Are you looking for ways to help prevent panic attacks?
Mindfulness has been a hot topic in the world of wellbeing and mental healthcare for a while. Many therapists state that it has powerful properties. Despite that, its adoption into many different spheres of knowledge has led to some cynicism surrounding the concept.
The concept of mindfulness is likely appealing to those who deal with mental health struggles in their everyday life as is. For people who have to deal with regular panic attacks, the idea that something can help keep them grounded, calm, and adaptable is an enticing one. So, can mindfulness help you prevent panic attacks?
1. What Is Mindfulness?
You’ve likely heard the phrase “mindfulness meditation” a lot, but mindfulness does not have to involve the act of meditation. Of course, the meditation aspect can be helpful. But that dilutes the concept of mindfulness and doesn’t quite do it justice.
The American Psychological Association defines mindfulness as a form of awareness of existence and experiences, sans judgment or suppression. It involves being present in the current moment and being aware of your feelings, actions, the world around you, and what you’re experiencing. Essentially, mindfulness isn’t a trait. Instead, it’s a state, and it’s a skill to build it in the first place.
This seems fairly generic, but you have to consider this. How many times do you retain full awareness of the world around you?
In reality, most people are too busy with their everyday lives that they don’t pay attention to their senses or savor things. They don’t hear the specific tune of the birds or taste every layer of flavor in their lunch. Nor do they take the time to admire the texture of everyday objects or acknowledge their fleeting thoughts.
Of course, mindfulness isn’t necessarily about spending a lot of time observing. It means being a welcome and open observer that does not judge what they feel, think, sense, or experience. This positive concept is one of the more commonly accepted views of mindfulness on the whole.
2. How Do Professionals Rely on Mindfulness to Help Prevent Panic Attacks?
If mindfulness is truly a workable concept, then it surely must be used by those who work in the mental health field. As it turns out, mindfulness-based methods have been used by therapists, psychologists, and similar healthcare workers for a long time. So it’s far from a modern-day faux-spiritualist fluke. As you can see:
Empirical studies into the concept of mindfulness have been conducted for a long time and found it to be scientifically valid. A simple search of any medical journal related to psychology will quickly bring up many of them!
Mindfulness has an operational definition, meaning it, as a construct, has been given a scientific definition that involves testable and measurable methods of determining, describing, and observing mindfulness. This means that it is a technical and scientific construct, as opposed to a mere cry for positive thinking by non-professionals.
Mindfulness has been discovered to have many, many scientifically-proven benefits that aren’t limited merely to anxiety, panic attacks, or even mental health in general. Once again, a wealth of studies relating to the many, many ways that mindfulness improves your life are available in countless journals. And the results speak for themselves!
There are common mindfulness treatments used by professionals to treat their patients. For one, mindfulness-based stress reduction is a very common technique used for the management of anxiety, stress, and panic disorders, following studies promoting its benefits. There is also mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, which is a form of cognitive therapy used in the treatment of mental disorders with the aid of positive mindfulness.
The bottom line is this: mindfulness works, and it works so well that professionals stand by it!
3. How Can Mindfulness Prevent Panic Attacks?
So, you now know what mindfulness is and that it is beneficial for you from a medical standpoint. But does it help with panic attacks? It likely doesn’t surprise you that the answer to this question is a definite yes! Here are some ways that it does so:
· It Reduces Anxiety
Although anxiety attacks and panic attacks aren’t exactly the same. Indeed, the fact remains that many panic attacks come from heightened states of anxiety. Studies indicate that the use of mindfulness can help with the reduction of anxiety symptoms, both in everyday anxieties and in conditions like social anxiety disorder.
· It Helps With Stress Management
Stress can send a lot of parts of your body into overdrive, including your fight-vs-flight response. And since a panic attack is typically a result of those fight-or-flight impulses, it makes sense that reducing stress can help with the management of panic attacks. Mindfulness helps to reduce stress by allowing the mind to properly process different thoughts in productive ways, according to research.
Reactivity refers to the natural reaction of your body and your emotions to situations around you. As is likely obvious, higher reactivity increases the emotive risk of a panic attack as it makes you respond more strongly to difficult circumstances. Mindfulness, specifically mindfulness meditation, allows you to be less emotionally reactive, promoting improved task focus and better positive thinking, even in the presence of less-than-ideal circumstances.
