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So, if you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, the worst part is not knowing when or where it will happen again. Will you be in the middle of a presentation? Will you be on a date with someone new? Will you be driving on a road trip? It’s scary to think of having a panic attack again and especially having no idea how to curb anxiety and panic attacks.
Panic attacks can be debilitating. You begin to feel anxious, nervous, worried and fearful. The feeling rises up from the pit of your stomach and moves its way into your chest. You begin to sweat, shake and tremble. Your heart skips a beat and you absolutely feel like you cannot catch your breath. Nothing in that moment feels like it will work to stop this from happening.
Moreover, what’s worse is when other people don’t get you. They don’t understand or comprehend anxiety or panic attacks. To them it’s just a personality flaw, but to you it’s real and it’s frightening.
Why panic attacks happen
If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you probably began to question why. Why did I have a panic attack, is it genetic and how can I stop them from happening ever again? Panic attacks aren’t simply a little nervousness. They are called attacks for a reason. When you are in the midst of a panic attack, to you standing in line at the grocery store and being face-to-face with a saber tooth tiger is the same thing. These attacks come without so much as an alert and when they do, all you want to do is go home and hide.
The downsides of anxiety and panic attacks
As if feeling as though the world was about to end is not bad enough, there are trickle down effects with anxiety.
- Anxiety impacts your social life
- Anxiety affects your earning potential
- Panic attacks keep you from enjoying life
- Panic attacks keep you playing small in life
- Panic attacks and anxiety can possibly lead to depression
- Panic attacks can lead to feelings of not being good enough and can have a negative impact on relationships
- Fear of everyday occurrences like large crowds, elevators or traveling are all real and debilitating fears.
As if the personal impacts aren’t enough, there are the physical impacts as well. People don’t realize how having panic attack disorder can impact your physical body. Your body goes into fight or flight for absolutely no reason. Adrenaline pumps, blood pressure rises, your stomach is tied up in knots. This are all symptoms, but over the long term could turn into more serious health issues:
As you can see, panic attacks disrupt your physical, mental and social environment.
Stopping Panic Attacks
Is there help? You bet there is! One of the first things in dealing with panic attacks, however, is to come clean about them. One of the biggest fears of having panic attacks and telling your loved ones about them is the fear of being judged.
You live in fear to begin with. You live in fear of not knowing when you’ll have another one. You live in fear of being ashamed and embarrassed because you might get seen having one and the world will end because of it. And, lastly, you live in fear of admitting that you have them.
Come clean. Those that love you will support you. While it’s not the best way to find out who your friends really are, it’s is a good way to find out who isn’t. You will need loving, nurturing support during this time. Make certain to pick your tribe carefully, as you will need all the support you can find.
Once you have admitted to yourself and others that this is a part of your life you can move on to the next step – managing your panic attacks.
Managing your panic attacks
If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you might think that there is no such thing as managing your attacks. The key here is, of course, that you don’t know when you will have another one. However, you can deal with them as they come along.
One of the worst feelings for someone with anxiety disorder suffering from a panic attack is the loss of feeling in control. You feel the exact opposite. You feel absolutely out of control, which can only make the panic attack worse.
There is hope and there are plenty of ways to stop panic attacks in their tracks. While that’s great news, the news gets even better. You can also work toward managing them before they begin. So, let’s begin to explore these concepts.
Stopping Panic Attacks Now
When in the middle of a panic attack, the thought racing through your mind is that this is a dark, gloomy situation. The absolute worst is about to happen and you are out of control. As a matter of fact, if you are like most people experiencing panic attacks, you are feeling as though you have no control and never will. There is no silver lining.
So, where do you start? You start in the now.
Get Present to Your Panic Attack
You might be thinking that the worst thing you could do in the middle of a panic attack is to get present to it. You want to avoid it, run away from it, hide it and wish it weren’t so. So, why would you want to get present to it?
Getting present to your panic attack is a way of focusing on the moment instead of the thoughts running through your head. Be honest with yourself. If you’ve had panic attacks, you’ve probably thought some of the following:
- I’m going to die.
- What if this doesn’t subside?
- What if I have a heart attack?
- Who will save me if I can’t get out of this situation?
- I’m going to embarrass myself and nobody will ever want to be with me or even know me because of this flaw and weakness.
- I’m in so much danger, I can’t get out.
When you come into present awareness, you will recognize several key factors:
- I’m having a panic attack right now, and I’ve had them before.
- I’ve survived those panic attacks and come out completely fine.
- My reaction to this panic attack is worse than the panic attack.
- It’s my mind which is playing tricks, I’m completely safe and my mind cannot hurt me. It’s not even possible in any way. Not even if I want that!
When your presence these thoughts instead of thoughts like “I’m going to die” or “I will never recover from this,” there’s a shift into the present moment. You are no longer focused on the aftereffects. You know without the shadow of a doubt you will survive this panic attack.
Additionally, and more importantly, that panic attack you had and thought everyone would still be talking about – everyone has forgotten about it already. And most probably nobody even noticed anything peculiar. It’s only you who keeps holding onto the fear and embarrassment of it. The quicker you go through the panic attack, the quicker you’ll come out the other end just fine. And you have come out the other end just fine in the past, haven’t you? You’re still standing, working, laughing, loving and functioning.
Worry is a prediction of future disruption in your life. But if the thing you are worried about hasn’t occurred yet, what are you really worried about? This future thing that has not even happened yet. Get present to the moment and it will pass through quickly.
Change your mind about panic
Once you get present to the moment and recognize you are having a panic attack, and realize that you will get through it just as you have in the past, you get the opportunity to change your mind about panic.
What does it mean to change your mind about panic? It means to simply redirect your perception about it. You can choose to view it as the end of the world or you can view it as a panic attack that lasts for a few minutes and is gone as quickly as it came. It’s a pain in the neck, but you don’t have to give it that much energy. Remember, you and you alone are the one giving panic attacks their fuel. The more you think about them, fear them and worry about them, the bigger they grow.
So while you are in the midst of this panic attack and have gotten present to it, change your mind about it. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not as big a deal as you make of it, and in a few minutes it will be gone. It definitely cannot hurt you and you will certainly get over it. This will accelerate the process that much faster.
(To be continued in Part II)