It starts with a tightening in your chest that makes it hard to breathe. In addition, then your entire body begins to shiver. Furthermore, your heart pounds faster and faster. What’s happening?
These are the physical manifestations of a panic attack. For teens, panic attacks can be incredibly frightening, especially when they don’t know what’s going on or why. Therefore, it is important to know how to manage emotions before they spiral.
“When teens operate on a day-to-day basis with a high level of fear and worry, they can begin to experience panic attacks that seem to come on out of nowhere,” says Newport Academy clinician Heather Senior Monroe.
What Is an Anxiety Attack?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, panic attacks are one form of anxiety disorder. Symptoms of a panic attack include:
- Chest pain, heart palpitations, or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking
- A feeling of impending doom.
Teens who suffer from frequent panic attacks, also known as panic disorder, may develop a constant fear of when the next attack will occur. They may also begin to avoid places where they’ve had attacks in the past. For some, teen rehab is the ideal place to learn how to manage teen emotions and avoid destructive behavior.
The good news is there are simple ways for teens to decrease their overall level of anxiety and thus the frequency of panic attacks. In addition, there are holistic ways to prevent the escalation of emotions.
Here are six ways to cope with anxiety and panic attacks without using medication.
1. Examine Your Thoughts
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is particularly effective for anxiety and panic attacks. According to the American Psychological Association, CBT works by helping teens identify possible triggers for the attacks. The trigger might be a specific thought, situation, or even a physical symptom. Once the person is able to separate the trigger from the attack itself, the trigger begins to lose some of its power to bring on an attack. This individual therapy is a powerful intervention.
2. Do Good for Others
Research shows that helping others has a powerful positive impact on well-being and anxiety levels.
According to a recent New York Times article by the Dalai Lama, “Americans who prioritize doing good for others are almost twice as likely to say they are very happy about their lives. In Germany, people who seek to serve society are five times likelier to say they are very happy than those who do not view service as important. Selflessness and joy are intertwined.”
For teens, helping others might look like:
- Volunteering for a local organization
- Helping out at an animal shelter
- Serving meals for the homeless
- Tutoring a younger student
- Going to a demonstration for a cause they believe in.
3. Get Creative
“Often, teens find that doing creative activities clears their mind, takes them away from their thoughts, and calms them,” Monroe says. That might be listening to music, playing the guitar, painting, or another form of making art.
Creative activities induce a state of flow, a term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi to describe the experience of being completely absorbed by an activity.
He believed that creativity produces flow, and that regular experiences of flow added up to sustainable happiness. Teens need to find enjoyable, healthy ways to experience flow.
4. Get Physical
Regular exercise has been shown to decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression. In a study of college students, the students who were physically active reported higher levels of excitement and enthusiasm as compared to those who were less active.
Scientists say that the endorphins released by exercise have a wide range of beneficial effects on psychological health, including:
- Elevating mood
- Increasing self-confidence
- Enhancing alertness and concentration
- Decreasing overall levels of tension
- Helping the brain cope better with stress.
5. Practice Yoga—and Stay for the Whole Class
Yoga increases stress resilience—the ability to cope with stressful situations and bounce back quickly.
Researchers theorize that this effect is due to the stimulation of the vagus nerve produced by the conscious movement and breathing practiced in yoga.
Why is it important to stay for the whole class? Because yoga classes end with deep relaxation, which has been shown to reduce anxiety by stimulating the body’s natural relaxation response. The relaxation response is characterized by slower breathing, lower blood pressure, and a feeling of increased well-being. Progressive relaxation techniques, guided imagery, and deep breathing exercises also catalyze the relaxation response.
Relaxation methods like these can help teens ward off a panic attack or calm down when they feel stressed out. The key to dealing with anxiety is having a box of tools to draw from that can help you feel better right away, and over the long term.
Watch AnnaMarie share her experience with drawing and creativity as an outlet to transform stressful feeling and thoughts.
Photos courtesy of Unsplash