Maybe you’ve felt it—the tightness in your chest, the thumping of your heart, the sweat breaking out on your temples. It’s not just ordinary nervousness—it’s a panic attack, a full-fledged expression of anxiety and stress that feels impossible to control.
But it’s not. There are effective, immediate ways to ward off a panic attack when you feel one coming on. “People who experience anxiety and panic attacks need to learn calming and coping strategies to reduce overall anxiety and manage panic symptoms,” says Dr. Barbara Nosal, MFT, LADC, executive director of clinical services at Newport Academy, where we teach teens dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues to self-regulate their mood states and stress.
The first indication that a person is experiencing anxiety or an impending panic attack is their physiological response, as the amygdala sets the fear response in motion. This shows up as an increased heart rate, blood pressure, and sweating, Nosal says.
The first intervention is to induce relaxation using breath and body awareness. The often-heard advice “just take a deep breath” and “relax” actually makes a difference, when we follow the directions literally.