Some estimate that over four million Americans suffer from panic attacks. They range from mild and annoying to intense and debilitating. Those who have experienced a panic attack know the terror that can be associated with them. The first step in dealing with a panic attack is to know the symptoms.
Symptoms associated with panic attacks can include:
• Shortness of breath
• Chest pains
• Hot flashes
• Irregular heartbeat
• Fear of going crazy
• Fear of dying
• Fear of losing control
Panic attacks can be brought on or exacerbated during times of increased stress or during major life events. Triggers can also include strained conversations or conflicts, uncomfortable memories or locations and other internal/external stimuli such as crowds or phobias.
Once the panic begins to set in, your body goes on red alert and you begin to experience physiological changes. Your mind becomes stuck in the panic and a vicious cycle begins to develop between your body and your mind until you feel like you are spiraling out of control. At this point it becomes very important to be mindful of both your physical and emotional reactions. The more you can hone in on either your body or your mind, the better off you might be.
Some people report focusing on body sensations is most helpful. Slowing your breath is important in trying to regain control of your body. Breathe in and count to five, then exhale. Try to relax your muscles and feel the ground beneath your feet. Sometimes repeating a mundane physical movement such as walking, singing or brushing your teeth can go a long way to reduce panic.
Others report that focusing on cognitions is most beneficial. Remind yourself you are not in immediate danger, that you are in a safe place and you are simply having a panic attack. Look around and focus on something close by. If you are at the grocery store focus on the apples in the produce section. Count the apples in the bin. Count to 100. Occupying your mind and distracting it from the panic cycle can prove a positive step to help end the panic.
Panic attacks can be very stressful. After the panic recedes it is important to engage in self-care. Find a calm, quiet place to relax, read your favorite book, spend time with a friend or pet, take a walk. Do something that allows you to decompress and feeds your soul.
As always be well…and try not to panic.