It comes on suddenly, at random or as the result of days of stress. And even though you recognize the symptoms of a panic attack and know you need to calm down, the attack pushes rationalization from your mind. Happy thoughts you try to conjure are immediately eclipsed by extreme fear and anxiety. Your head throbs, your heart races, and you fidget with your hands to hide the uncontrollable shaking.
When you’re in the midst of a panic attack, getting out of it can seem impossible. It’s not. Regaining control is possible with one simple solution: breathing.
We often forget how much the way we breathe affects our bodies. Do it too fast, and you’ll hyperventilate, unknowingly contributing to the panic attack. But when we strategically slow down our breathing, we normalize our vital signs and begin to de-stress.
Military personnel and police officers know this all too well; their jobs revolve around stress. So they practice a technique called tactical breathing, also called combat breathing, which helps them focus, get in control of their emotions and thoughts, and manage stress—all in a matter of seconds. It goes like this:
- Breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of four
- Hold your breath for a count of four
- Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of four
- Hold for a count of four
- Repeat 3-5 times, visualizing each number as you count
The cause of your anxiety doesn’t need to be firing guns or dodging bullets for this breathing method to be effective. Anyone suffering from a panic attack or any sort of stress can and should utilize tactical breathing to ease the anxiety away and regain focus in mere minutes.
But take note of how often you experience these moments of extreme fear and worry. If you have the symptoms of an anxiety disorder, it’s time to talk to your doctor or a therapist about long-term treatment options.