There is a pretty strong belief among those of us that live with anxiety disorders that it is not okay to panic, and that when a panic attack kicks in, we must stop ourselves from panicking, because panicking is very BAD.
I want to put that myth to rest.
This is YOUR anxiety disorder. This is YOUR panic disorder. It is your body, your mind, your head, and your heart. And if you want to panic or feel like you HAVE to panic, that’s okay. Panic is not a bad guy. It is there for a biological reason – three reasons actually:
1. It is there to motivate us to move and handle whatever terrible situation we are in.
2. If there is nothing we CAN do then it gives us a false sense of feeling like we are doing “something”.
3. It allows us to release our pent up nervous energy
Sure panic feels horrible and you definitely would prefer to not feel it. But if you are in that moment, feeling that intense surge of panic take you over, don’t fight it. Remember that it is a normal response and let yourself experience it. Give yourself permission to panic.
This will help you in three ways:
1. It trains you to start looking at panic as one of the good guys.
2. It allows you for that quick release of energy I mentioned above.
3. The second you allow panic to exist, it will begin to lessen.
Remember that there are certain ingredients required to produce panic.
1. Panic requires fear.
2. Panic requires resistance.
3. Panic requires a sense of feeling out of control.
Nobody ever panics and thinks to themselves “This feels so good. I’m not scared at all.”
Nobody ever panics and thinks or yells the words “Yes! I love this.” On the contrary, what they are thinking every time is “Oh no! No!”
Nobody every panics and calmly thinks “I love you panic. Please stay.” Instead it’s “I hate this panic! Go away!”
Nobody ever panics and thinks “I am so in control here. I’ve got this handled.” What they think is “What is going on? What’s happening here? I feel powerless!”
Just as you can’t feel confident and secure while you are holding your head down and speaking badly about yourself, you cannot feel panic if you are embracing the panic and being grateful for the opportunity to express your fear.
When I feel the first waves of panic hit me, I say to myself “I guess I have some feelings I need to let loose of right now.”
I don’t analyze the “why” of it because 9 times out of 10, when it comes to a panic attack, there is no logical reason why. It’s usually just a massive over-reaction to some minor thing we may not even be aware of. It’s pointless and unnecessary to figure out the reasons I feel the way I do in that moment. Instead, I acknowledge the feelings, I find a quite place to sit down, I open up my arms and tilt my head back and I say “Okay panic, let’s do this.” And then almost without fail, the panic lessens. I then sit there for a few moments and do some deep breathing exercises, then get up and find something to take my mind to a different place, such as doing the dishes or ironing. I choose something that requires me to focus on something I can feel and touch in order to ground myself.
If you find yourself feeling the waves of panic while out at public or at work and you can’t go sit down in a quiet place, then simply give yourself permission to panic right where you are. I know it sounds scary and contradictory to do it, but the fact that are not fighting the panic will make it much more manageable and less threatening.
Accepting panic and making it a “friend” is an idea that some might find too “out of the question” to even consider.
To those of you who feel this way, remember that I was once just like you and this method of coping with panic helps me tremendously to this day. If you are too afraid of your panic and too overly-sensitized to put this method into practice right away, then use visualizations to imagine yourself coping with panic this way, until the time comes when you are comfortable enough to try it for real. Change doesn’t have to sprout overnight. The only thing that matters is that you are planting the seeds so that when the time is right, it WILL sprout.