“I’m not alone”
“It’s okay to not be okay”
“This thing is real”
We must remind ourselves of these things when we struggle with postpartum depression (PPD).
PPD is more common than you might think, affecting 1 in 7 women in the United States, according to the CDC. Symptoms of PPD can include anxiety, panic attacks, and feeling overwhelmed. It’s more than just the “baby blues” and can include symptoms of anxiety and depression. Postpartum depression can make it hard to take care of yourself and your new baby.
What is a Panic Attack?
A panic attack is a sudden and intense feeling of fear or discomfort accompanied by various physical symptoms, including heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, and shaking. Stressful situations, such as public speaking or an impending deadline often trigger panic attacks. However, they can also occur without any obvious trigger.
Panic attacks can be extremely frightening and may lead to avoidance of situations where an attack could occur. However, several proven psychological techniques can help stop a panic attack or decrease discomfort. For example, deep breathing exercises can help to slow the heart rate and promote relaxation. Proven cognitive-behavioral techniques, such as exposure therapy, can also effectively treat panic disorder.
Finally, postpartum support groups can provide essential resources and support for women who experience panic attacks after giving birth. It’s essential to educate yourself about postpartum depression and panic attacks. This will help you understand your symptoms and know when to seek help.
1. Learn Relaxation Techniques
Some different relaxation techniques can help deal with panic attacks.
Try different ones and see which ones work best for you.
Deep Breathing Exercises
Many specific breathing exercises can help stop a panic attack or decrease discomfort.
For example, the 4-7-8 breathing exercise is a simple but effective way to calm the body and mind.
How to do 4-7-8 breathing:
- Breathe in for four seconds
- Hold your breath for seven seconds
- Exhale slowly for eight seconds
Repeat this cycle until you feel your panic attack start to subside
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique that can help to relieve panic attacks and reduce anxiety. The goal of PMR is to tense and relax different muscle groups in the body, helping to promote a feeling of calm and relaxation.
The technique can be done anywhere, at any time, and does not require special equipment.
To do PMR:
- Start by tensing the muscles in your toes and feet for five seconds.
- Then, move up to your calves, thighs, stomach, arms, neck, and head, tensing each muscle group for five seconds before relaxing.
- Once you have tensed and relaxed all of the muscle groups in your body, take a few deep breaths and focus on the sensation of relaxation.
- For best results, practice PMR twice a day.
Visualization is a powerful psychological tool that can be used to help relieve panic attacks and panic disorder.
When you are having a panic attack:
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Imagine yourself in a peaceful place, such as a field of flowers or on a beach.
- Focus on the details of your surroundings, including the colors, sounds, and smells.
- Allow yourself to relax into the scene and feel the panic begin to dissipate.
If you struggle to create a peaceful visualization, try looking at photos or videos of calming places.
You can also ask someone else to describe a peaceful scene to you.
2. Reach out to your support system.
Whether it’s your partner, family, friends, or a support group for mothers with postpartum depression, Lean on your loved ones for help and understanding. Talking about what you’re going through can be very helpful in managing your symptoms. You are not a burden to your loved ones.
If you suffer from panic attacks, it’s essential to have a support system in place to help you during an attack. Family and friends can be great sources of support, but professional organizations can help.
Here are some ways your support system can help you during a panic attack:
- Provide distraction: If you’re feeling anxious or panicky, sometimes it helps to have someone else around to take your mind off things. Distracting yourself with a favorite activity or chatty friend can help eliminate a panic attack.
- Help with practical tasks: Sometimes, the physical symptoms of a panic attack can be overwhelming. Having someone nearby who can help with things like getting you a glass of water or taking care of your kids can be a huge help.
- Be a sounding board: Knowing someone is there to listen to you can be helpful when you’re dealing with panic disorder. Sometimes it helps to talk through your fears and anxiety with someone who understands what you’re going through.
If you suffer from panic disorder, having a supportive network is essential. These people can provide a much-needed distraction, practical assistance, and emotional support when dealing with panic attacks.
3. Self-Care: Take Care of Yourself
It’s crucial to take care of yourself physically and emotionally when dealing with postpartum depression.
Make sure to:
- Eat well
- Get enough sleep
- Find time for relaxation
- Take medications (if applicable)
Don’t be afraid to ask for someone to watch the baby so you can have some time to yourself. All moms need time to decompress, and postpartum depression makes that time even more critical.
4. Seek Professional Help
If you’re struggling to cope with your symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional who can help you develop a treatment plan.
Risk of Self-Harm: If you feel like you are in danger of harming yourself or someone else, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
Crisis Hotlines: If you are not in immediate danger, but would like to speak to someone about what you’re going through, consider calling a crisis hotline. Crisis hotlines can provide confidential, 24/7 support for panic attacks and other mental health crises.
Mental Health Professionals: If you prefer to speak to a therapist or counselor, your health insurance provider can help you find someone in your area who specializes in panic disorder or postpartum mental health.
Community Mental Health Care: Finally, many community mental health centers offer sliding scale fees for therapy, which means you can receive affordable counseling even if you do not have insurance.
No matter what help option you choose, know that support is available.
5. Remember That This is Temporary
Although it may feel like it will never end, postpartum depression (including postpartum panic disorder) is temporary and treatable. With the right support, you will get better and be able to enjoy your new baby soon enough.
These are just a few ideas for coping with postpartum panic attacks but remember that everyone is different, and what works for one person might not work for another.
Most important, remember to validate yourself:
“I’m not alone”
“It’s okay to not be okay”
“This thing is real”