Aliza Septimus, PsyD
How to overcome a panic attack with the AWARE method
Updated: Mar 16, 2021
All of us experience anxiety from time to time but this is most severe by far when it evolves into a full blown anxiety attack of panic attack. This is something that most of us will experience at some time in our lives and that can ultimately become crippling as you worry that heading out into public spaces could result in fainting, or that falling asleep could trigger an attack.
Fortunately, there are ways to treat panic attacks and with the right approach, these methods can be highly effective at getting the problem under control and even preventing them altogether. One such option is to use the ‘AWARE’ strategy.
What is AWARE?
AWAREis an acronym that stands for:
Acknowledge and Accept
Wait and watch
Actions to make yourself comfortable
The key to this is essentially to accept that the attack is happening and not to try and ‘fight it’. Instead, you simply acknowledge it and then ‘watch’ it as you go about your business as usual. The very best way to fight a panic attack? To continue acting as though it’s not happening.
Why Ignore a Panic Attack
When you first notice a panic attack begin, you will find that the symptoms can be somewhat similar to what you imagine a heart attack to be like. As you may expect, this in itself can be a highly distressing prospect and actually creates much more anxiety. Other people are actually afraid of anxiety attacks themselves because they dislike the experience so much.
Thus it’s common to start worrying about the panic attack itself as well as whatever triggered it. It’s this subsequent panic that can lead to escalation and ultimately result in the individual passing out of collapsing.
And this in turn is why it’s so important not to try and ‘combat’ the effects of a panic attack through sheer will. Instead, by ignoring the panic attack, by recognizing it for what it is and by being comfortable and allowing it to run its course you can actually find that it goes away much more quickly. What’s more, is that once you lose the fear of the symptoms, it will eventually stop happening altogether.
Of course it is still important to try and remove yourself from any potential danger – which may mean pulling over if you are driving or removing yourself from a public space.