Panic attacks are incredibly scary. A panic attack definition is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. It is perfectly normal for you not to know why you are having an attack, although not knowing can make the process even scarier. Many people even confuse panic attacks for heart attacks or think that they will die, which will naturally make you panic even more.
If you have only just started experiencing panic attacks, I’m here to remind you that you are not weird. Everyone has experienced an episode at least once. It will pass, and you will get through it. That is why I am here to help you pick up on panic attack signs, causes, and how to combat them.
Panic Attack Signs
There are many signs of a panic attack and why many people don’t even realise that they are having one because a lot of the symptoms can be associated with something else. Usually, the “something else” your mind goes to is a lot more serious and why you may struggle to push through a panic attack quickly. Some panic attack symptoms include;
- A fast heartbeat
- Chest pains
- Feeling sick
- Shortness of breath
- A bad stomach and a need to go to the toilet.
- Dry mouth
- Hot flushes and chills
Panic Attack Causes
Often, it may feel like a panic attack comes along without any good reason. It can happen because of something as simple as having a family history of anxiety or panic disorders. It could also be because of a traumatic event, significant changes in your life, too much caffeine, and a history of abuse growing up.
Sometimes, the cause is easy to pinpoint, and other times it’s not. Finding out and getting to the bottom of the reason is why we have therapy. Often, we can repress the reasoning behind having panic attacks, and it takes a lot of time and work to get it out.
Now that we know what panic attacks are. Let’s get to the point of this blog post. I will now share the many techniques I use to calm myself down before or in the middle of a full-blown panic attack.
Panic Attack Breathing Exercises
Using breathing exercises is an excellent way of tackling a panic attack. Having an attack can cause you to hyperventilate, and that’s why it is incredibly important to focus on your breathing. Close your eyes, and breathe slowly in and out. In and out. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
It’s not easy to do at first, but it will make everything feel so much easier if you start now. You can even practice your breathing exercises throughout the day whenever you get a free moment. I highly recommend doing this!
Mindfulness meditation is a technique that will bring your mind back into the present time. It involves sitting silently in a quiet environment and paying attention to everything. Including; sounds, thoughts, and sensations happening to you at the moment. Practicing mindfulness will stop your mind from wandering into the future or past, and prevent you from thinking about past mistakes or worrying about the future.
If we all live in the moment and think, “it is what it is,” then we should have no reason to worry or panic.
Medications or Therapy for Panic Attacks
If you feel like you need an extra bit of help when dealing with panic attacks, then going to see a doctor will be a big first step. They may prescribe you with anti-anxiety medication or give you a number to book a therapy session. Remember, you are not weak if you ask for help. Admitting you need help is one of the strongest and bravest things that you could do.
I take an anti-anxiety and depressant called Sertraline. It works better for me than therapy because of working full time. I don’t always have time to go to sessions or practice self-care to keep my anxiety at bay, so my medication helps me through those long work shifts. I can’t stress enough how important it is to ask for that little bit of help if you need it. There are also some over the counter medications which can help to prevent panic attacks. Just ask in your local pharmacist and see if they have any good recommendations.
Limit Social Media Time
Social media is fantastic for networking or keeping in contact with your family and friends. However, using it too much can have damaging effects on your mental health. Just scrolling through your Instagram feed and seeing all the great looking influencers could cause feelings of insecurity, low self-esteem, and jealousy. Experiencing these emotions too much can quickly lead to recurring panic attacks and anxiety. It’s not worth it.
I recommend taking at least one day a week out and stay away from your socials. It may be incredibly difficult at first, but you will feel so much better once you get into the habit.
Exercising one way or another will help reduce stress and increase the hormones that make you feel great. According to sources, people with panic disorder, PTSD, and other anxiety-related conditions, exercise can be a proactive way to release pent-up tension and reduce feelings of fear and worry.
Don’t over-do it and jump straight into an intense exercise regime. All you need is at least 20 minutes of exercise a day. Even if you just go for a nice long walk in nature, or even follow along with a yoga video on youtube. Any form of exercise is significant and will boost your self-confidence a tonne, making your chances of a panic attack much less likely and improving your mental health as a whole.
Limit Your Caffeine Intake
Before I start, I need to stress that caffeine does not cause anxiety and panic attacks, and cutting it out of your diet will not “cure” you. However, large intakes can make you feel physical sensations, which could be associated with intense anxiety. One of these causes is an increased heart rate, which is one sign of a panic attack. Becoming aware of this noticeable change in your body can lead you to worry and even cause an actual panic attack.
You do not need to cut out caffeine completely, as I know how difficult it is to get through a long workday without a cup of coffee. However, reducing the amount that you drink may help you.
Wrapping It Up
There are many ways to tackle panic attacks. Some are easy, and others are more difficult, but they are all worth it. Try some of these methods out and let me know how you get on in the comments. Feel free to let me know how you prevent panic attacks or how you have tackled them in the past.
Thank you for reading!
If you are struggling with everything going on during COVID-19 and need someone to talk to, my emails are always open. Please bear in mind that I am not a mental health professional.