If you suffer from anxiety, depression or phobias or if you have alcohol problems you may know what I’m talking about when I say panic attacks are the WORST. Anyone can experience a panic attack but particularly if you are feeling vulnerable due to tiredness or stress.
I have experienced panic attacks many times in my life. My first memorable one was before my Leaving Cert history exam in school. I remember waking in a cold sweat, unable to breathe and convinced I was dying. I paced, flailed, screamed and cried convinced that I was having a heart attack. My heart was beating out of my chest and I could feel all the blood rush to my head. I felt like I was choking and my thoughts spinned around in my head. I thought I was losing my mind.
A typical panic attack lasts only minutes but I felt like mine went on for days.
Not a nice feeling. But… I survived. I am still surviving my way through panic attacks now and then with my anxiety and depression. I survived one yesterday. I am going to share some of the steps I use to control my panic here in the hope that it may help someone.
I am NOT a professional in any way. These are the symptoms and tips that I have learned about, so if you are experiencing panic I suggest you go see your GP.
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is a sudden overwhelming feeling of acute and disabling anxiety that may be experienced causing people to feel that they might be losing control, and that something terrible is going to happen.
Some symptoms of a panic attack:
Your body reacts in much the same way as to stress but the symptoms will be MUCH stronger.
- Palpitations or heart racing
- Your heart rate may almost double in a few minutes in panic.
- Choking sensations
- Chest pains/tightness
- Hot/cold flushes
- Shaking or trembling
- Dizziness or faintness
- Unreal feeling
- Get some sleep. Panic and stress are exacerbated by fatigue.
- Keep your blood sugar levels normal. Eat regularly and do not skip meals.
- Lay off the alcohol. Alcohol heightens the risk of panic. it leads to the vicious cycle – you drink because you panic and you panic because you drink.
- Lay off the caffeine. Caffeine (much to my own dismay) can cause nervousness, irritability, shakiness, increased heart rate and poor sleep. Wean yourself off it slowly to avoid withdrawal effects.
- Learn to manage stress. Stressful situations can lead to panic. Learn to plan ahead to avoid feeling stressed.
What to do in a panic:
- Stand your ground. As much as you may want to, don’t let it make you run away.
- Slow, steady breaths. Have a mantra in your mind as you breathe in and out. For example: Breathe in – RELAX, Breathe out – I’M OK
- Relax your body. Drop your shoulders and relax your neck. Imagine the panic flowing through you and out of your body.
- Keep your thoughts under control. (This is one I struggle with the most when I am panicking) Think to yourself “I am having a panic attack and I feel awful but nothing bad will happen to me. I know how to control this. I can do it. It will pass”.
- Practice. You may not be able to do this every time. But the more you practice these tips, the more you will gain control.
If you experience any of these symptoms together you may be experiencing a panic attack. If your symptoms continue seek medical advice. I am NOT a trained psychiatrist so DO seek professional help.