Many of are uncertain how to help someone having a panic attack. Here are five helpful tips to help a friend or family member during a panic attack.
1. Help them with guided breathing. The key is to breathe as slowly & deeply as possible as breathing will likely become very shallow . Slowing down your breathing is really important if you are feeling anxious.
Short quick breaths reinforce your body's "fight or flight" response. There are many ways to breathe. One simple technique is to breathe in through the nose for a count of 5, and then out through the mouth for a count of 10. You really want the emphasis to be on a long, slow EXHALE. You can also encourage "belly breathing". Watch as I demonstrate this technique below.
2. Help them stay grounded by engaging their five senses. You can give them something to touch. Another commonly used grounding technique is the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Focus on five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.
You can also focus on something that keeps you in the present moment - like counting ceiling tiles.
3. DO NOT tell the person to "calm down" or relax". Instead, give reassurance that you are there with them and give a positive coping statement like "you can get through this".
4. Stay calm and speak in a slow, clear way. Engage in light conversation (unless they ask you not to), encouraging them to stay in the moment. Talk about something you can see or hear in the moment.
5. Help them move to a quiet place or encourage them to sit quietly.
Sometimes people feel embarrassed when they experience a panic attack in public. Helping them get to a quiet place can help create calm.
Remember that everyone experiences anxiety & panic differently. If the person you are supporting is speaking, please also consider asking them what they need in this moment. When they tell you, listen!
Hi, I'm Alison and welcome to the blog. Here I share tips, ideas and stories of mental and physical well being.
I have been a speaker and trainer for 16 years. I offer Mental Health First Aid in Canada and work with corporate and community groups to deliver training on mental well being, stress management, self-care and more!