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What are the Symptoms of a Panic Attack?

Many people experience panic attacks on a daily basis. However, for those people who are unsure if the emotions and symptoms they are experiencing do constitute a panic attack then these are some of the warning signs to look out for. Firstly, your breathing will increase and can become rapid. You may find that you have shortness of breath as well as feeling light headed and dizzy. Sometimes you may find yourself shaking and having muscle spasms. In addition, the nervousness you may feel can radiate to your stomach causing nausea. In turn, your heartbeat may become irregular and you might feel it pounding in your chest and you could experience chest pain. Mentally, you may feel trapped, a sense of claustrophobia, terrified, stressed, nervous and sense a strong fear that you may die or that you are facing an impending doom.

If you have experienced these symptoms then it may have been a panic attack. These are just some of the main feelings a sufferer will experience and as you can imagine, these attacks can not only be very upsetting and difficult times for people, then can also interfere with a persons’ ability to function in every daily life.

If you are struggling with episodes to such an extent, then talk to a friend or family member about it. Failing this, seeking professional medical help will help to point you in the right direction to take on your attacks head on and to work out ways to better cope with them in the future.

These five tips are simply some of the ways to cope with an episode of stress both physically and mentally. Even following only one of the below suggestions may help you or someone you love to better cope with this destructive and stressful experience.

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1. The Rule of Acceptance

Whether you are someone for whom an episode of dread comes about suddenly or someone who can sense an awareness that an attack is about to approach, the strongest way to fight back against your body having this stressful moment is to accept that it is happening both physically and within your mental attitude. Once you are able to master this way of thinking then your bouts of stress should become less frequent and more sporadic. So let us explore the ways in which you can achieve this goal today.

Firstly, attempt to carry on doing your normal activities during an episode of panic. Try to push the fear to the back of your mind and do not allow the panic to overwhelm you and do not give it all of your attention. This could be something that happens for you gradually, but over time you would then be showing your body that you are in control of your emotions. By placing less importance on the fear, it will naturally become less of an interference and less of a focus for you. For example, if you are cooking, ironing, walking, driving and so on then give all your attention to these tasks instead and let them become the overriding force to be reckoned with in your mind.

Staying calm under pressure is something we would all like to master more, but accepting any pressured situation will increase your resourcefulness in other areas of your life. For example, in a more dangerous situation such as a fire you would be able to think more clearly and quickly on your feet because you would have an increased mental control over your thoughts and actions.

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2. Breathing Techniques

When experiencing terror of any sort, ones breathing will naturally become affected and it is a normal reaction to experience this. However, to regain control of your breathing in these situations it is useful to have a few simple breathing exercises up your sleeve.

Firstly, alternate your breaths through breathing in via your nose and out via your mouth. This method will help you to gain more control of your air flow. Secondly, take longer and deeper breaths and extend your outward breathing or exhaling for a few seconds longer. This will make you feel you are expelling your stress more and pushing the fear and stress away from your body and outwards. Lastly, involve your hands and raise them up from the ground as you breath in, and push them outwards and away from your body as your breath out.

There are many other breathing exercises out there for you to try but the one below from the practice of Yoga is something to consider more generally to help recenter your body and mind. It is from the You Tube channel ‘Yoga With Adriene’.

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3. Developing Coping Mechanisms

In addition to working on breathing techniques, you can also develop other coping mechanisms to help you get through a panic attack. Some of these can be physical and others are mental techniques. Firstly, I shall explore some of the mental techniques you can employ. Visualization is the number one key tool in your mental armory against fear and dread. Visualize removing yourself from the present situation you are in. Picture someone else watching you having this episode and already you are creating a distance between yourself and the reality. This will have the effect of lowering your stress levels to a degree. The more you can do this then the more you will be able to distance yourself from your fears and regain control of them.

Another mental approach to dealing with any fear is to try to rationalize it within yourself. This approach may seem difficult at first, but even a small amount can go a long way. For example, during an episode say to yourself either in your head or out loud ‘my breathing has got quicker but if I relax more then logically it will slow down’ and ‘my heart rate has got faster but if I slow down my breathing then it will slow down as well’.

Physically, using arm movements as you breathe out or exhale can help you to gain a sense of expelling the fear and terror away from your body and outwards. Look to Yoga and exercise in addition to help with using your body to physically gain more control because exercise can be an excellent way to unwind the mind as well as the body. If you are not confident to join a gym or go running then even walking more or joining a walking group will help you to feel calmer in yourself and more relaxed generally.

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4. Realizing It Will End

As it was discussed in point one, not only do we need to accept that the panic attack is happening, we also need to realize that it will come to an end. This realization can bring you comfort and reassurance and you need to remember it more in your everyday life, especially during those days when fear can take over your emotional state. Remind yourself that these difficult moments are only temporary and that you will regain control and normality. You can fight back and win if you apply yourself both physically and mentally to the task.

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5. Alternative Solutions and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

As point two mentioned, exercise and yoga can be a great way to help re-center your body and to regain focus and control of your breathing in particular. However, cognitive behavioral therapy or ‘CBT’ as it is also known is an excellent additional way to help you to overcome your fears. It is essentially a talking therapy and helps you to address and confront your emotions verbally so that you can then implement changes to your behavioral patterns. You will find it easier to break down your fears and problems into smaller and more manageable pieces as CBT focuses on your current problems rather than delving into your past. Arguably, you could then see a more noticeable and immediate result from trying this method.

Herbal remedies can also aid suffers but this is a more subjective and personal topic. There are many studies reflecting on the importance of increased B vitamins which can aid anxiety sufferers and although it is referred to more for assisting sufferers of depression, St John’s Wort is an additional herbal remedy which you could purchase over the counter in most pharmacies. Simple herbal teas such as green or jasmine tea can also have a wonderful effect on lowering your stress levels because they contain properties such as amino acids which can improve our psychological health.

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