A few days ago, one of my daughters had a panic attack. To protect her privacy, I am not going to share how or why it happened. It was the first time she had experienced this type of physical or emotional symptom and she was REALLY scared. Thankfully I have survived panic attacks in the past and have been studying anxiety and feelings for years so I was able to help her regain her emotional stability.
In case you ever have a child (or yourself) go through a panic attack here are the strategies that I used in the moment, as well as what I did after her brain could process what happened.
1. Access the situation and make sure there isn’t a medical or life threatening reason for the fear/panic experience. My daughter has a nut allergy so I needed to make sure she had not inadvertently eaten something dangerous. Once I was certain that it wasn't due to her allergy I was able to treat her panic. It could be a panic attack if your child expresses tightness or a feeling of something in their throat, rapid heartbeat, shaking, nausea or diarrhea. They will probably express not feeling good or uncomfortable. This is caused by the flooding of stress hormones and adrenaline that are getting the body ready to fight or flee.
Obviously, if you are not sure whether your child's life is in real danger call 911 or go immediately to your local ER. The symptoms of panic can also be similar to that of someone going into anaphylaxis so you will have to make sure that your child did not inadvertantly get exposed to something they are allergic to.
2. Calm down. Reassure yourself that you can handle the situation. YOU must remain calm so that you don’t pass the fear back and forth to one another.
3. Stay close and reassure the child that he/she is safe. Now is NOT the time to do psychoeducation about what is happening in the child’s body. In a soothing voice you can say something like, “You are feeling scared. I know just how you feel. You are ok. I am here with you.” They may not be able to process your words, so a calming tone is essential.
4. Get the child to take deep belly breaths and do square breathing. Inhale for a count of 4 seconds, hold the breath for 4 seconds. Exhale for a count of 4, then hold breath for 4 seconds. Repeat 4 or more times. If child is having a tough time breathing you could have them smell or apply an essential oil like lavender or Breathe blend by doTERRA.
5. If you can, get them to move their body by taking a walk or doing some yoga poses. My daughter felt that lying down made the symptoms worse, so you can experiment with various positions.
6. Do some EFT on the child. Here is the process that I used.
Set up: Even though I have this fear, I know that I am safe. Repeat 3 times while using karate chop point. Go through the tapping points repeating, “this fear”.
To learn more about EFT and the tapping points CLICK HERE.
7. Drink water, but not too much. Water can help the fast-moving energy (aka anxiety) clear out of the body. However, don’t let your child drink too much water as too much can cause an imbalance of electrolytes.
I implemented these techniques during a 20-minute time period and after the EFT my daughter fell asleep.
Panic attacks are exhausting and as someone who has suffered from them at various points in my life I can tell you that they might be the scariest thing, next to having your life in real danger, that someone could experience. It really feels like you are dying.
Final Step: Ideally the next day or once your child has recovered and their amygdala is no longer running the show you can educate them about what happened in their body. Below is a video of what I told my daughter, but feel free to adjust to your individual child. I also sent her to school the next day with a crystal that she chose and a custom essential oil blend to calm her and remind her to breathe and be brave.
In my opinion you should not allow your child to avoid situations, like school, because of anxiety. The more a child avoids life the more it feeds the anxiety and makes their lives even smaller. It is much more important to teach your child the tools to cope with uncomfortable feelings, that the world is full of helpers, and they are brave, resilient and will be ok.
The reality is that even before you start with #1 on this list it would be beneficial for you to have your own practice of self-care and self-awareness so that you are able to tolerate and manage your child’s scary or overwhelming feelings.
If you are ready to invest in yourself and your family by learning more about the tools I mentioned here, this is your invitation to CLICK HERE to learn more about the Thriving Mama Mastermind group that is starting in July.