Fear and Anxiety are normal human emotions we have all experienced when a danger or threat triggered ‘fight or flight’ reactions in our bodies to help keep us safe. But sometimes, these feelings overwhelm us when there is no actual threat to our safety, otherwise known as a Panic Attack.
You are not alone
It is estimated that 1 in 20 people experience Panic Attacks or Anxiety Attacks at some stage in their lives, with many people learning to manage them successfully using strategies and tools we’ll talk about...
What are the Symptoms?...
Symptoms of Anxiety or Panic Attack include:
Make sure you are actually OK…
It is important to know that your symptoms are not caused by a physical illness, so make sure to have a thorough check with a doctor you trust. Being able to rule out any fear that you have a serious illness can be crucial to containing the panic and being able to use credible self-talk. Knowing you are ok will make the next step so much easier.
What to Say to Yourself…
Recognise what is happening to you…
After many panic attacks, most people realize they are unlikely to die or lose control, remembering they have survived other attacks in the past. But this knowledge may be forgotten during a panic attack, because the feelings are so intense that they fear this time may be different.
During a panic attack most people are focusing on the physical feelings they have in their bodies, like their pounding heart, or their dizziness, or their shaking hands. They interpret these symptoms to mean that something dangerous and awful is happening to them. Unfortunately, this only makes matters worse. When you tell yourself you are in danger, you activate the fight or flight response, your body releases more adrenaline, and the physical symptoms of panic get worse. So, instead, remind yourself that you are safe, you are healthy, and This Will Pass. Go on, say it to yourself now.
What to Do…
1. Breathe in – breathe out…
Deepen your breath, both on the way in and on the way out. See if you can simply focus on that breath, listening to it and lengthening it. Check out some
Breathing Exercises here if you want to know a few different ways to focus.
2. Unclench Your Jaw
It’s so easy to hold tension in our jaw and a quick way to begin to relax the body. Drop your shoulders, release your belly. Scan your body and see where any other tension is, check that your tongue and your ears are relaxed (sounds weird I know!)
3. Open Your Hands
This is also called “Willing Hands”. Simply turn up your open hands onto your lap or rest them open beside your body. Opening your hands has been proven to immediately reduce intense negative feelings throughout the body – give it a try right now…
4. Describe something in Step-by-Step detail
Describe the detailed steps to do something you know well (e.g. step-by-step to roast vegetables, count backwards by 10s from 200, how you change the sheets on your bed) . This is a grounding technique that can short circuit a panic attack. You can even describe where you are right now in detail… the floor, the windows,
Getting a Better Understanding of Yourself…
It is important to identify what you are saying to yourself leading up to, and during, a panic attack. Collect a sample of these thoughts and write them down. This may take some practice, because at first it may seem like you are just feeling things, and not thinking anything at all. If you cannot identify what you are thinking, try asking yourself what you believe is happening to you, and notice whether you are judging what is happening as being awful or dangerous.
What would you say to a friend?…
Now, imagine you had a friend who suffered from panic attacks and you had read about panic and discovered it was unpleasant, even scary, but not dangerous. What would you say to your friend next time you were with her and she started to panic?
You need to say something that will reassure and comfort your friend, and help her settle down. It’s just the same when you’re the one panicking – thinking the worst makes panicky feelings worse. Reminding yourself that you are not in danger, and that you can cope with a panic attack, helps you to turn off your fight or flight response and stop releasing adrenaline
Check the Facts…
As I said earlier, it is important to know that your symptoms are not caused by a physical illness, so make sure to have a thorough check with your trusted doctor.
To recap, if you are having a Panic Attack, try this
What to Say to Yourself…
What to Do…
Why not take a pic of this with your phone so you have it on hand if you think you might be heading for a Panic Attack.
Challenging anxious thoughts is a very important part of learning how to manage your anxiety and panic attacks.
If you need more help, contact me at ThoughtMatters 0414 99 66 13 so we can tailor steps you can take to manage and overcome your Panic Attacks.
0414 99 66 13
Some of the above is from a helpful website THIS WAY UP.
Check out THIS WAY UP for more information.
Vanessa Steele: counsellor, mum, partner, blogger... listening and learning every day.