Panic attacks are sudden feelings of intense fear or discomfort that can be frightening and make you feel like you’re losing control. Panic attacks tend to subside after a few minutes but can take a toll on the body, making self-care and rest essential for panic attack recovery. Learn more about how to recover after a panic attack.
What do panic attacks feel like?
Panic attacks are a physical response to an emotional trigger — often something that has been bothering us for a while but has yet to come to the surface. A specific event or situation can trigger panic attacks, but they can also occur for no reason at all. It’s common for people who get panic attacks to feel like they are:
- Losing control
- Going to faint
- Having a heart attack
- Going to die
Panic attacks usually last between five and ten minutes, but less commonly, can last much longer. During this time, you may feel:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Nausea in either your stomach or throat area
- Dizziness, as if you’re going to pass out or fall over
What to do after a panic attack
Take a deep breath
Breathing is a natural way to calm the nervous system after a panic attack. Focus on breathing slowly and deeply until the feeling passes on its own. Mindfulness meditation is an excellent way to calm down post-panic attack, and manage day-to-day anxiety. This practice empowers you with awareness of your thoughts and feelings.
Sometimes panic attacks pass quickly, and other times the body needs more than a few minutes to recover. Remember to honour your body by patiently giving it the time it needs to move forward.
Change your environment
Sometimes panic attacks are triggered by a specific environment. If that happens, try to leave the situation and go somewhere that’s quiet and calm. You can take a walk outside or practice self-care indoors. Both strategies regulate stress hormones, helping you recover after a panic attack.
Panic attacks cause the body to go through a wave of stress — making self-care essential to regulate the nervous system. Self-care looks different to everyone, but here’s where you can start:
- Eat nutritious foods: Try having a healthy snack after a panic attack to give your body the energy it needs to recover. Reach for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and foods high in protein. These nutrients will keep your blood sugar stable while your body bounces back.
- Get some sleep: It’s normal to crave a nap after a panic attack — it’s one of the best ways to recover. It also helps to go to bed earlier that night, giving your body enough time to experience REM sleep. This deeper level of sleep reduces stress hormones during the day, helping you avoid a subsequent panic attack.
- Do an activity you enjoy: Listening to music, taking a warm bath, or working on a creative project are all effective ways to center yourself after a panic attack.
Talk to someone you trust
Confiding in someone is one of the best things to do after having a panic attack. You might choose to speak with a friend or family member or you might feel more comfortable speaking with a counsellor or doctor. Studies have found that social support lessens feelings of anxiety and depression — mediating future panic attacks.
Learn what triggers your panic attacks
Understanding what triggers your panic attacks gives you the knowledge to make life changes that reduce their frequency. For example, suppose you have a history of panic attacks in the morning and find that caffeine makes them worse. In that case, you might consider cutting out coffee or switching to decaf. If crowds worsen your anxiety, try carpooling with friends to avoid public transportation.
Get professional support for panic attacks
Panic attacks are common, affecting about 1 in 3 people at any given point in their lives. There are many ways to cope with panic attacks, and it’s important to take the time to determine which recovery method works best for you. If you’re experiencing panic attacks, remember that they are normal and they can happen to anyone. You’re not alone, and there are plenty of ways to get support, including counselling and medication. If you’re having trouble managing your anxiety or depression, online counselling can help. Connect with an experienced counsellor who can help you manage panic attacks.