I am, right at this very moment, doing my best to manage a panic attack. My pulse is racing, I am scared and can barely see what I’m typing through my blurry, teared eyes. I am standing on a proverbial ledge that feels all too real and just as terrifying.
I can’t help that I’m holding my breath. My lungs are burning and it’s like my heart is going to explode. The feeling that any moment I could lose consciousness or just break down and sob so hard that I might not be able to regain control is terrifying me something awful.
Any of you who suffer from panic attacks probably know what this feels like.
I have never written a post like this. Real time. Real life. Real fear. But for some reason I feel I need to.
I feel like I’m locked in an unyielding embrace from someone who, I can feel in my gut, wants to hurt me. I slowly try to squirm and break free but their grip becomes tighter and tighter as I begin to get more frantic and I know I’m trapped. I also know if I don’t escape soon my captor will eventually squeeze the air from my lungs until I’m gone. It’s ludicrous, I know. But I’m in the heat of it and nothing makes sense right now.
I know from past attacks that I just need to let go and allow myself to sob. Only then will the attack subside. But crying makes me feel like I can’t breathe and the though of that is making this panic attack SO.MUCH.WORSE.
I keep fighting the urge to just succumb and bawl until it releases it’s grip, but I know I won’t be able to breathe and cry at the same time and I’ll lose consciousness and maybe even die. I also know that I’m being irrational and that it’s a big fat lie. But I continue to fight it anyway.
Make each breath count...
Sob….keep sobbing until you have no more left. It’ll be ok.
I have felt it coming for weeks now. I’m buried in the sand up to my neck and the tide is coming in. I can see it, but I can’t move to escape it.
Symptoms of an Impending Panic Attack
- Feeling exhausted ALL.THE.TIME
- Lack of energy and no motivation
- Inability to focus or complete a task
- Feeling like a failure. Like I’ve let everyone around me down, including myself
- Constant worry about just about everything
- Out of control food cravings, leading to overeating and shame
- Feeling of heaviness or dread
- Overly emotional or weepy
Still crying, but breathing…
I know it wont stop until I start answering the hard question of “How did I get here?” It’s the only way to move forward and take back control over my emotions, my body and my health.
[Pause] I’ll be back. I have some work to do.
5 Steps to Manage Panic Attacks
This is the first step in minimizing a panic attack. Shallow breathing can cause you to hyperventilate, which can make symptoms worse.
Try breathing in through your nose, filling the stomach first, then your chest. Don't try too hard to expand your chest.
Hold your breath for only 2-3 seconds then exhale for about 7 seconds through a small hold in your lips, like you are trying to whistle.
Repeat as needed until your symptoms have subsided. Do not hold your breath. Continue this breathing process which will help return your oxygen levels to normal and minimize your symptoms.
Change Your Focus
It's important to focus on something other than what is going on in your head. I find counting backwards from 100 by 3's helps. Counting at random intervals actually helps override anxious thoughts.
Know Your Triggers
Panic attacks can be triggered by something particular or nothing at all. But, it's helpful to know if you do have triggers. I tend to get panic attacks when I am congested, as my breathing changes and causes me to hyperventilate, making panic symptoms worse. I also battle against attacks when I am nauseous. I assume because nausea is a little known symptom of heart attacks in women. That's my brain going to "the dark side" which brings on my panic attacks.
If you are having attacks, keeping a journal of how you are feeling, may help you fend off future attacks.
Get to the Source
If you don't know where your anxiety is coming from, you wont be able to correct it. Take some time to be alone with your thoughts, meditate or pray over it. Whatever it takes to get to the root of the problem. Sometimes writing them down helps. It makes them real and concrete. It's much easier to beat an attacker you can see. Draw a picture of it. Then stab it with a pen, scribble over it, curse at it. Whatever it takes!
Eliminate or Minimize the Source
Now that you've identified the cause or causes. It's time to find solutions. It's really very simple. I was once told by a doctor that panic attacks are about control. At some point, you feel you have lost control of your life. A panic attack is your body telling you it's time to take it back.
Now look at that list you made. Finish cursing and defacing it and make a plan. Be specific and write down your solutions. Read them daily to stay on track.
If you are looking for inspiration, the book Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo is a Godsend! I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is an instruction manual to take back your life. If you do one thing for yourself, buying this book should be it. Get it now. Trust me. It will change your life.
For years I felt my panic attacks made me weak and taking medication made me a failure [you can read here from back in 2014] Neither is further from the truth. If you are suffering from panic attacks, you are not alone. At least 6 million people suffer from panic attacks ranging from minor to debilitating. And they are twice as common in women.
Get the Help You Need
There are many reasons people suffer from panic attacks. Make sure you are having open conversations with your doctor to rule out any other medical conditions that may cause similar symptoms. This is especially important if you have never experienced them or are having them more frequently. Even though many doctors’ offices are not seeing patients in the office right now, Telehealth visits are available and can be very helpful and convenient. It’s imperative to get the help you need. These days depression and anxiety are at an all-time high and your mental health is equally as important as your physical health.
These tips may not completely help, but they definitely help me and hopefully you as well. Wishing you well.