If you've never had one, the hardest aspect of a panic attack to understand is that it's not just a mental manifestation of panic — it's an all-consuming physical response as well. Even after the attack has subsided, you'll still feel the physical effects: a bit like a hangover but without the fun or the drinking. Luckily, there are some ways to help yourself feel better that also make processing what you've been through a bit easier.
If you're in the grips of a serious episode of anxiety, your therapist might suggest paying attention to your thought patterns and challenging any assumptions you're making. But that's not necessarily helpful for someone who's actually in the midst of a panic attack.
"When we've shifted over into a panic attack, we're having a physiological response," explains Julie Larson, LCSW, a therapist based in NYC. You might feel your heartbeat and breathing speed up as well as increased sweating and even chest pain. "It's a physical reaction that can become very scary — there’s no grabbing onto thinking," she says. "We're beyond that."
Instead, you'll need to counteract those physical changes with other, more positive physical changes (e.g. walking around) and give yourself the space and time to heal afterwards.