Anything & Everything

April 7, 2014

What To Do When Panic Attacks

Filed under: Blogging,Health — Susan Morgan @ 10:59 am
Tags: , ,

I’ve been following the work of DeBie Hive for a while now. Just recently I  saw this image in one of her excellent posts on PTSD and the media.

It made me think about my own struggles with anxiety and panic attacks — the voices in my own head. I’ve had times when I was sure I was losing my mind, having a heart attack or a stroke… at the utter mercy of the urge to run, far and fast. I was sure I was dying.

I wasted far too many good years struggling on my own with panic attacks before getting help. Some of it comes with age, but the rest can be helped. It starts with recognizing that so many people struggle with so many different mental health issues. Underneath. Inside where you can’t see.

I wasn’t crazy. You aren’t crazy. I wasn’t helpless. You aren’t helpless. I wasn’t alone. You’re not alone.

Anxiety isn’t a life and death struggle to be sure, but it’s no picnic… ruining all good things, eating away at your confidence, shaking your foundations, keeping you wakeful and restless as others sleep. It nags at you day and night, sometimes rearing its awful head when you least expect it.

It doesn’t always help the anxious to tell them that what they feel is the natural “fight or flight” instinct, still alive and well in our modern world. What’s more if the brain is afraid the body reacts, the same as if you were in a life and death struggle — the instinct is triggered for real or imagined danger. Once the dreaded anxiety/panic attack hits, you’re at the mercy of forces you can name, but can’t always control.

Distraction is one of the best tools I’ve found. I read somewhere that your mind cannot focus on two things at the same time, it might seem like it can, but the thoughts go in sequence — very fast mind you, but one after the other. Distract the mind and you change the focus. Hold that focus long enough and the panic will subside, leaving you sweat soaked and shaky, and a survivor of what is one of the most unpleasant experiences a person can have.

Some other things I’ve found that help…

  • Log the time and place of your panic attacks and see if there’s a pattern. If you can figure out what your trigger is you can use your mind (cold hard reasoning/logic) to combat the trigger, prove it wrong.
  • Sometimes the trigger isn’t so obvious, or there is no pattern — take that to mean you’re in a real rough patch or are possibly dealing with something more involved. Be good to yourself.
  • Talk to someone you trust who may have dealt with similar issues. Often you’ll find a family member or friend who can help. If not, professional therapists are the way to go. I can’t say enough about the benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety. Having an objective opinion, someone who knows what you’re dealing with and has real, practical strategies to help, can make all the difference in the world.
  • Find ways to discharge your stress. Exercise is great for this, but a brisk walk or flight of stairs will probably work just as well. I can’t stress enough the benefit to your body and mind of regular works.
  • Relaxing music, played through headphones can be a wonderful way to soothe yourself.

At the end of the day, anxiety does not have to own you. You can control things. There are treatments for panic attacks that work. You just need to find the tools that work for you, put the brakes on any negative self-talk and recognize that you are not alone.

Even when it feels like it.

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