that is outside with fresh air, or in the bathroom to splash water on your face.

Taking long deep breaths and counting them shifts your focus away from your panic attack and over to your breathing. Focus on breathing slowly so that you don’t hyperventilate. You should also notify a member of staff you feel comfortable with so that they can assist you where necessary.

Where possible, if you feel something welling up, tap your hands on your chair or feet on the floor. Grounding exercises like this can stave off a panic attack before it starts, in addition to maybe stretching your legs and going for a quick walk. 

Clarissa

Seeking Help

As with most mental health problems, panic attacks are treatable, and the sooner you get help, the better.

If you’ve been struggling with your mental health for longer than two weeks, or if symptoms keep returning, and it’s interfering with your life, speak to your GP, who can talk you through options

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If you have problems with anxiety you might be prescribed beta blockers to help with the physical symptoms such as a racing heart, or antidepressants if you experience depression alongside anxiety disorder. Medication isn’t for everyone and does have some side effects, but there are other options too. Your GP may refer you for talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or counselling. Other people might find things like mindfulness, meditation, yoga, art, music therapy or physical activity beneficial. It’s about finding what works for you.

To really feel in-control, Neo recommends hiring a professional, “someone who will help you to understand the root and work with you using a practical, structured program, so that the situations that used to scare you no longer have power over you.”

How employers and colleagues can help

It’s valuable to remember that people who experience mental health problems – including panic attacks – can and do make a valuable contribution to the workplace, but may need additional support.

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Many people find it hard to return to work after a long spell of sickness absence, so employers need to think about how they can reduce the overall anxiety of the situation. Things like offering a phased return, meeting the person at the door, developing a plan for their first day back, scheduling a lunch with the team and putting in regular catch-ups can all help with this adjustment.

Mind recommends all employers encourage managers to draw up Wellness Action Plans with those they manage – whether their staff have a mental health problem, or not.

It is also helpful to ensure that all employees know how to support a co-worker who appears to be having a panic attack.

If you haven’t had a discussion with them beforehand, make sure to gently ask if they want a hug or physical contact, as for some people, this can make it worse, not better.

For more information on panic attacks and anxiety:

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