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Dealing with Panic

Panic is a common experience, and it can leave us feeling anxious and frightened. Some of the common impacts of panic include: increased heart rate, feeling faint, shortness of breath, feeling apprehensive and fearful, and thoughts such as 'I am having a heart attack, I shall collapse'.

One of the main reasons that panic frightens us is that we feel out of control, and we become fearful that something really awful is about to happen to us. For example, if our heart starts thumping, we might fear that we are about to have a heart attack. A significant increase in heart rate is a normal reaction to panic, and very rarely is it a sign of imminent harm.

The more that we can understand and control our panic reactions, the better it will be for us. One way of trying to do this is to consider our thoughts about a particular situation.

On many occasions, it is not the actual circumstances that cause the panic, but the way in which we think about it. If we can begin to change the way that we think, we can begin to manage and reduce the panic. One way of doing this is to ask ourselves: what is the worst thing that could happen in this situation? We can then ask: in reality, how likely is this to happen? Our response to that question may help to reduce our feelings of panic.

Another useful way of managing panic is to practise a good breathing exercise. The following is a basic breathing exercise:

  • Gently fill your lungs with air – the chest will naturally rise, and the stomach may come out slightly

  • Gently breathe out through your nose and squeeze in your stomach

  • Repeat this two or three times, or until you feel calmer and the feelings of panic subside.

Useful websites:

www.mentalhealth.org

www.rcpsych.ac.uk

You may also wish to meet with one of the University Counselling staff to discuss ways of managing your experience of panic. You can request an appointment by emailing: counselling@aston.ac.uk.

If there are any particular subjects that you would like to see covered in these pages, please contact the well-being team at wellbeing@aston.ac.uk.