I use a variety of methods for coping with panic attacks. Here is a simple and effective tool I use, adapted from 12 Step Recovery programs. It is called HALT, but I add an S to the end, making it HALTS.
HALTS is an acronym for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, Sick. These are all feelings and conditions that increase the likelihood that you will have a panic attack.
You can use HALTS to help get a perspective on how you’re feeling. This helps to assess whether you am at risk for having an anxiety attack. Now I will go over each of the risky emotions.
When I am Hungry because I went without food for too long, I know what happens to me emotionally. I can get very irritable when my blood sugar drops, especially during a stressful situation. But even more important, I have noticed that my hands often shake and I feel dizzy or lightheaded.
These symptoms are similar to those I experience during a panic attack. Merely having similar symptoms is enough to bring on a panic episode—particularly if I am in one of my trigger situations (such as being the center of attention at a social gathering).
I have come to learn that it is essential for me not to get hungry to the point where I am experiencing anxiety provoking symptoms. Simply put, I need to get 3 squares plus snacks. When I neglect my nutrition, I am at risk for anxiety.
I’m pretty lazy and don’t take the time to cook, so this is what I do: I always keep a stash of peanut butter crackers and cereal bars in my glove compartment and in my pantry. As well, I like to have a banana or apple available in my kitchen. That way, I am able to eat on the run while still giving myself nutrition.
For me, it’s important not to drink caffeine and not to pig out on junk food. These things both make me feel worse.
When I am very Angry, I am always in a bad place emotionally. Anger is mood altering and affects me physically as well. I need to chill out and be in a better space before I venture out to a neighborhood Pampered Chef party or anything anxiety provoking.
When I feel lonely, my social anxiety disorder is triggered and I feel very vulnerable. What helps me is getting out of my isolation. I reach out to dear friends or family members who listen to me without judgment. I avoid gossipy and negative people when I’m feeling bad, as they often make me feel worse.
Going out grocery shopping or to the public library, or taking my dog for a walk around town also helps. Sometimes, just being out and about in public has a calming effect on me and helps me feel more connected.
The best thing I can do for loneliness is to volunteer. Giving of myself to others is the surefire antidote to this yucky feeling. I don’t have a lot of time for volunteering, but I try to get in a few hours per month. It is like magic. When I come home after working at my local food pantry, I am both humbled and happy. It is the most wonderful feeling.
When I am Tired, I don’t think clearly. This fuzzy brain feeling can easily turn to anxiety and lead to an actual panic attack. I need to get my rest, to the very best of my ability. If I am sleep deprived, I need to be very gentle with myself and not expect too much.
During my recent Klonopin withdrawal, I was severely sleep deprived for nearly two weeks. I made a concerted effort not to have many things on my social calendar during that time. Even getting my hair highlighted at the beauty parlor was a challenge. When I am rested, I don’t mind and even enjoy getting my hair done.
If I am bogged down with a cold or fever, I need to just stay in and rest until I feel better. Being sick can definitely make me feel lightheaded or nauseous. A fever can give me heart palpitations. With sickness already stressing my body, I will push it further by going into a panic provoking situation.
In closing, HALTS is an effective tool that I use for coping with anxiety attacks. The trick is to be aware of my physical and emotional well being.
If I am Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, or Sick, I need to be very gentle with myself. Then I can make a decision whether to proceed into an anxiety- triggering situation. If I decide not to go, I know that I am not actively avoiding my anxiety recovery, but focusing on self care, my primary responsibility.
Why don’t you give HALTS a try? Let me know what you think.
I wish you peace,
ps.- Thankfully, those HALTS situations eventually pass, and you can get back to the business of working on overcoming your anxiety and panic attacks. Panic Away has helped me a great deal. You can learn more about the program here..