My Tips On Dealing With Panic Attacks
I can still remember the first time I ever had a really bad panic attack, as a matter of fact the worst one I had ever had at that point. I was just a twelve year old girl at secondary school and it was my 3rd day. I had become in a bit of a fluster at lunch and I wanted to go home so I told the teacher and she sent me to the medical room. I was sat in there for a while before someone popped their head in and said "I'll call your mum" and left. Whilst I was waiting I was talking to other people in the room. but all of a sudden my name is called - I grabbed my bag and went to see what they wanted. I was told the worst thing I could have been told at that time - "we can't get hold of your mum". Now for most kids this would have been annoying but for me it was enough to send me into melt down. I had been living with OCD for years at this point and an attachment problem was forming. I broke down and I couldn't breath. I was told to sit on a desk and drink some water but the panic was getting worse and worse and I then was gasping for air and screaming. Of course I didn't die and I got over it as the seconds went on but it still scared the hell out of me.
Me now as a twenty-four year old still gets panic attacks and they are awful but I have learnt a lot about them. Panic attacks are liars and pretty darn good ones. They make you feel like you are going to die, that it's the end and something terrible is happening. They make you lose control over yourself when they get hold of you and they don't stop fighting. Sometimes they can make you feel like you are going to pass out and other times you feel like you are having a heart attack. All these symptoms are just that - symptoms. Panic attacks are caused by your body going through the normal "flight or fight mode". As your anxiety rises so does your need for more oxygen thus your breathing becomes faster. Adrenaline then starts to race through your body, speeding up your heart and making all these symptoms worse. Your thoughts play such a massive role into how the role the panic attack is going to play out. If you panic at these things the worse the panic attack. Panic attacks at the time are these big, huge scary things and I don't care what anyone says - they are when you are in it! But when you look at panic attacks at a whole they are not as scary as you think.
1. Panic attacks can't hurt you
Nobody has ever died from having a panic attack and no one has ever had a heart attack because of a panic attack. They just happen to us at times of anxiety and they always pass. That is one of the first things I had to learn and know before I could really confront them on a deeper level and you need to learn this also - they are not dangerous!
2. Don't ever run from a panic attack
When you run from a panic attack you are allowing it to carry on and keep causing you distress. Stay with it and don't look for something or someone to help you - you are key! The more you do this the weaker they become and you will realise point one more. If it's a situation that is causing the attack then keep doing it. The more you face the fear the stronger you become.
3. Learn to breathe though a panic attack
A simple thing but so powerful against panic attacks is how you breathe. When we panic we start breathing fast and rapid and that in itself can make us panic more. If you are about to have or are having a panic attack breathing through it is key. I like to follow a routine when I'm in a panic and it's:
1. In through the nose counting to four.. 220.127.116.11
2. Holding your breath counting to five.. 18.104.22.168.5
3. Breathing out counting to six.. 22.214.171.124.5.6
Closing your eyes whilst doing this helps you really focus on your breath and in turn lowers your heart rate. It's something else you can think about rather the panic and it does, with practice!
4. Help yourself in everyday life
Small and simple things can help you stop panic attacks and prevent them. The first thing is to work out what is causing them and how you can beat them. Another thing is cut out caffeine or limit it. To much caffeine can cause your heart rate to rise and can even make panic attacks worse! Switch to decaff and avoid energy and sugar drinks. Make sure you look after yourself in every way possible, get enough sleep, eat well and if you need help ask for it - please don't suffer in silence! Your GP can help you massively and they might refer you onto CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) and that can help you work though your anxiety. You could also try a mindfulness app such as Headspace or Calm which can help you learn to breathe and relax more - trust me they work! Let others around you know what is happening and tell them things that they can do to help as everyone is different at handling things. Learn about panic attacks and trust yourself that nothing bad will happen!