By Marie Miguel. Used with permission.
You’re driving to work, and everything is fine. You’re listening to your favorite morning show on the radio, and you already had breakfast so you won’t have to multitask while driving. The traffic around you seems to be moving at a steady and safe pace, but then, you become lodged in the middle of two semis who appear to enter your lane more than their own.
Then, it hits: the all-too-familiar, overwhelming fear that settles in random (and not so random) moments of your life. You’re sweating, your heart is beating rapidly. You don’t know how you’re going to make it to work, much less survive this moment. You’re immersed in fear and don’t know what to do. Your mind is racing, and it won’t stop telling you that a catastrophe is about to occur.
This is a panic attack. The important thing to remember while having a panic attack is that you will get through it and be able to get through the rest of your day. No matter the cause, you can manage the following symptoms of a panic attack:
- Intense feelings of impending danger;
- Fears of the loss of control or even death;
- Sweating episodes;
- Chills, trembling and shaking;
- Rapid heart rate and/or chest pain;
- Abdominal cramps;
- Headache or general dizziness;
- Numbness or tingling;
- Feeling what you’re experiencing in the moment isn’t real; and
- Other symptoms.
What can you do to manage a panic attack?
If you are driving or doing another activity in which you have to concentrate, try your best to focus on the task at hand. Drive until you can pull over. If you can, try to not suppress the panic attack. It could lead to a more intense one later in the day or at another time. Let yourself have the panic attack, despite your momentary fears.
After the onset of the current panic attack, here are some things you can do to manage your panic attacks:
Learn all you can about them.
Read books and online articles to learn more about panic attacks and how they affect you and your life. Once you have the knowledge you need, you can learn about your individual triggers and how to manage them. If you have agoraphobia and avoid certain situations or places where you could have a potential or actual panic attack, then learn where those places are. Slowly integrate them into your daily drive.
Breathe and relax your muscles.
When we have panic attacks, it could be challenging to take deep breaths. Practice taking deep breaths while you’re having a panic attack. It could ease a lot of your symptoms, such as your racing heart, and will help you focus on getting through the attack. Relax your muscles, as they tend to get tense during a panic attack. Start relaxing your feet muscles and work your way up to your head.
Get the help you need.
Practicing mindfulness and cognitive behavior therapy with a licensed medical professional can help you immensely as you work through your panic attacks, as well as their causes and symptoms. Focus on your catastrophic fears and learn to work through them.
- “Things will never go my way” – A panic attack does not have the power to ruin the rest of your life. No one thing can ever do that. Tomorrow is a new day and you can make choices to help yourself.
- “I will never be the same” – Remember, this is a temporary, short-lived event. You may not be in control of your emotions, but you are in control of many other things. You can choose your breathing rate, you can slow your thinking down, you can improve yourself a little each day.
- “I am worthless” – One event does not change who you are. Taking time to consider your other positive qualities will help you to feel more grateful and may help to improve your mood.
Prepare for a panic attack.
While we may not always know when we will have our next panic attack, be sure to keep things in your car, office, home, etc., to have on hand when you do have an attack. Always keep water near you to keep yourself cool and hydrated. If you have cold chills during a panic attack, then keep a jacket near you to put on. Turn on some music or your favorite podcast to help ease your mind. Find what works best for you. Handle the present moment.
In addition, exercising and eating a well-balanced diet can help you ease your panic attacks and their overall symptoms.
Remember: This article is no replacement for seeing your healthcare professional and getting the medical help that you require.
If this piece resonated with you, you will want to read some of smswaby’s writing:
Invitation: If you would like to be a future guest contributor to Getting High on Recovery, please email email@example.com.
About Marie Miguel: Marie is an avid internet researcher. She is fueled by her determination to answer the many questions she hasn’t been able to find the answer to anywhere else. When she finds these answers she likes to spread the knowledge to others seeking help. She is always looking for outlets to share her information, therefore she occasionally has her content published on different websites and blogs. Even though she doesn’t run one for herself she loves contributing to others.
Photo by Noemí Galera