What Is a Panic Attack?
If you have ever experienced one then you can probably clearly explain the body sensation of an attack. Heart palpitations, sweating, trembling and shaking, feeling nausea and dizzy are what are most common to people. What is equally scary however is the fear of losing control and even dying.
During the years of living with my anxiety, I had a number of panic attacks. Some worse than others and some forcing me to go to the hospital convinced that I was having a heart attack. What I found out later was that due to the intensity of the symptoms that a panic attack can bring on, they tend to mimic those of heart disease and breathing disorders and that it is common for people experiencing a panic attack to be convinced they are having a life-threatening issue.
What is annoying about panic attacks is that they can occur unexpectedly. Doesn’t matter if you start out feeling calm or anxious, the attack can occur regardless. And since they are so unpleasant to experience and very frightening, you end up becoming worried about having another panic attack.
Detecting The Onset of An Attack
Through my trial and error with panic attacks I discovered that having a plan, a way to respond when one came one was the best approach for me. It reduced my ongoing worry about getting another attack because I felt more confident that I could manage myself out of one and it also reduced the length of time that I was experiencing the symptoms of the attack. Here is what I found worked for me.
What Works For Me
Firstly, I just recognize that I am feeling afraid and starting to panic. I found it is best to not ignore the symptoms and pretend they are not happening. I also remind myself that I am not in danger. Usually the thought of being in danger accompanies panic attacks. I found that reminding myself that I am safe is very useful. How I do this is I look around and say to myself, “See, you are fine. You are safe. You are secure.”
Next, I choose to not fight the feeling. This goes against all of my instinct. I just say to myself, “Well, it looks like I am having a panic attack right now.” Then, I allow myself to just accept the symptoms. I see the physical sensations that I am experiencing as a logical and expected response to whatever thoughts I am having that are causing the panic. My body is functioning exactly as it should, and I know that my thoughts are creating the physical response. I thank my body for being so well-built and responsive. This is a nice twist to what I used to do which was to worry and struggle which actually made it worse.
I then remind myself that I have been through this before and it always ended. I remember that my last panic attack and the one before that and the one before that all came to an end and so this one will also end.
And lastly and most importantly, I focus on something outside of myself. I find that getting into the present moment and focusing on something that is in my sight I can stop my imagination from making up the future stories that are negative and which are probably triggering the panic in the first place. I stop any thinking that is accompanied by “what if….” by turning my focus on something is actually happening right in front of me. I then work with my body by relaxing it using breath work. Relaxing the muscles of my jaw, neck, shoulders and back really help. I also make sure I am not standing rigid with muscles tensed and that I am NOT holding my breath.
I have found that by following these simple steps I can start making myself feel better rather quickly when a panic attack comes on. Sometime I have to do the steps a couple of times before I start to see any results. The important thing is to keep doing them and not give up.
You’re Not Alone
Panic is a normal response to either a real or imagined situation. If you are like me and it is your mind making up “what if…” stories that are triggering the panic, then give the steps that I use a try and see if you can shorten the length and number of attacks you are experiencing. And as always, I invite you to join in on the conversation on Facebook and Instagram.
To our health and wellbeing,