12 Ways to Handle a Panic Attack Around Children

Updated on December 13, 2017
Liztalton profile image

Liz is a stay-at-home mother, and she has a one-year-old child.

Panic attacks can come with a multitude of anxiety symptoms.
Panic attacks can come with a multitude of anxiety symptoms.

Panic attacks are a common anxiety disorder affecting 40 million people in the United States alone. As a stay-at-home mom whose had panic attacks , they can be difficult to cope with. How do you deal with a panic attack when your children are around? How do you calm yourself amid a panic attack? Being a stay-at-home or a working mom is rough. Life pulls you into countless different directions simultaneously. Children need constant attention, care, and structure.

With the demands of motherhood come overwhelming feelings of sadness, loneliness, and at times, guilt. Panic attacks can strike at anytime with both emotional and physical symptoms. Such symptoms as excessive worry, intense fear, chest pains, and difficulty breathing often occur when you least expect them. Learning how to cope with panic attacks as a mother with small children is fundamental in taking care of yourself.

Tips to Help Mothers Calm Themselves During a Panic Attack Quickly

1. Tell Your Children

While your children probably don't understand what anxiety or a panic attack is, they can understand that "mommy doesn't feel good." When the onset of panic attack symptoms begin, stop and see if your child and you can both take a time out.
This is not a punishment for your children. Tell them it's time to read a book, independently play, watch a movie a Disney movie or eat a snack... Quietly!

This time is for you, momma! Keep your kids busy for awhile where you are not needed. Try to focus on gaining control of your emotions.

2. Seperate Yourself

No need to cause panic to your children when you are shaking and crying. Once you have instructed your children to play or watch tv quietly, move to another room. While babies and toddlers still need to be in earshot to listen for mischievous behaviour, it won't hurt them to play quietly without you.

Who cares if your kids have pulled out every DVD from the cabinet? It's nothing that can't be picked up later! Find a place you feel safe and comfortable, away from your children.

3. Breathe

After finding a safe place, remember to breath. Hyperventilating will only make matters worse and making you feel that you're not getting enough oxygen. Listen to you breathing as you take deep breaths. Slow down your breathing, focusing on inhaling and exhaling slowly. A deep breathing technique I would recommend is to inhale through your nose for 5 to 6 seconds. Hold your breath for a few seconds. Then breathe out through your mouth for 7 seconds. Depending on the severity of your anxiety attack, this process may need to be repeated up to 10 times.

Remember to take deep breaths when a panic attack occurs.
Remember to take deep breaths when a panic attack occurs.

4. Get Comfortable

While deep breathing can ease your hyperventilating, get into a comfortable position to compose yourself and gain control over your anxiety. Certain yoga positions such as downward dog and a pigeon pose can decrease stress. If you don't find yoga poses beneficial, simply elevating your feet can bring a sense of calmness.

5. Release Your Tension

If a comfortable position doesn't work for you in order to let the panic attack pass on its own, then try stretching. Try stretching your neck, shoulders and back.... Basically anywhere you carry stress. Release the tension with stretching and continue to breathe deeply.

Stretching can help an anxiety attack.
Stretching can help an anxiety attack.

6. Remember That Panic Attacks Are Temporary

Remind yourself that past panic attacks have passed, and so will this one. It will take time to relax and overcome, but it will pass. It always does. Remembering this can give your confidence to overcome the panic attack your experiencing.

7. Forget About The To-Do List

Looking after children and/or working full-time comes with an endless to-do list. Forget about all the endless needs of children temporarily and focus on keeping yourself calm the rest of the day.

So what if the dishes are piled up and you haven't vacuumed? If you still have a plate or two and a couple forks and spoons your good to go for dinner! Or break out the paper plates and plastic forks. Got a dog? All the cheerio's thrown all over your floor can easily be consumed and enjoyed by your ever faithful vacuum, the family dog!

Your dog would be happy to pick up any food left around by your children.
Your dog would be happy to pick up any food left around by your children.

8. Find Something Fun to Do

As you children watch an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, read a book. Try coloring in an adult coloring book to relieve anxiety. Find something creative to do that brings you joy. When panic attacks creep in and ruin your day, finding a creative outlet can help refocus your thoughts on something other than anxiety.

Try coloring to relieve panic attack symptoms.
Try coloring to relieve panic attack symptoms.

9. Try an Herbal Supplement

An herbal supplement could help ease anxiety in a natural and effective way. No prozac required! Herbal supplements are especially helpful to take on a regular basis to help towards the prevention of future panic attacks. However, some herbal supplements can interact with prescribed medications, so always seek the advice of a health professional to avoid drug interactions.

Here are some herbal supplements I have used to combat panic attacks.

  • Kava root: A nonaddictive herbal supplement used for easing overall anxiety. Kava root has been used to treat generalized anxiety disorder. Studies have found that Kava root is a safe and effective treatment for anxiety with very mild side effects.
  • Ashwagandha: An adaptogen herb used for overall anxiety. Ashwagandha has been shown to improve anxiety symptoms and relieve stress. Along with stress relief, Ashwagandha can also improve mental focus and reduce fatigue.
  • GABA (Gamma aminobutyric acid): GABA works by supplying amino acids to the body's nervous system resulting in relaxed muscle tension. The amino acid can also relieve PMS, insomnia symptoms, relieve pain, and reduce anxiety.
  • Magnesium: The supplement works by relaxing muscle tension and calming the body's nervous system. While it has a calming impact for anxiety, magnesium also help digestive issues, trouble sleeping, and relieves muscle spasms.

10. Try Essential Oils

Diffusing essential oils could be just the ticket for calming an anxious mind. Not only will your mind be more at ease, but it may also help relax your children. Every momma could use fewer tantrums and longer naptimes.

Essential oils like Jasmine, Lavender, Pine, Chamomile, Sandalwood and Lemongrass can help give you a sense of calmness, plus help you feel revitalized.

Breathing in essential oils before a panic attack starts could help ward off a future attack, while burning some during an attack could stop anxiety in its tracks.

11. Write It Out

Grab and pen and paper and write down possible causes or triggers of the panic attack. Sometimes you don't always know what caused your panic attack. But trying to identify the reasons behind the anxiety could help with future panic attacks.

Write out your thoughts and anxieties.
Write out your thoughts and anxieties.

12. Remember: You Are Not a Bad Mom

Remember that panic attacks are a common form of anxiety experienced by a wide range of people. There's no shame in being overwhelmed at times. It happens to the best of us. When a panic attack strikes, it's of the utmost importance to remember that you are still a great mom. Children won't remember your panic attacks when you needed time to yourself. They will remember the times you made them laugh and cared for their needs.

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    • Liztalton profile image
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      Liztalton 5 weeks ago from Washington

      Nancy Owens, thanks for reading! I definitely learned early on in motherhood not to sweat the small stuff. If my child makes a mess it's nothing that can't be cleaned up. It can be hard to take care of yourself when children are around but it needs to be made a priority.

    • Nancy Owens profile image

      Nancy Owens 6 weeks ago from USA

      What a well-thought-out write-up, Liz Talton! I really like that you wrote this from a real-world perspective and that you talked about the degrees of disaster... You are right.

      Every young mother can learn from this wisdom. Some times we just have to realize that it is okay for all the pots and pans get drug onto the kitchen floor (courtesy of my daughter, every chance she got) while we take care of something more important, and that it is okay if that means taking care of ourselves.

      We can't be there for our babies or anyone else unless we care for ourselves.

      Great job with this piece, my friend.