· It Helps You Better Use Your Strengths
Panic attacks often occur due to a feeling of loss of control. When you feel more capable, you are more likely to employ positive thinking and believe in your ability to escape negative situations. But in order to notice and work on your strengths, to begin with, you need to know what they are and hone in on them with focus. Mindfulness brings your attention to areas of strength and promotes them, according to research, allowing you to achieve better results and better confidence in daily life.
· It Improves Resilience
Resilience is the ability of the human mind and body to recover from negative events, trauma, and change. It’s basically how well you can adapt to new things or bounce back from bad ones. The part of the brain that is most responsible for this function is called the anterior cingulate cortex, which helps the brain to learn from mistakes, regulate the self, and manage emotion. Mindfulness can help to strengthen the anterior cingulate cortex, promoting its positive function and helping you to manage stressors in more productive ways, so you don’t experience panic attacks as easily.
4. Can Mindfulness Make Panic Attacks Worse?
For the most part, mindfulness is a very positive thing. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t have its downsides. Even the best things in life may come with a few drawbacks, and nothing is foolproof. In addition, an excess of anything – even the healthiest things – is inherently harmful, and that’s the concept employed when mindfulness becomes a hindrance more than a help. This may happen when:
· You Begin Avoiding Complex Thinking
When you’re confronted with tasks that are difficult or complex, an over-reliance on mindfulness can cause you to withdraw into yourself and enter a mindful state. This can be detrimental to your ability to do work and get things done.
· You Discard Good Thoughts Too
Mindfulness often involves observing thoughts, acknowledging them, and letting go of those that don’t serve you. Unfortunately, in some cases, people may begin to discard positive thoughts along with the negative, which happens most commonly when writing and physical manifestation are used as tools for mindfulness.
· You Start Forming False Memories
Mindfulness can make people a little more spaced-out, which may lead to derealization and difficulty in monitoring reality. This is because mindfulness involves the act of openly accepting, watching, and moving away from any thoughts they have or that are given to them. This can make you form false memories more easily, according to studies.
· You Start Experiencing Negative Symptoms
Not all forms of treatment work for everyone, and the same goes for mindfulness. If the act of mindfulness results in hallucinations, derealization, depersonalization, or other negative symptoms, it’s safe to say that it’s not the most positive option for someone to use.
5. Tips For Practicing Mindfulness For Panic Attacks
So, you know now that mindfulness is a great way to prevent and manage panic attacks. But how can you put that into practice? Here are some tips for doing so:
· Let The Thoughts Flow
The goal of mindfulness is to view your thoughts and emotions without judgment. Over time, you will become used to this, but at first, it will take a little bit of effort. Each thought that pops into your head should be observed carefully, and then your reactions to that thought noted. Finally, once you’ve watched the thought enough, you can ask yourself – is this thought logical or rational? Does it hold water? If it doesn’t, you can discard it. But if it does, you can keep it. If it does but is very negative, you can approach it from a different angle.
· Tune Into Your Senses
Pay attention to what your senses are experiencing! What can you see? How do the colors look, and do you notice any interesting design elements? What can you hear, and can you pinpoint what each sound is connected to? And what are you touching and what are their textures? What are you smelling, if anything? Eat something small and quick and savor every bite, paying attention to the flavor. When you start learning to listen to your senses, you’ll be more grounded in reality and everyday life, helping to fight panic attacks.
· Express Your Emotions
When you need to process feelings and have trouble doing so, seek to express those emotions in positive ways. The easiest way to do this is by journaling. But you can also use art, exercise, or other means to let your feelings fly. Whatever you choose to do, remember that the goal is to express everything clearly and plainly without judging yourself for it. It’s okay if what you use or make feels a little embarrassing at first. You’ll be able to look back at these feelings later and reflect on them. So focus on getting them out there first!
Mindfulness is a great tool for mental health, including for issues such as anxiety, panic, and other similar problems. Still, if you are struggling with regular panic attacks, it is a good idea to speak to a mental health professional to seek proper treatment so you can better manage them.