This is my first in a series of posts on how to respond to panic attacks and get them under control.
There are a great many tips out there and I would say that the best ones are the ones that work for you. I have had some of the oddest tricks and tips work for me. I couldn’t tell you why. Some things just “click” with me and others don’t and I think that is probably the case for a lot of people. So I will try to throw a variety of ideas into this series to give you lots to choose from and try to connect with, and increase your chances of finding some things that help you.
The first tip I want to give you is:
Stay Out of Your Head
When you feel the feelings of panic rise up inside you in that way that they do, keep your mental perspective out of your head, and keep it focused on what you are feeling.
I know that might seem counter productive, but escaping to our heads and allowing our thoughts and fears to roam free and wild up there only makes the panic more likely to continue or get worse. Trust me when I say that our heads are the WORST place to be when we are panicking.
Instead, stay mindful of your situation. Stay present with your body and either think, or say out loud the feelings that you are experiencing. Think of yourself as a scientist with a pencil and clipboard in hand, observing and taking note of the cycle of panic. Stay calm and collected and follow each observation up with a matter of fact statement that you are okay. This serves to remind yourself that this cycle is simply the human body doing what the human body does, and is nothing to be alarmed about.
My legs are feeling weak and I am okay.
Now, I am feeling very overwhelmed and I am still doing fine.
I am feeling very scared and it will pass.
My heart is racing. That is normal when panicking.
My hands are feeling very shaky and they will stop soon.
I feel a strong urge to run away and I am going to sit here and wait that feeling out. It will pass.
Notice how none of the above statements end in a question mark?
They are all simple observational statements without any negativity.
That is for a reason. Those of us with panic disorders are very analytical people and that is one thing that can keep the panic flowing. Do your very best to skip the analyzing and go straight to “monitoring” your panic.
Questions feed panic.
When we start analyzing and asking ourselves “What is this feeling? What is that feeling?” our brains response is “What?? You mean you don’t KNOW??” and out comes more adrenaline which will increase all those symptoms. As we all know, questions don’t just breed more adrenaline…they breed even MORE questions and this only serves to perpetuate the cycle of anxiety.
A better way to respond to panic is to keep your mind in “data gathering” mode.
Instead of “asking” what is going on, “tell” what is going on. Be mindful and reassuring of each symptom in a steady methodical way while making sure to keep you breaths calm and deep. Data gathering uses a different part of your brain than fear does. It distracts your brain from paying attention to your emotions and it suggests to your brain that you are okay. You wouldn’t be data gathering if you were in terrible danger, right? So your brain will gradually shut off the adrenaline and you will slowly start feeling better.
Your emotions will try to suck you into questioning your panic attack like a magnet, but do not entertain any thought that starts with Who, What, When, Where, Why or How.
Those words are completely off-limits.
When it comes to panic attacks, stick with just the facts and only the facts. You have to stay focused in reality. Your reality at the moment is what you are feeling, not what your feelings mean. Do not worry about trying to interpret what you are feeling. That will only create more questions and more drama and more panic. Remember….just the facts.
Keep your voice – whether it is your “thought” voice or your actual voice that you are using – very bland…almost robot like. Explain your symptoms and feelings as they are happening, as calmly as you can and as blandly as you can. I know this is easier in theory than actually trying to put it into practice, but you might be surprised how much easier it is to keep your voice calm and bland when you are stating facts as opposed to asking questions.
Continue staying with your body, and out of your head, for the duration of the panic. Continue monitoring your panic attack until you feel you are coming down from the peak, and then take some strong deep breaths and try to get your attention focused onto something else.
Another reason this tip can be so helpful is because it forces you to confront your panic instead of hiding from it or trying to deny it.
You are acknowledging your panic and looking it in the eye and I can’t tell you enough how important that is.
From an evolutionary standpoint, we either run from the things we fear, or we fight the things that we fear.
By staying with your panic and methodically observing and monitoring it, you are doing neither of those things. So the fight or flight system that you triggered with your initial fearful emotions, will believe that you have everything under control and quit sending out the adrenaline that is giving you all your bodily symptoms.
Panic attacks may feel very chaotic and all over the place and as though there is no rhyme or reason to them. They feel very complex.
But the truth is panic attacks are not complex. They are actually quite simple… very black and white. They cannot exist without certain ingredients. “Head thinking”, questioning, and resistance are a few of those ingredients. Leave them out of the equation and the panic attack cannot survive.
This tip is one I have actually used and works quite well for me.
I hope it helps some of you as well. I love, love hearing panic attack tips from people so please share any good ones you may have with me and I will be glad to add them to my Panic Pointers.
If you are looking for some more great tips on getting panic attacks under control, visit this link from UncommonHelp.com.
Try to stay calm today readers, no matter what. Remember, no worries.