One of the factors that perpetuates panic attacks is the fear of having another one. The perception that a panic attack is coming on can magnify an awareness of symptoms and then the person begins to tense up and harbor thoughts of doom – just the conditions that drive a panic attack.
If you feel a panic attack coming on, it is helpful just to let it happen, as uncomfortable as this may seem. As is true of any phobia, you have to expose yourself to the feared situation in order for the fear to decrease over time. If you don’t tense up, the symptoms will generally subside within a few minutes. Tensing up will perpetuate the episode. You may feel faint, but you won’t really faint (blood is going to your muscles as you tense up and not to your brain, and this may bring on the sensation of fainting – but your blood pressure and heart rate have increased, so you’re actually less likely to faint). During a panic attack, try to re-channel your thoughts. Challenge your negative thinking (you are not having a heart attack; you will not suffocate; you are not going crazy; you will not die). Trust that this will end soon.
Tell yourself the following – “Well, here it is again. Let me watch my body respond to this, just like I’ve done before. I will survive this and I can handle it. This may be unpleasant, but it’s only anxiety and it will pass. Let me flow through this.”