1. Get educated
“Fight or flight” is your body's natural defense to danger. Panic happens when your body’s flight or fight system goes into overdrive. It’s scary. But you can gain control over your reactions when you understand the causes of your anxious feelings and correctly interpret your body’s reactions to stress. Although panic attacks are scary, they are not heart attacks. They are not life-threatening.
2. Learn the three step process that treats panic disorder
First, you receive education about anxiety and panic disorder. Next, you learn breathing and thinking skills to help you confront the situations that cause anxiety. Finally, you will work with your therapist to slowly expose yourself to the panic sensations in your body and situations that cause them.
3. Stop avoiding your fears
Panic disorder gets worse when you avoid the things you fear. Avoidance may give immediate relief, but it can also make the situation worse in the long run. When you avoid things you fear, your body and your mind cannot learn to correctly assess the feelings you get when you have a panic attack. The sensations are part of the fight or flight system; they are not harmful.
4. Change your breathing pattern
Many people with panic disorder tend to hyperventilate. You may be breathing short shallow breaths throughout the day, which makes it easy to then feel panicky. Learning to breathe properly throughout the day and while having a panic attack can help reduce physical sensations of anxiety and panic.
5. Change the way you think
People with panic attacks tend to tell themselves some pretty scary things. You can work with your therapist on learning skills to be more aware of your thinking and how it fuels your anxiety and panic. You will learn how to use your thoughts to deal with your anxiety, not to avoid it.
6. Take medications
Medications will not cure anxiety disorders, but they may help you manage the symptoms while you receive psychotherapy.
7. Create support groups
Family and friends can help you face and overcome your fears. Sharing your problems and successes with others in a self-help or support group may also be helpful.
8. Stay hopeful
Set personal goals. You absolutely can learn to manage your anxiety while having a full and productive life.
9. Keep a journal
You may find that there are certain situations that trigger your panic. By paying attention to these triggers and writing them down, you can learn to recognize them and to manage your reactions .
10. Study stress management techniques
Meditation can help people with anxiety disorders calm themselves and may enhance the effects of therapy. Also, aerobic exercise may have a calming effect. Be aware that caffeine, certain illicit drugs, and even some over-the-counter cold medications can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety disorders.