How to Handle a Panic Attack at Work: 10 Simple Ways
Panic attacks can be very scary and challenging to handle but the challenge can be even more when you’re dealing with a panic attack at work. At our workplace, worries and anxieties about what our coworkers would think of us can even raise your panic.
If you’re overly concerned about having a panic attack at work – in front of your managers, coworkers, or supervisors – then your overall well-being might be affected and can make your workplace a not-so-safe place to work. Such behaviors can also cause severe conditions and can make an existing panic disorder even worse.
in a recent news piece that I read, it was reported that a Kentucky man experienced a panic attack after his employer threw him a workplace birthday party against his wishes. Kevin Berling, a man with an anxiety disorder, had told his manager that he did not want his birthday celebrated at work because it would cause him significant stress. His wishes were either ignored or did not reach the concerned ears.
This surprise party caused the man to have an anxiety attack. When called in the next day to discuss his reaction, he had another panic attack after the managers accused him of “stealing other coworkers’ joy”. He was told to leave work afterward and fired the same week over email.
This news prompted me to explore more about how to handle a panic attack at work. Because, whether we like it or not, mental health disorders take a lot of time to cure, and even with treatments involved, we need some assurance in our social as well as professional lives that our disorders are valid and are taken seriously.
When serious mental health disorders are not taken seriously, they can cause us to feel ashamed about our condition and feel concerned that we’ll lose our job over it.
For these reasons, coping with a panic attack at work can be quite taxing. Yet, there are many ways to work through a panic attack at work. Let’s explore those ways below!
What To Do When You Have a Panic Attack At Work?
1. Recognize Your Symptoms
Panic attacks do not occur suddenly, there are subtle signs that make you aware of the onset of a panic attack. Pay attention to them. By knowing and recognizing the symptoms of a panic attack, you can prepare yourself quickly. Some of the common signs of panic attacks can be:
- Shortness of breath
- Increased heart rate
- Chest pain
- Hot flashes
2. Try The TIP Technique
The TIP technique is another great way to work through a panic attack. It works like this:
- Cold Temperature
Apply something cold. I have read (and tried) that putting an ice cube in your mouth during a panic attack can help you calm down. When handling a panic attack at work, go to the bathroom and splash some cold water on your face, arms, and neck. If the temperature outside is cold, then go for a stroll.
- Intense Exercise
Psychologists also suggest trying jumping jacks or stretching to calm down. When you have a panic attack at work, try some intense exercise such as running, jumping around, etc. Just make sure you do so so that you don’t disturb your coworkers.
- Progressive Breathing
Breathing techniques can also help work through a panic attack. Inhale through your nose, hold your breath, and exhale slowly. Make sure that during breathing, your stomach expands.
3. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
Another way to work through a panic attack at work is to practice PMR. Progressive muscle relaxation is one of the best ways to prevent a panic attack. All you need to do is deliberately relax your muscles one by one. Here are simple steps to try at work:
- Squeeze your fists as tight as you can
- Keep them squeezed and inhale through your nose for 5 seconds
- Hold your breath for 5 seconds
- Exhale for 5 seconds and gently loosen your fists
4. Drink Cold Water
As I mentioned before, splashing cold water or using a cold compress can help you work through a panic attack. Other than that, you can try drinking cold water when having a panic attack or keep a spray bottle handy to spray cold water on your face when you sense a panic attack coming.
5. Seek Co Workers’ Support
Panic attacks at work have the potential to damage professional relationships as well as your relationship with your supervisors and HR. If you’re comfortable telling your coworkers or HR about your condition, then you can seek their support when dealing with a panic attack at work.
1. For HR and employers:
when an employee has a panic attack at work, try to be supportive of their condition and avoid criticizing them for their triggers. Panic disorder is a serious condition that can make daily functioning difficult.
2. For employees:
Keep in mind that it is illegal to discriminate against anyone for their mental health disorders. If you’re experiencing discrimination at work for your panic disorder/attacks, you can make an official complaint.
6. Identify The Triggers
Try to understand what triggers your panic attacks at work. Is it a situation? A person? An object? Identifying the triggers will help you come up with an effective solution. Keep in mind that it can be hard to identify triggers without anticipating a panic attack but to make things easier, you can try relaxation exercises to prevent your triggers from triggering an unwanted panic attack.
7. Use Counter Triggers
Just like certain triggers can cause panic attacks, certain things can counter those triggers. Here are some ways you can counter your triggers and calm down before a panic attack begins:
- Call a trusted friend or family member
- Call your therapist/support system
- Ground your senses by using one of the grounding techniques (For example; You can hold a stress ball or anything that holds a personal value)
- Smell your favorite calming essential oil/smelling salt
8. Remove Yourself From The Environment
Sometimes walking away from the environment that triggered your panic attack is a good solution. When you have a panic attack at work, try to walk away from the stressful environment. You can find some quiet places like the following to calm yourself:
- In your car
- Private room with curtains drawn
- A bathroom stall
9. Seek Professional Help
Ready to work through a panic attack is good but to cope with panic attacks long term, you need to seek professional help. With a therapist’s help, you can get to the root cause of your panic attacks and come up with suitable solutions. A professional can also prescribe certain medications to help deal with a panic disorder in the long run.
10. Try Making Lifestyle Changes
Making changes in your diet and routine can also reduce the likelihood of having a panic attack. Try to add proteins, gluten-free substitutes, or probiotic-rich foods to your diet. You can also try to add exercise time to your workday routine to work through panic attacks.
I hope that this article helped you learn what to do when you have a panic attack at work. For a diagnosis, you can reach out to a professional therapist.
Have you ever had a panic attack at work? How did you handle a panic attack? Let us know in the comments below!
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