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- Anxiety Disorders
10 Ways to get over a Panic Attack
Read some more of the Vine
Fear, Phobias and Frozen Feet
Don't panic after a break-up, read this book!
Do you suffer from panic attacks?
Panic, the urge to flee or fight. You are suddenly gripped by a sudden wave of dizziness, shortness of breath, vertigo, hyperventilating, palpitations, sweating, insomnia, hot flushes, chills, trembling, chest pains, pins and needles – and my personal favourite – your heart beating loudly in your ear so that you can’t think straight. More people suffer panic attacks than we give it credit for, the majority are women. Some get so out of hand that they develop into anxiety disorders or agoraphobia. Many people keep their panic attacks secret, as they fear that people will think them crazy. They suffer alone, silently. It’s the times when your defences are down, like the wee hours, that they can attack you the most. Small incidents grow to gargantuan proportions, threatening to swallow you whole before the first cock crows that it’s time to wake. Many turn to drugs or alcohol to forget about and dull their panic. All that causes, is a reliance on an abusive substance that is really something to panic about.
I am a worrier. I worry about anything and everything. I think that that makes me more susceptible to panic attacks. I can clearly remember my first panic attack. I was living and teaching in Botswana. We were all gathered on the quad for an outdoor assembly. The day before, my husband whom I’d thrown out the month before, told me that he was living with a lesbian who was trying to become straight. My heart suddenly started to beat in my ears, so loud I couldn’t think. I thought I was going to die, so in front of all those kids having their assembly, I started to hyperventilate. A fellow teacher rushed to get a paper bag and got me to breathe properly, calmly, until I became normal again. Panic, if you’ve never suffered from it, you can count your lucky stars.
It’s usually some kind of stress or emotional trauma that sets it off. Nowadays, my panic attack is in the form of obsessing. If something happens which threatens my comfort zone or I am unfairly accused I start to obsess, and the injustice or proposed threat is all I can talk about, until I even drive myself crazy. As a child, I was afraid of the dark. I used to see faces in shadows, clouds, patterns, trees. In fact, I still do. But over the years, I have learnt to face those fears and tackle them head-on. Deliberately going outside in the dark. You have to face your fear and welcome it, then distract yourself by thinking of other things. The same way you do a toddler who gets their mind set on doing something naughty. You have to change your focus.
These are some ways that I’ve found useful for getting over a panic attack:
1. Have a ‘Go Slow’ moment. Slow down your thoughts, your breathing, your entire body from head to toe. Focus on your breathing, like women do in labour, one...two...three. Relax, breathe, relax, breathe. Then very slowly, resume what you were doing before.
2. Go to your ‘Happy Place.’ Close your eyes and picture a scene where you are happy and in control. In yur mind, put yourself in that scene, in your ‘Happy Place.’
3. Go for a walk. Leave the stressful situation behind and go for a walk. Window shop, talk to strangers you meet on the street. Distract yourself.
4. Count backwards from 20, and as you say each number, picture someone or something that made you happy. You are redirecting yourself from fear to happy memories that evoke love.
5. Remind yourself that panic attacks are short, as the bible says, “This too shall pass.” You will get beyond the attack to the other side. You will overcome. They are scary while they are happening, but they are not dangerous. Remember that.
6. Play a game of ‘Name that object.’ This sounds weird, I know, but if you start focusing on objects around you and think of crazy names for them, you will distract your mind and redirect your thoughts.
7. Plan a wedding or a sumptuous dinner party. Occupy your mind with an absorbing task, that will distract you from whatever panicked you in the first place. Focus on all the details for the party. Allow no space in your mind for whatever caused you the fear.
8. Expect the best. Fill your head with thoughts about what the best thing is that can happen in the situation which caused you stress and panic. Focus on the positives, and set that as your goal.
9. Think back to a previous time when you handled a bad situation well. Focus on the good feelings you had at the time when you achieved success.
10. Picture a person whom you admire, or who loves you or believes in you. How would they handle this bad situation? Put yourself in their shoes and do what they would do. Or, imagine that they are with you, holding your hand, giving you encouragement.
Don’t let fear be the winner and take over your life. Face up to it and overcome it. You can do it. I believe in you.