Most of us have a first aid kit to help us through the bumps and bruises of daily life, but that's not usually the case when it comes to taking care of our brain. But there is a remedy to help carry us through those emotionally bumpy times —Naturopathic doctor Nicole Caintells us what to pack in a “Panic Pack,” and how it can work for people of all ages.
First — what is the purpose of a panic pack?
It’s all about helping prevent anxiety attacks, which can be quite overwhelming. A panic pack contains things that help the biology of panic.When we get anxious, the amygdala or panicky part of our brain gets turned up; the challenge with this part of the brain is that we can't logically access it — we can only get to it through the body.The panic pack uses different sensations like smell, sight, temperature, touch and texture to help calm the fight or flight response that's associated with panic.
Our first panic pack is for a child.
Dr. Cain starts building this pack with temperature — by using cold around the eyes. This evokes a response in the nervous system that triggers calmness.By breaking an emergency cold pack and placingit over the eyes and face, and it creates a chemical reaction that helps soothe the child.Some kids respond more to warmth; for them, hand warmers do the trick.Fidgets are also very effective becausethey provide stimuli to the brain with their rough textures, rolling surfaces, and movement.Worry stones accomplish a similar thing — not only for the texture, but because activating the muscles in your hands can be calming. Another way to help kids relax is with breathing.Inhale deeply, and extend your exhalation.Bubbles or a straw both help with this, so add those to the panic pack.
Next up... A panic pack for adults.
For adults, Dr. Cain recommends a more refined fidget gadget, with more textures. Adults can carry the items that were in the child's panic pack, but she also adds a pill container in case you have anxiety meds.She is a big fan of Kava Kava for panic attacks.It relaxes the body without shutting your brain off so you stay alert. Essential oils like lavender are also good for both kids and adults.You just take a little bit on your finger and apply it in the bowl of each ear.This stimulates the production of ‘gaba,' a chemical messenger that calms your brain.
Finally... a travel panic pack.
One thing Dr. Cain recommends having in your travel panic is headphones.Music is a very reliable calming force.She suggests searching for 'alpha wave music' on your favorite streaming service.This music puts your brain into an alpha state, which is calm and chilled out. She also suggests items that will engage your taste sense… like lozenges and honey sticks. And for smell and touch — sage leaves.Between all these hacks, even the stress of travel can be mitigated, because you’ll retake control of your surroundings.
Story adapted for web by Dave Hanson