Taking Care Of Yourself After A Panic Attack

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Panic attacks can be exhausting and draining. After a panic attack, it’s important to look after ourselves and to focus on self-care due to going through such a difficult experience. The physical symptoms could include:

“Racing" heart

Feeling weak, faint, or dizzy

Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers

Feeling sweaty or having chills

Chest pains

Breathing difficulties

Also, the emotional toll is high including sense of terror, or impending doom or death, and

feeling a loss of control.

What are some things to keep in mind after you experience a panic attack? Generally, it involves a focus on acceptance and then working toward grounding yourself to the present moment in order to allow your body to regulate back a state of calm.

-Proceed Slowly and Methodically.

When we have a panic attack, our heart rate and breathing speed up. Our brains can go at lightning speed, turning our thought process into a wave of garbled messages and we can lose connection with any one of the thoughts, let alone make sense of them. Once a panic attack is over and starts to subside, there is no need to rush straight into doing lots of different things. Simply taking a few deep breaths, sitting down, and taking stock of what we are doing in that moment for a few minutes can provide us enough space to get our feet under us before proceeding. When we do start going back to whatever it is we were doing, we can benefit from taking one thing at a time and focusing attention on it. If it feels like too much then we can stop again and take some more time out. A panic attack can leave us feeling really drained and very tired. It’s absolutely okay to do what we need to do to look after ourselves. Most important is to orient yourself to a direction and move, not to concern yourself with how much you get done.

-Hydrate and Nourish.

The sensation of drinking a hot or cold beverage can help to ground us to the moment, especially if we focus on the sensations we experience in the act. Panic attacks can often dry our mouth out and cause us to sweat which can leave us feeling dehydrated, so drinking can help with this too. Be aware that it’s best to avoid caffeine or alcohol after a panic attack because caffeine is a stimulant which can leave us feeling more anxious, and alcohol can be a depressant. Due to a panic attack, we can feel devoid of much energy afterward, so sometimes we can benefit from eating something to give our bodies energy it can use for recovery and regulation of hormones and brain chemicals released. Also, as with fluids, the sensation of tasting, chewing, and swallowing can give us something to focus on, which can help us to calm down and breathe more steadily.

-Reduce The Stimulation.

We often have stimulation coming at us from all sorts of places. This could include things like light, phone notifications, TV, a computer screen, conversation, the radio, the feeling of different clothes on our skin, and things that we can smell. All of this information flooding in can be overwhelming when we’re already incredibly anxious and dysregulated.The key thing to keep in mind is that we don’t want stimulation that is coming at us and random, we want to use our senses to come in contact with the world around us (we are in control). Trying to reduce the amount of stimulation around us can help us to feel calmer. We could do this by trying things like lowering the lighting, putting our phone on silent, turning off the TV, computer, or radio, and using a weighted blanket.

-Reach Out And Talk To Someone.

After a panic attack, talking to someone can often be helpful. It can be helpful to talk about things which could have contributed to our panic attack and could contribute to another panic attack. Having the space to talk to someone about what we’ve experienced and the thoughts we’ve been having can provide another perspective on our anxieties. It can also help us to problem solve and to find ways of coping with things that we’ve been struggling with. Sometimes we might not want to talk about our struggles and talking about something totally different can be a welcome way to refocus our attention. Everyone is different and there will probably be times when we don’t want to speak to anyone at all, but having a list of people we can call on gives us the option.

-Take Time To Reflect.

Once we’ve regulated ourselves through grounding and soothing after a panic attack, it can be helpful to reflect on what happened, either alone or with someone else. Reflecting on what may have led to the panic attack (thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, environmental cues), the way we coped with it, and whether or not this way of coping was helpful, can help us to cope with future panic attacks in a way that is helpful to us moving forward. Reflecting on the way we coped with a panic attack can allow us to build on our helpful coping skills which will hopefully help us to phase out our less helpful coping mechanisms.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with panic symptoms, and you would like to build skills in self-care, consider contacting me at (717) 288-5064 / gregghammond@restoringbalancelancaster.com and schedule an appointment today.

The Myths Surrounding OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)


Do you wonder whether you may suffer from undiagnosed OCD? This confusion seems to be one of the factors that lead to people with OCD not being properly diagnosed and not seeking treatment. Here are some of the common misconceptions of OCD that contribute to the confusion about this often misunderstood disorder:

1. The difference between the everyday use of the word “obsessed” and its meaning in the context of the disorder.

When someone says they are depressed, we tend to know what they mean, even though that person may be simply feeling sad. It’s nothing like that with the word “obsessed.” When we say we are obsessed with a new friend, or a podcast, or our new shoes, we mean that we can’t get enough of it; we love it, and get a lot of pleasure from thinking about it. This feeling couldn’t be more different for a person who experiences obsessions as part of their OCD. Those obsessions are totally unwanted and disturbing intrusive thoughts, images, or urges. The key being unwanted. Those thoughts or images cause OCD sufferers large amounts of suffering, anxiety, disgust, and often shame. The everyday use of the word “obsession” is actually the opposite of what people with OCD experience.

