Up until I had my first panic attack, I knew very little about them. Sometimes, despite all our best efforts, we can suffer from the symptoms of panic or as they used to be call it "bad nerves".
The symptoms of panic can be:
- Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
- Trembling or shaking
- Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
- Feeling of choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
- Feelings of unreality
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Chills or hot flashes
After my first one a few years ago I was extremely worried about what was happening to me. But gradually over time I learnt ways to cope with them.
When you start to panic over something the body releases adrenaline into your blood and this puts you on a high state of alert. This triggers your fight or flight system. When this panic reaction happens we need a little "first aid" to break the cycle of panic before you start to address the cause of what brought you to feeling like this. I view panic attacks as your mind and body's way of telling you something about the way you think has to change.
I have read and been told a lot of advice about how to cope with them and these are some of the suggestions that seem to work;
When you feel panic your breathing becomes faster and shallower and abdominal breathing is the exact opposite of this. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. When you take a deep breath in, the hand on the abdomen should rise higher than the one on the chest. This makes sure that the diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of the lungs. After exhaling through the mouth, take a slow deep breath in through your nose to the count of 5. Hold it for 3 seconds and then breath out to a count of 5. Repeat this cycle until you feel you have calmed down.
When you feel panic it is your thoughts that actually cause the panic, a cycle of scary thoughts but only thoughts. These thoughts trigger the fight or flight system in the body which then triggers the symptoms of panic. When you are trapped in this cycle you could try to distract yourself and therefore break the cycle of thoughts. This can be done by picking up the phone and talking to someone, playing a video game, watching a favourite movie or TV show, going for a brisk walk, writing about your feelings in a journal – basically anything that will distract your mind from the panic thoughts.
While applying the above also try and comfort yourself. Have a long hot soak in the bath, eat your favourite food, drink some warm milk. Don't drink alcohol this will put your body under more stress. Ask for a hug from someone you love, go for a long leisurely walk or swim. Do something you enjoy that will bring a smile to your face and comfort your soul.
For me, my favourite end of cycle is to distract myself. I will start from the beginning of a song and will sing it from start to finish, I normally don't have to get to the end but I don't ever let myself think that I won't. I was reminded of this the other day and that sometimes I would be spotted at work, in the stockroom occupying myself putting things away whilst singing. Everyone knew not to interrupt me, except sometimes I would perhaps pick a song that was too difficult and a little voice from the other side of the room used to help with the lyrics!
The other thing I was reminded by the same friend was that these symptoms are nothing more than feelings and that feelings no matter how unpleasant cannot hurt you.
Do you have any other ways of dealing with "panics"?