Hi there! I hope you’re having a good day so far. Today I thought I would continue with the Anxiety Series as promised. For this post, I wanted to talk about panic/anxiety attacks as they are something that can be incredibly frightening and often difficult to handle for most people. I have separate this post into four main sections: a short background, symptoms of these attacks, how to deal with them, and avoiding triggers. If I have missed any part that you want to know more about, please comment below or contact me if you’d prefer not to have everyone see what you would like me to post about.
Everyone can experience panic attacks slightly differently. It is normal to feel a little nervous or anxious at times, however, once it begins to affect your life in a significant manner, it might be able to be categorized as anxiety. For example, I stopped hanging out with anyone or going to any school events because being within large groups of people could seriously stress me out. If something surprised me during class, I would need to leave the room to calm down. Eventually, I ended up stopping certain activities because the stress was too much for me to handle. One of the new volunteer activities that I had been excited about previously had become too difficult for me to complete because I spent the first half hour sobbing in the car as a result of how anxious I would be. If your lifestyle is being severely affected by panic/anxiety attacks, I would seriously encourage you to talk to your doctor or a close family member.
Symptoms of Anxiety Attacks:
There are quite a lot of symptoms that can occur during a panic attack, and the combination of symptoms vary for each person. Some common symptoms include shortness of breathing, increased heart rate, trembling/shaking, sweating, and dizziness. For more symptoms, you can visit the ADAA’s page on Panic Attack Symptoms. During my attacks, I have trouble speaking or explaining what’s happening. I also will have an increased heart rate and will click a pen or snap a phone case on and off repeatedly until it is over. My attacks only last for two or three minutes each; however, I cannot stand up or move around for at least 30 minutes afterward because my muscles tense up during the attack. You should try to pay attention to the symptoms that you experience. If your attacks are similar, you can use this to help predict or prepare for them.
Dealing With the Attacks:
Once you’ve recognized that you are having a panic attack or that you are going to have one, there are several things you can do. The first thing you should try and do is remove yourself from the situation that is causing you to stress out. Next, you want to try and focus on your breathing. As I stated before, many people will experience a shortness of breath during their attacks. Taking long, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth can help. Afterward, I would suggest trying to write down everything you remember about the time before and during the attack. Be sure also to note the date and approximate time that the attack occurred. This information can be used by any doctors or therapists that you may choose to see in the future. I would also recommend trying to meditate or do yoga. I also know several people who use the meditation app Headspace, including myself. Headspace has several three minute long “S.O.S.” meditations. These are available for free as soon as you download the app. I have found that these can really help out in times of distress.
For many people, their panic attacks are caused by certain things called ‘triggers’. For example, I am more likely to panic when I am forced to interact with a group of people I don’t know or am intimidated by. Many of the smaller triggers at school are unavoidable for me. However, there are some triggers that people can, and choose, to avoid. From my experience, this only makes things worse. Sometimes, telling people about what happens so they can assist you in the event of an attack can help more than avoiding the place or activity altogether. In my opinion, the more you avoid the trigger, the more likely you are to have a panic attack when you are confronted with it. This is because you are allowing the fear to grow. Please note that I am not trying to tell you to jump headfirst into whatever your trigger is and overwhelm yourself. Rather, start small and try and allow yourself to become comfortable with pieces at a time. For example, I used to hate going out to eat because I was such a picky eater and found it difficult to find foods that I wanted to eat at some restaurants. However, I have been trying to get myself to try new foods. I started small- raspberries. However, I was bold enough to try a bowl pad thai the other day when I was out to eat with my sister a few weeks ago.
I really do hope that you can use this post to help you deal with your own anxiety. I am still planning on adding two more posts in this series. One will be about talking to people about your anxiety, and one will be about everyday things that you may face (please tell me any everyday things you’d like me to include in that post). If I have missed something important that you really want to know about, please be sure to let me know. Until next time!