Driving Panic Attack! 5 Ways to Feel Calm When You’re Gearing Up for a Meltdown

By Greg Weber

If you have experience with driving panic attacks, you can probably feel them coming on. When I was still struggling with driving phobia, I could always tell when I was about to panic. I’d get a certain pain on the left side of my forehead.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could short-circuit a panic attack when you feel one’s on its way? Panic attacks while driving are no fun at all!

Use these 5 sure-fire tips to defuse your emotions when you feel yourself heading for a full-on meltdown. They’re easy to use, and best of all, they work! NOTE: DON’T USE THESE EXERCISES IN ANY WAY THAT INTERFERES WITH YOUR ABILITY TO DRIVE SAFELY.

Top 5 Ways to Avert a Driving Panic Attack

Lengthen your exhalations: One of the easiest ways to cope with stress is to change your breathing. Become aware of your breath and gradually slow the speed of your exhalations. You can use this under any driving circumstances.

Do a full body muscle squeeze: Take a deep breath in, as deep as you can, and hold it. Tense all the muscles in your body, continuing to hold your breath. Ball your hands into fists, tense your arms, clench your stomach and buttocks, tense your legs and feet. Tightly squeeze all the muscles in your face together. Clench your whole body as hard as you can for 10 seconds. Then exhale in one big whoosh and let all your muscles relax. Imagine the tension and stress rushing out of your muscles and leaving your body.

Snap yourself into the present with mindfulness: Panic and anxiety are fear of the future writ large, so learning to be in the present moment is a great way to combat them. Bring your attention to the weight of your body in the driver’s seat. Focus on the sensation of sitting in the seat. Notice the feel of the seat pressing against your back and legs. Notice that sensation of your weight in the seat. If your mind wanders, simply bring it back to the feeling of sitting in the seat. Do this exercise for 1 minute.

Cool yourself down: Literally! A symptom of panic is a rush of heat throughout your body. This is due to increased heart rate, blood flow, and a sudden bolt of adrenaline. Reduce your body temperature and you’ll likely interrupt the panic cycle. Open a window. Turn on the air conditioner. If it’s cold outside, stop the vehicle and get out and walk around for 30 seconds.

Stop feeding the panic cycle: Panic Away creator Barry McDonagh believes we amplify panic by resisting it and that the way to defuse a panic attack is to WELCOME it and demand more! It’s counter-intuitive. When we stop resisting anxiety, we’re slowly de-programming panic right out of our bodies.
I think of a panic attack as a giant feedback loop. The panic builds from a quiet whine into a full-fledged roar. Stopping an attack means interrupting the panic cycle to keep it from growing. The tips above work with your physical state and your conscious awareness to insert a brief pause into the buildup to a total meltdown. It’s amazing how much little breaks in the panic cycle can give you relief from a full-blown panic attack.

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