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Panic attacks are surprisingly common, and as someone who struggles with mental health, it was necessary for me to learn to control them as I became older. Coming to college presented a whole new set of stressors and needs for me to help take care of my anxiety. Here are some tips for what to do in the middle of or at the beginning of a panic attack.

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Identifying what the stressor is

This is the most important step of calming yourself in the moment of a panic attack. It can be in your head, such as that homework assignment due tomorrow. It can be physical. Is there a trigger, someone touching you or a change in environment that put you off? A sensory overload is generally what triggers my attacks. When there is too much color, noise, people, contact and the world seems generally overwhelming, I find myself beginning to panic. Most commonly, it is a combination of things. Figuring out even one can help your brain rest easier.

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Counting to five

After finding out what it is that stresses you out in the moment, take a breath and count to five. I find that when I am panicking, I cannot count to ten. By the time I hit six, my mind is racing again. Make it to five and call it a win.

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Removing yourself from the stressor

When you hit five, identify an escape route. Is there a bathroom you can take refuge in? Can you walk outside into fresh air? If it is in your mind and not physical, such as a stressful family situation, then try to go somewhere peaceful. Often times this is outdoors but alone in your room or a quiet public library work just as well.

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Finding your center

No matter how much the world seems to be swirling, you are staying still. Sit down. Breathe in. Close your eyes. Find your core. Just under your belly button in the center of your body is your core. Focus on it. Feel the stress in your muscles. Allow yourself to keep breathing. Channel all of your nervous energy on your core.

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Breathing for four

Breathe in for four counts, hold your breath for one count, and breathe out for four counts. Do this four times. The entire time, push out any thoughts other than of the numbers and the core of your body.

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Text a friend

Someone you trust, a friend, a family member, and just say hi. Ask them how they are. Distract yourself from the situation at hand. If you feel alone, text an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. If they do not respond, do not feel guilty.

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Return to life

If the situation you were in was overwhelming, make an excuse to leave. Tell whoever you were with that you got a call from a friend, a roommate or someone else. Say that your neighbor is locked out. Leave. Refind your footing. If you feel calm enough to tackle a stressful psychological situation, do the homework, talk to your family, face the issue.

Hey there,  I'm an outgoing introvert at Old Dominion University. I've lived all across the globe but my hometown is Charlottesville, VA, nestled in the Shanendoah Mountains. Only on an adventure do I feel I can truly connect with the earth. Majoring in Graphic Design, writing for Her Campus, working as a Campus Ambassador, participating as a member of Gamma Sigma Sigma Service Sorority, and being part of the Civic Scholars program, I've got my hands full. When I'm not working or hiking, I'm writing or planning event nights for my friends. I love being outdoors and I spend every moment I can exploring and traveling. I watch a little too much netflix and run an independant literary-arts magazine for emerging authors and artists. Check Sincerely Magazine out and be sure to submit some of your work. I hope you enjoy my rambles because days are simply too short to be bored, Kieran Rundle
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