How to Pause A Panic Attack

Today we're talking about emotional distress planning. Essentially, this is a go-to plan to help regulate your emotions when you're feeling the extremes. I personally like it in the form of a list, since it makes it easier to follow. For myself, this list is how I try to pause panic attacks. The point's not to stop the distress completely, as this just bottles up the emotions and they eventually come back tenfold. What you're trying to do is lower the distress to a point where you can still feel it, but are able to actually function and work through it. It's to help you step out of the panic to gain some awareness.

What Is A Distress List?

I found that for myself, it's best to have the list literally written out by hand, somewhere I can always find it (aka my day planner). It could also be helpful to have it saved on your phone, since we all use them so damn frequently. There is a worksheet available in the free resources section of the site to help you create your own distress list. Either head directly to that section or sign up below.

You can also keep multiple copies of your list around your home, in your car, or at work. You may want to consider sharing and explaining your list with your support system people. Isaac knows my whole list, but I've also made the effort to tell my family and friends the top three things to do if I'm having a panic attack. It's scary for them to see it happening, but knowing what to do helps them feel a little more prepared and less powerless, Most importantly, they'll be less likely to accidentally make the situation worst.

How to Use Your List

When shit hits the fan, I pull out my list and start working through them. I pick the first one that I am drawn to and try it. If it doesn't work I move on to the next one, until I am at a point where I know longer feel like I am dying. Sometimes it takes almost whole list, and sometimes I have to do this three or four times a night. Like I said, hard work.

It's All a Practice

It's important to practice these activities when your distress is at like a 4-5 rather than waiting until you're at a 9-10. Most people can't think clearly at that level of distress, so the mind automatically reverts to ingrained coping mechanisms (like self-harm or suicidal ideation). By practicing when you're still functioning, you are retraining your brain to consider other behaviours when it goes onto autopilot. Remember: this is a skill, and learning it'll take time. This is hard, hard, HARD work, and there will be times when it feels like you have failed.

Please practice some self compassion; it's taken your whole life to get to this point, and that's not going to change overnight. Even if all you can do is buy yourself a little bit of time before those harmful coping mechanisms kick in, that's still a win. Baby steps here.