Health and Wellness

How to Manage a Panic Attack at Work


Did you know that African Americans are affected by anxiety-related disorders more than any other racial group? This may be a surprise to some, because past studies have falsely stated that black people are less likely to be worried in life, while portrayal of black men and women on media tend to revolve around them being anything but anxious. But as Dr. Darryl A. Hill previously discussed on ‘Socioeconomics and the Health of Young Black Men’, most African American communities are exposed to a culture of violence. This, in turn, can cause a person to suffer from mental health problems, since the trauma can linger in one’s mind for a long time.

Now more than ever, mental health for black men must not only be brought to light, but also be acted on. And in a society where racial bias persists consciously and subconsciously in the workplace, it’s important to empower men and women of color to overcome the many obstacles they face at work. Of course, mental health issues can manifest in a variety of ways, but if panic attacks are one of these obstacles for you, read on to know more about the best ways to manage them when they’re experienced at the workplace.

Find a Safe Space

When a panic attack ensues, its distressing physical symptoms — such as heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, and trembling — will quickly take over your body. This is why it’s essential for both your health and safety to find a place in the office you can go to when you feel an episode coming.

Whether it’s the storage room or the bathroom, designating a safe space for your panic attacks is an effective first step to managing them. It’s important to remember that while mental health awareness is at an all-time high, there are still people who are not accepting of its validity. Keeping yourself in a private area will not only lower the risk of being judged, but it will also help you practice your coping mechanisms much better.

Focus on Your Breathing

One of the most significant symptoms of a panic attack is breathing problems like shortness of breath or hyperventilation. Once the brain senses that you’re panicking, it signals a response of fear to the body, which causes the heart rate to really speed up. Having trouble breathing is not only a product of a panic attack, but it may also heighten the episode, since it can cause one to think they’re going to faint or even die.

Going back to a proper state of breathing can make all the difference for a panic attack at work. This is why Pain Free Working’s guide to useful breathing exercises to help you calm down lists the 4-7-8 technique and the Lion’s Breath. The former involves sitting straight and breathing for 4 counts, holding it for 7, and then releasing your breath for 8. The latter, meanwhile, requires you to place your hands on your thighs, while breathing in and out in regular intervals. From there, inhale deeply through your nose before exhaling through a wide open mouth, tongue out, while making a “haaaaah” sound. Repeat this four times, before going back to regular breathing. Whichever breathing technique you are more comfortable with, don’t forget that every breath counts during a panic attack.

Write Down What You’re Feeling

Panic attacks are triggered by a multitude of factors, such as genetics, hormonal changes, and medical conditions. Another cause of these, and perhaps the biggest at work, is severe stress. When your mind is plagued with thoughts, your body reacts by going into the fight-or-flight response, which is responsible for the physical symptoms of a panic attack.

To help cope with the suffocating sensations of a panic attack, you can keep a journal at your desk, since writing is a great way to release thoughts that are troubling your mind. Indeed, Verywell Mind’s report on journal writing shares that this simple activity helps people cope with their emotional problems. You can practice this at work by taking a few deep breaths first, then jot down everything that’s bothering you, and note what changes you’d like to happen. This way, your panic attack can be alleviated because it puts your anxieties into perspective.

Exclusively written for Black Men In by Jenavieve Baron

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