It starts suddenly – your heart starts to pound, your breathing becomes rapid, your stomach feels queasy, your body starts to go numb and your thoughts border on the crazy or detached from reality or irrational fear. You will experience these symptoms of a panic attack anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes although these signs reach a peak within 10 minutes of the episode.
Unfortunately, panic attacks can cause disruptions in daily life, not to mention extreme social embarrassment when left uncontrolled for long periods of time. After all, you go on a “fight or flight” mode even when the situation and/or stimuli do not warrant it!
Fortunately, medical science has discovered ways with which you can control your panic attacks while it happens. Just remember these steps in handling your panic attacks and you will come out alright even from the worst episodes.
Yes, you must sit tight or stay still for a few minutes when you recognize the symptoms. This way, you achieve two things. First, you avoid making a fool of yourself when you succumb to your feelings of panicky fear by acting on them aimlessly. Second, you avoid fainting almost on the spot especially when your blood is already rushing to your head. You can achieve this by tensing your leg and arm muscles for about 30 seconds.
You might have some difficulty staying still even for just a few second especially when your body is on its biological “fight or flight” mode. Just ride the wave of panic, again, by consciously tensing your muscles.
Breathe Slowly and Deeply
You do not tense your muscles for longer than 30 seconds, however, because the next step is to try to relax by breathing slowly and deeply. By this, you have to practice deep diaphragmatic breathing that can be achieved by doing the following steps:
* Place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest
* Using your nose, inhale slowly until you feel that your stomach, not your chest, expands
* Using your pursed lips, slowly exhale until your stomach deflates
* Rest and repeat until you feel calmer
Of course, you can skip the placing of hands on the stomach and chest when you have had more practice in deep diaphragmatic breathing. And lest you think that this is not possible in daily life, think again. We are born breathing this way but as the years go by, we slowly unlearn the breathing instinct we were born with. As such, we can re-learn it to our advantage!
The rationale behind deep diaphragmatic breathing is to restore the balance between the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the body. This, in turn, helps your body to relax and your mind to acquire clarity, both of which are prerequisites to stop a panic attack before it gets worse.
Halt Your Negative Thinking
Panic attacks are marked by extreme negative thinking – your future is doomed, your life is in danger, and your family will be in danger, to name a few – that succumbing to these thoughts can often lead to worse things. However, you can immediately put a stop to your negative thoughts even while you are taking diaphragmatic breaths.
You must think positive thoughts along the lines of I am just having a panic attack. Nobody in my circle of family and friends are in danger and I am not in jeopardy, too. This will pass and I shall be alright again”. Keep in mind that panic attacks are all in the mind. As such, it is your mind that must be the battleground for control and as you can have control over it, then exercise it to the best of your ability.
If you have a close family or friend whom you trust, you can think of this person and imagine him/her to be beside you while providing encouraging words and loving hugs. You will soon find that your panic attack will slowly but surely pass like it was never there in the first place.
In conclusion, panic attacks can be treated when you start to accept that indeed, you are suffering from this anxiety disorder. From there, you can seek professional counseling and medical treatment to avoid having more panic attacks, or at least, to lessen their severity. After all, life is too short to be having panic attacks from disrupting your enjoyment of life.