Dr. Pam Thompson

Dr. Pam Thompson

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Tips for Overcoming Panic

Deep breathing does wonders to calm anxiety. When inhaling, place one hand on the abdomen and one on the chest. To achieve deep breathing, make sure the hand on the abdomen is rising more than the hand on the chest. If shoulders and chest are rising, and the diaphragm is not, this is NOT deep breathing. Picture someone hyperventilating, and you’ll get the picture of how short breaths contribute to increased anxiety. Once you've taught yourself the difference between deep and shallow breathing, sit calmly, close eyes and place hands by your side. It also helps to start with a deep exhalation first, consciously working to exhale all the stale air trapped in the diaphragm. This makes room for a deep inhalation. To establish the desired rhythm, count to 8 on the exhalation, 7 on the inhalation, and hold the breath for 4 counts before exhaling and starting the cycle again.

Ask yourself what's the very worst thing that could happen and then what and then what? Keep going with this game of "and then what" until the core concern or fear is staring you in the face. Chances are pretty good that the worst thing that can happen is not as bad as your imagination would have you to believe. This helps to minimize the power of the imagination and emphasize the reality of the moment. 

Enlist the support of a friend or family member as soon as possible. Talking through concerns with someone you trust distracts from the paralyzing fear and begins to reinstate a feeling of security as someone helps you carry the anxiety. 

For chronic sufferers of panic or anxiety, seek therapy and/or medication. In the meantime, develop a self-talk strategy that may include a favorite quote, prayer, lyric, or scripture that creates a shift from helplessness to empowerment.

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