2. The stereotypical image of people with OCD as clean freaks or neat freaks.

Not all people who wash or clean excessively suffer from OCD, and not all people with OCD feel the urge to clean. So how can you tell? To answer this question, think about the reasons you wash or clean, and how you feel after you are done washing or cleaning. If you take pride in being an organized and “neat” person and feel a sense of accomplishment after you are done, then chances are you don’t suffer from OCD. If, on the other hand, your urge to clean is a response to a strong feeling of fear, distress, or disgust and you feel that you must to do it or you won’t be able to go on with your day, then it may be a sign of OCD.

3. The idea that a messy person can’t have OCD.

As discussed above, a common misconception is that a person with OCD is a super-organized, perfectionistic “clean freak” who is preoccupied with making sure that everything is sterile and in its place. Even though a fear of contamination is a common obsession in OCD, there are other obsessions including:

  • Fear of harming yourself or others, or being responsible for causing a horrible event or making a dreadful mistake.

  • Unwanted sexual thoughts.

  • Religious and moral obsessions. Fear of offending God, being a “sinner,” or being an evil person.

  • “Just Right” obsessions, or awareness of an object or behavior that is not symmetrical, not “right” or not “correct”.

  • Hyper-awareness obsessions. The fear of being unable to stop paying attention to blinking, swallowing, breathing, body positioning, physical sensations, memories, or thoughts.

OCD “attacks” anything that a person values very highly, such as their morality, religious beliefs, and their health. You may have one (or more) type of obsession, but not have the others. This means that you may be preoccupied with intrusive thoughts that you are likely to accidentally stab a family member with a knife, or that you were involved in a hit and run accident and drove away without noticing, while having absolutely no concerns about cleanliness.

4. The fact that many of the thoughts that OCD sufferers experience as obsessions are the same as occasional thoughts that people without OCD may have.

Listen to this episode of the NPR “Invisibilia” podcast to hear examples of some of the intrusive “harming” thoughts that can show up in our minds.

Examples of intrusive thoughts are:

  • “What if I drop my newborn baby down the stairs?”

  • “If I come close to the railing of the balcony, I may jump.”

  • “What If I swerve the steering wheel onto the oncoming traffic?”

We may all have those type of fleeting thoughts on occasion, but what is the difference between people with and without OCD in terms of those thoughts? To put it simply, if a person without OCD experiences a thought like that, they will probably think about how weird the thought was and forget about it pretty quickly. When a person with OCD has the same thought, they will likely become extremely concerned, wondering why they would have a thought like that. They’ll think, “Oh no! What does that mean? Does it mean that I may hurt my baby? I’m dangerous! I shouldn’t be left alone with the baby.” They may then do things to prevent the event from happening, such as avoiding being left alone with the baby or stay away from the stairs. They may engage in all kinds of rituals that calm them down and prevent anything bad from happening. It’s the interpretation given to the thought that matters. If those thoughts cause you extreme anxiety and you start engaging with the thoughts and taking various precautions which takes a lot of your time and energy, then you may have OCD.

5. If a person doesn’t have any rituals, they don’t have OCD.

The absence of visible rituals doesn't mean the person does not have OCD. Often, people may have frequent intrusive disturbing thoughts that cause anxiety and they cope with their distress internally by:

  • Avoiding places or situations that may lead to anxiety. You may avoid knives (so you don’t stab), heights (so you don’t jump), being alone with kids (so you don’t harm them), etc.

  • Mentally reviewing in an attempt to be certain that no harm was caused by one of your actions.

  • Counting.

  • Thinking a positive thought in order to “neutralize” or “cancel out” a bad thought.

6. If a person with OCD can be convinced that those rituals are just silly, they will stop doing them.

Most people with OCD recognize that the rituals (visible or mental) do not make much sense. They would like nothing more than to free themselves from being consumed by their obsessive thoughts and compulsions. Telling them to just stop is not going to work. They need a specialized treatment program called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) that is administered by a skilled professional.

If you think that you (or somebody you know) may have OCD, it is important to get properly diagnosed by a professional. Please don’t allow the above misconceptions stand in your way.

If you are in the Lancaster, Pa area, feel free to contact me at (717) 288-5064 / gregghammond@restoringbalancelancaster.com and schedule an appointment today.