For part one, please visit the post right before this one. In that post, I touched a little on my personal history and experience with Panic Disorder. Today we will cover coping mechanisms.
I think the one piece of advice I can give anyone is to find ways to change your focus. When you are having a panic attack, you essentially are panicking and that is one hard monster to overcome. It is very important to be able to refocus and try to concentrate on something else.
Let me run through a few things I have tried and what I found:
- Deep Breaths. Okay, I’ve tried the slow, deep breathing and it DOES NOT WORK FOR ME. Not when I am in the thick of it. It actually begins to feel like my heart is experiencing palpitations, which in turn causes me to panic even more. Deep breathing works once I am flowing out of the attack. If the initial shock is wearing off, I then begin the slow, deep breathing… and then I am able to recover faster.
- Stress Balls – Alright, this one can sort of stop an attack if you feel anxious in a place. But you have to start early. While in an attack? Absolutely not. However, if anger and generalized anxiety is an issue for you, I think a stress ball can be very useful.
- Peppermint oil. THIS one is a real show stopper for me. I dab a little peppermint oil under my nose, on my temples and on the back of my neck and it is like a miracle! What I think is happening here are two things: – I am able to feel the breath. One of the biggest obstacles is feeling like you can’t take a deep breath. With peppermint oil, the sensation goes deep into the lungs and it sends a message to the brain that yes, you are breathing. And secondly, it refocuses my mind to the cooling/almost slight burning sensation. I always keep something like this on me at all times. (On me, as in in my purse.) You can only imagine the issues I am having with the masks and my “feeling” like I can’t breathe. Quick fix – dab a little on the mask.
- Yoga. 100% seems to center me for the day. It is a shame I don’t do it more often. The stretching of the muscles, the slowing of breath, it really can put my mind, body and spirit right where it needs to be.
- Meditation. This is another one that centers me for the day and/or right before an attack comes on. If I can get to my safe place (a quiet place where there is no judgement.)
- Magnesium. There is a special calming tea that really helps keep stress at bay.
- Epsom salt (hot) baths. This one is always a winner! Especially during an attack or after. It sort of puts your body at ease.
- Essential Oil – Aromatherapy. This sort of creates a sense of peace. I wouldn’t say the lavender actually relaxes me, but rather the ritual of diffusing helps. That goes for incense also.
- Crystals. I’ve been studying the energy of crystals. I will go more into this at a later date, but trust that there is something interesting about this and has worked for me in the past.
- Prayer. This is the biggest one. Prayer is the ultimate refocusing technique and works every. single. time.
- Imipramine, sold under the brand name Tofranil, among others, is a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) mainly used in the treatment of depression. It is also effective in treating anxiety and panic disorder. I did take this in 1996 and I did NOT have one single panic attack. But the drug made me excessively sleepy and I gained 30 pounds in 4 months. NOT an option for me. But it did calm my brain down long enough to do the cognative behavior therapy work with a professional.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy. (CBT) is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel. CBT for panic disorder is an effective treatment for sufferers with or without agoraphobia. It may be used in conjunction with medication or independently. CBT empowers the patient with techniques to manage stress and decrease anxiety and correct thinking patterns that potentiate panic. Works. It really does. But it is simply a coping tool.
- Regular Therapy. This typically works very well, regardless. Just talking things out, learning time management and boundary setting skills – all very important for someone with panic disorder.
- Xanax – Alprazolam is used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It belongs to a class of medications called benzodiazepines which act on the brain and nerves (central nervous system) to produce a calming effect. It works by enhancing the effects of a certain natural chemical in the body (GABA). This drug works very, very well and quickly. I’ve taken it a handful of times. However, it is highly addictive, so my doctor will not prescribe this pill for long term use.
- Massage – And massage can help get you back on your feet by increasing circulation, relaxing muscles, and improving joint movement and flexibility.
- Lexapro – Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) It can treat depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). I tried this back in 2007, and I was only able to handle it for 3 weeks. I had racing thoughts and a racing heart, plus terrible headaches. This was not a good fit for me. I was prescribed this after suffering my second run with meningitis. As it turns out, stress will cause recurrent episodes. My doctor thought this would help. Nope.
- Floating – Flotation-REST has been found to be effective in reducing anxiety. A 2018 study showed that a single one-hour session in a sensory deprivation tank was capable of a significant reduction in anxiety and improvement in mood in the 50 participants with stress- and anxiety-related disorders.
- Buspirone is an anti-anxiety medicine that affects chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced in people with anxiety. Buspirone is used to treat symptoms of anxiety, such as fear, tension, irritability, dizziness, pounding heartbeat, and other physical symptoms. Last year, my doctor gave me this and not 10 minutes after taking it I started experiencing brain zaps. Brain zaps are electrical shock sensations in the brain. They can happen in a person who is decreasing or stopping their use of certain medications, particularly antidepressants. Brain zaps are not harmful and will not damage the brain. However, they can be bothersome, disorienting, and disruptive to sleep. I had extreme dizziness and would only sleep two hours a night. I lasted one month.
- Hydroxyzine – It is used to treat itching caused by allergies. It is an antihistamine and works by blocking a certain natural substance (histamine) that your body makes during an allergic reaction. Hydroxyzine may also be used short-term to treat anxiety or to help you feel sleepy/relaxed before and after surgery. This was my doctor’s suggestion for having something similar to Xanax. I take it if I am starting to fill anxious or if I need to remain calm, I can take it before an event. I am still using it, only rarely. It takes about 30 minutes to kick in and once the anxiety has worn off, you want to sleep for hours. So I have to use it sparingly. I will tell you this, if I take it before bed, I get the best night’s sleep and stay calm the next day with zero panic attacks.
- Cymbalta – Antidepressant and Nerve pain medication. It can treat depression, anxiety, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, fibromyalgia, and chronic muscle or bone pain. You guys – THIS ONE IS THE MIRACLE PILL. I was prescribed this one for the body pains and incredible tendonitis and anxiety. Duloxetine (generic name) is known as a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). It has been a miracle pill! My pain went from an 8 – 9 to a 2, 3 and sometimes 4. My anxiety went from a 9, 10 to a 2, 3. I love it. ZERO side effects, unless you count when I go to relax, I am able to deeply relax. Yep… not too shabby.
There you have it! Coping mechanisms and all of the things I have tried. I won’t share any unhealthy coping mechanisms, because I am sure there are some. Luckily, I have moved past anything that might be not great for the body. One thing I forgot to mention – regular exercise and no sugar seems to give a big calming effect on the body.
Some books I would recommend:
This is by no means medical advice. This is just my journey. ALWAYS discuss any issues you are having with a doctor or therapist.
For more resources and information, visit the following websites: