How to Deal With a Panic Attack as an Introvert

A woman looks down, worried

Introverts don’t like feeling out of control, which can make having a panic attack all the more challenging.

Panic attacks can be a scary and overwhelming experience. You may feel a sudden, intense fear that causes physical reactions like a racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, and a sense of doom. 

Of course, it’s natural that you would want to find ways to manage these panic attacks. After all, we introverts generally like feeling calm and in control. So, here are some ways I deal with my panic attacks, and I hope these tactics work for you, too.

7 Ways to Deal With a Panic Attack as an Introvert

1. Practice deep breathing techniques. 

As part of my effort to deal with panic attacks, I do deep breathing techniques. This involves taking slow, deep breaths, which helps me relax and calm my body and mind. Plus, it really helps my overthinking introvert mind!

Deep breathing is a simple, but powerful, relaxation technique that helps reduce stress, improve sleep, and increase your overall well-being. Deeply inhale through your nose, hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth.

Here’s how I do deep breathing:

  • I find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down.
  • I place one hand on my chest and the other hand on my stomach.
  • I take a deep breath through my nose, allowing my stomach to expand.
  • I exhale slowly through my mouth, feeling the hand on my stomach, and move the hand inward as I exhale.
  • I focus on the sensation of the breath moving in and out of my body.
  • I breathe at a slow, steady pace, taking one to two seconds to inhale, and one to two seconds to exhale.
  • I continue deep breathing for five to 10 minutes, or longer.

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2. Speak to a therapist.

Seeing a therapist can be beneficial for anyone, including us introverts. Mine has helped me work through why I experience panic attacks.

First, we identified the root cause of my panic attacks, which was likely related to past traumas, current stressors, or other psychological issues. Once the root cause was identified, the therapist helped me develop coping strategies to manage the panic attacks. These strategies include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps identify and change negative thought patterns that contribute to the attacks. I also do exposure therapy, which helps me confront my fears and anxiety triggers in a safe and controlled environment. And we work on relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, so I can better manage my symptoms.

In addition, my therapist recommended that I take antidepressants in order to help manage the panic attacks and improve my overall mental health. Antidepressants are not for everybody, so it’s best for your mental health provider to determine whether or not you’d benefit from them, depending on your particular situation.

Through therapy, I also learned how to better understand my triggers. My therapist worked with me to identify specific situations or circumstances that may incite my panic attacks.

Finally, my therapist gave me the support and encouragement I needed, so I’d feel comfortable discussing my feelings and experiences. 

3. Find ways to relax.

I engage in relaxation activities to manage my panic attacks. Some of these include:

  • Doing progressive muscle relaxation. This involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body, starting with your toes and working your way up to your head.
  • Practicing guided imagery. Using your imagination, visualize a peaceful scene or situation, such as a beach or a forest, and focus on the sights, sounds, and sensations of this place. Since introverts are great at daydreaming, this should come naturally to you!
  • Trying meditation. This entails focusing on the present moment and letting go of distracting thoughts. There are many different types of meditation, including mindfulness meditation and mantra meditation. You can download an app, like Headspace or Insight Timer, and find a meditation practice that works best for you.
  • Doing yoga. This involves physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation, and it helps me improve flexibility, strength, and relaxation.
  • Getting (or giving yourself) a massage. Touching and putting pressure on the muscles and soft tissues of the body can help reduce muscle tension and improve relaxation.
  • Journaling your thoughts. This helps calm the mind and is a great coping mechanism.

When doing one of the above, set aside time to do it in a comfortable, quiet place where you can focus without distractions. Soon you’ll feel calmer, more centered, and more in control of your stress.

4. Try acupressure.

I also do acupressure to deal with my panic attacks. This is a form of massage that involves applying pressure to specific points on the body using the fingers, hands, or a device, like an acupressure pen. These points are located along pathways known as meridians, which are connected to the body’s energy flow. By applying pressure to specific points along these meridians, acupressure practitioners believe that it is possible to stimulate the body’s natural self-healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.

To perform acupressure, I locate the specific points on my body that I want to target. These points can be found by either consulting a chart or by working with a trained practitioner. Once I locate the points, I apply pressure using the pads of my fingers or the palms of my hands. The pressure is firm, but not painful. I hold the pressure for a few seconds or several minutes, then release.

5. Practice gratitude.

Practicing gratitude is a simple, yet powerful, way to improve my mental and emotional well-being. Research has found this to be true, too. Here are some ways you can practice gratitude:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Each day, I write down three things I’m grateful for, such as a delicious meal or a beautiful sunset, or bigger things, such as a supportive friend or a fulfilling job.
  • Share your gratitude with others. Tell a friend, family member, or partner about the things that you are grateful for and happy about. Sharing it will help you feel more connected to others and may also inspire them to practice gratitude.
  • Reflect on your blessings. This is similar to making a gratitude list, only you can think about all the good big things you have in your life, such as your health, loved ones, and job opportunities. 

Is social anxiety holding you back?

Although social anxiety is not the same thing as introversion, many introverts experience this painful and isolating condition. The truth is you can beat social anxiety, and our partner Natasha Daniels can show you how. This means more relaxed conversations, more enjoyable work/school days, and more social invitations that you don’t immediately decline (unless you want to, of course!). Click here to check out her online class for kids and adults, How to Crush Social Anxiety.

6. Get moving.

Research shows that exercise can help in reducing anxiety and improving overall well-being. I incorporated regular physical activity into my routine, such as walking, running, and participating in a sports league. There are many different physical activities you can try:

  • Cardiovascular exercise is any type of exercise that increases your heart and breathing rate. This type of exercise is important for improving heart and lung health, and can also help burn calories and improve your overall fitness level. Some examples of cardiovascular exercise include running, cycling, swimming, and walking. 
  • Strength training is a type of exercise that involves using resistance to build strength. This can be done using weights, such as dumbbells and barbells, or with bodyweight exercises, like push-ups and squats. Strength training helped me improve muscle mass, bone density, and overall strength, and also helped boost my metabolism. 
  • Flexibility and balancing exercises can help with your range of motion. They include activities such as yoga, tai chi, and Pilates. Flexibility and balance exercises also help improve posture, reducing the risk of falls and injuries. 
  • Hiking can be done alone, with a group, or with a guide. It’s a great way to get exercise and spend time outdoors, and nature is a great way for introverts to recharge. Plus, movement helps cure overthinking! (To go hiking, I got a good pair of hiking boots or shoes, and I made it a point to carry a backpack with water, snacks, and other supplies with me. I went on short hikes in my local area, but I am now planning a longer backpacking trip.)
  • Dance can help you calm down and decrease the chance of having a panic attack. Dancing is a fun way to get exercise and improve your coordination and balance. To start dancing, look for a class in your area — or just put on some music and dance freestyle at home. 
  • Swimming is great for your entire body and your mental health. It’s a low-impact activity that will provide you with a full-body workout. 
  • Gardening can be a demanding activity, especially if you are doing tasks like digging, planting, and carrying heavy pots. Yet it can also be a relaxing way to spend time outdoors. 

7. Try self-hypnosis.

Self-hypnosis is a state of deep relaxation wherein the mind is highly suggestible. Self-hypnosis helped me manage my anxiety by helping me change my thoughts, behaviors, and habits. To enter a state of self-hypnosis, you can follow these steps:

  • Look for  a quiet, comfortable place where you can sit or lie down.
  • Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, focusing on the sensation of the air moving in and out of your body.
  • As you exhale, allow your muscles to release any tension or stress.
  • Count backwards from 10 to 1, taking a deep breath in between each number.
  • As you reach 1, take another deep breath and allow yourself to sink deeper into relaxation.
  • Imagine a peaceful scene, such as a beach or a forest, and focus on the sights, sounds, and sensations of this place.
  • Repeat a positive affirmation to yourself, like, “I am confident and capable” or “I am in control of my thoughts and feelings.”
  • Slowly count from 1 to 5, taking a deep breath in between each number when you are ready to come out of self-hypnosis. When you reach 5, I open your eyes and take a moment to adjust to your surroundings.

Self-hypnosis is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. But with regular practice, you can use it to improve your well-being and reduce your anxious thoughts to keep panic attacks at bay.

How do you deal with anxiety and panic attacks? Let me know in the comments below.

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