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When Panic Attacks..And How to Get Calm Again

When Panic Attacks and How To Get Calm Again It seems like it came out of nowhere. Your heart is racing, your chest is tight, your stomach in knots, the rest of your body has gone numb or is tingling, and you can’t catch your breath. Once you realize these intense feelings, a wave of fear comes over you, and you start to think, “Am I going to die?” or “I am I having a heart attack?” Then all of these feelings intensify even more, and you are paralyzed, scared, and don’t know what to do. If this sounds familiar to you, you have probably experienced a panic attack.  Panic Attacks are overwhelming, scary, and debilitating. The physical symptoms are very intense and may even seem like a heart attack, which has lead to many people going to the ER due to them.  Despite how it feels, they are not life-threatening. You can’t die from a panic attack directly. I hope just by reading that it brings some relief and coping in this process. I know it has for others, including myself. Panic attacks thou are still not pretty and vital to address in caring for your overall health. If they go untreated, they cause toxic stress, long-term health problems, interfere in relationships, affect job performance, and keep you from enjoying life.  Increased and overwhelming anxiety causes and drives panic attacks. You may not be aware of your anxiety and what triggers it, which is why it may seem to come out of nowhere. In some situations, you may be mindful of the event triggering anxiety, speaking in public, facing a devastating loss, and handling a conflict. Overall, we believe we are in danger, and our body responds to that. In simple terms, this is referred to as a “fight-flight” response.  You may be thinking, but how was I “in danger”. It was just a speech or a conflict. Anxiety tends to overestimate our state of danger, along with internalizing our experiences. Before your panic attack erupted you may have been thinking, because this happened, “I am going to fail,” “I am not going to make it.” ‘This was my only chance.” It is not so much the event or situation that triggered the anxiety, but what fear you believed about it or yourself.  So panic can be traced to a moment of overwhelming anxiety caused by overestimating danger and fearful belief of the situation or yourself. (Disclaimer--In some cases, panic attacks can be caused due to a medical condition or medication, please consult a doctor if this pertains to you)   In knowing how panic attacks respond to anxiety, there are several ways you can learn to cope with gaining control and confidence over your anxiety.  Here are both coping skills for in the moment of a panic attack and skills to decrease panic attacks from occurring. In the Moment of a Panic Attack: Get your body calm: This is your number one goal, calm your body! Several techniques can do this, but the easiest is breathing. Take a seat, and start with focusing on your breath. Take three slow deep breaths in through your nose, out from your mouth, feeling your stomach expand. Notice your breath fills your stomach. Practice it NOW. Take three deep, slow breaths. Notice what happens--heart rate decreases, stomach relaxes, the mind clears. So many of my clients have been shocked by how breathing helps with a panic attack. Remind yourself you’re going to be okay; you’re not doing to die:  Once your body is starting to calm, you can support yourself to being calm by engaging your mind to focus on the truth of your situation and yourself. You are choosing to focus your thought on simple beliefs that will help you calm. “ I’m okay” “It is well.” “I can cope”. Acceptance: Ignoring or trying to “stop” the panic just makes worsens and prolongs the attack. A lot of adrenalin is pumping through your body at the time of an attack. To expect to just stop it is like building a dame while it’s flooding--it just won’t hold. If we accept it and give it another channel to flow through (like deep breathing), we can control the intensity and slow it down.  This might look like even telling yourself that you are having a panic attack and you’re going to be okay.  Stay focused on getting calm and in the present: Once we start feeling a little calm, you may tend to want to focus again on your fear or analyze it. There will be time later when you’re calm to reflect, but this is the time to focus on getting and staying calm. What can also help is to notice your symptoms decrease and the intensity leaving from different parts of your body. This helps focus on the present and gives your body awareness and a feeling of self-control.    Ongoing care and prevention care: Get to the root: Reflecting on your overestimation of fear and what you believe about your fear. Then take time to write out the truth about that situation and what you what to think about yourself in relationship to it. “ I feared_______, I believed _________, The truth is_________” I feared giving the speech at work. I believed I would mess it up and lose my job. The truth is that I worked hard and was prepared for my speech, I wouldn’t lose my job if I make a mistake in my speech. If I focus on my work completed I have confidence in my speech”  Your goal then is to allow your mind to focus on the truth and not the fear.  Practice breathing: This is good for your health on so many levels. In this situation, when you practice breathing daily or though out your week, it will decrease stress and bring mental clarity. It will also help remind your body that this is how you respond to anxiety. Each time you practice it, your body takes account, like muscle memory, and you will more readily aware to breath if you are experiencing a panic attack.  You can learn to cope with your panic attacks. You don’t have to live in fear of having another one. If you put some time and care into yourself, you can see them decrease and feel like you have a handle on them. You can feel confident and in control again!  Don’t do this alone. Reach out for further support today!