Panic attacks and the know
The premise behind this post is going to be on how to tackle panic attacks self-help and manage your panic attacks when they hit. Read on if you suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, depression or any other mental health barrier as this may just help you out.
The build and the know
Panic attacks feel like they come out of nowhere. Seemingly to come out of the blue only to return to whence they came after you have left a room, or the surrounding you are in.
Although the exact causes of panic attacks are unclear, the tendency to suffer from panic attacks does run in families. Severe stress such as the loss of a loved one, a break up, the loss of a job or any other life altering event can definitely trigger a panic attack. Panic attacks can also be side effects of other medical conditions such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, to name a few, and other medical and physical conditions.
One of the best examples I’ve ever heard was from a self-help book I read. It stated that the feeling is akin to this. Imagine you are driving down the freeway, going 100 miles a hr and go to change lanes, a car flies by you, barely missing you and almost causing an accident. You freak out, your heart starts racing, your breathing speeds up and you begin to get that sticky sweaty feeling in your palms.
Now the reason you felt like this was because of the other car almost hitting you. Your brain looks for a reason as to why it is reacting this way and picks out that situation and then you calm down and eventually move on. You still feel nervous for a while but for the most part you are OK.
Now imagine your in your kitchen, your heart starts racing, your breathing speeds up and you start getting sweaty. Now your brain looks around to find out why it is reacting this way, though there is nothing there, you’re just in the kitchen. This is what a panic attack is. It comes out of nowhere and is a really horrible thing to experience. Now your brain can’t find anything to blame so it starts to blame your immediate surrounding, or the person you are talking with, or anything it can find to blame as that is how the mind works. It’s like a computer and it needs to know why it is reacting the way it is.
A panic attack is a brief episode of severely intense anxiety, which causes the physical feeling of fear. This can include a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling and even muscle tension. The worse thing about a panic attack is that they can occur frequently or infrequently with no clear relation to an external threat.
Steps to dealing with a panic attack
When you feel the onset of a panic attack, breathe. Slow down your breathing. One of the best ways to calm down is to really focus on your breathing. This will naturally increase the blood flow in your body, give you something to focus on and calm you mind.
If you aren’t sure how to practice deep breathing on your own there are a lot of self-help apps and breathing apps that can assist you. There are also meditation apps and videos that can help guide you through the process.
“There’s solid science behind this,” says Dr. Mehta. “Breathing deeply can tamp down the stress response system,” she says
“Try breathing through your nose and exhaling through your mouth,” suggests Dr. Mehta. “Some people find it helpful to close their eyes, and/or to count to five with each inhale and exhale.”
Get a quiet space
Panic attacks can come on without warning and when we least expect them. Sometimes they can happen in less than ideal situations, and when your in the middle of a panic attack the last thing you want is even more stimuli.
If possible, move to a quiet space to practice your relaxation techniques. This doesn’t mean moving away from situations altogether but it can involve excusing yourself from your immediate surrounding (stepping into a bathroom) and practicing your relaxation and breathing. Try this and I think you’ll be surprised with how effective it works.
Visualize something peaceful
It may actually help you to visualize yourself in a peaceful and comfortable place.
“Sometimes picturing a peaceful image can help to engage the parasympathetic nervous system,” says Dr. Mehta.
The parasympathic nervous system is the part of your nervous system that helps the body rest and digest after experiencing a fight-or-flight reaction, the feeling brought on by a panic attack. If you can tap into this process, you might be able to bring yourself down from the frightening and often out of your control feelings.
Use progressive muscle relaxation
If you’ve ever done any meditating you may have come across the term body scan. This is where you go through your entire body and relax each and every part of your body. Starting from your toes to your feet to your ankles to your shins etc. etc.
Know your physical health status
Knowing more about your physical health puts you in a better position to tell the difference between a panic attack and something else. Going to your Dr for regular checkups can help you rule out other conditions that would be cause for alarm.
“A doctor will be able to differentiate whether the symptoms of panic — shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, shaking and sweating, etc. — are the result of a medical condition or anxiety,” says Dr. Mehta. “Also, if you do have a medical condition, educate yourself about those symptoms and how they differ from panic and anxiety.”
Remind yourself this will pass
Panic attacks only usually last a couple minutes. Although they can definitely feel a lot longer in the moment. Actually tell yourself you’re having a panic attack and that’s’s OK. You don’t have to try to control it. Just accepting that it is happening will in itself help sooth some of the doom you are feeling.
“It’s helpful to remind yourself that a panic attack will pass and will not kill you,” says Dr. Mehta.
Practice healthy habits
In addition to what is listed above there are other healthy habits you can incorporate into your daily life to help with your anxiety and panic attacks.
“Eating well, getting enough rest, [and] getting regular exercise can be helpful with stress reduction overall,” says Dr. Mehta.
Research actually shows that medium to high intensity exercise like running, riding or fast walking can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety. This is one reason why some people form a strong attachment to exercise, they could be going through a mental illness and using the gym, for example, to help cope with this. Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can also be triggers so if you are a drinker or smoker try to do it in moderation as you don’t want this to be something that causes you further panic attacks.
If panic attacks are keeping you from living the life you want, don’t be afraid to ask for help. A psychologist or psychiatrist will be able to help you identify your triggers and give you even more tools to prevent and manage future attacks.
In conclusion, your panic attack self-help is definitely manageable. Try adding these tricks to your arsenal and continue to research on things you can do to improve your life and manage these attacks. The most important thing to remember is that they WILL pass. They are not permanent and in time you will be fine.
If you have any questions about this article or anxiety and panic attacks in general, please don’t hesitate to comment below and I can assist you in other ways of coping with this barrier.
Remember, panic attacks can not kill you, they are just your mind doing what it was made to do. Head into fight or flight mode.
Love & smiles,
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