Everyone suffers a degree of anxiety about things, but for some, panic attacks are a common occurrence. These attacks can happen at any time, day or night and either be a one-off or a regular event.
For sufferers, these attacks are a terrifying experience, especially when you have your first one. Although they are ‘harmless’, an episode can make you feel like you are going to die.
So what are the physical signs of a panic attack?
- Shortness of breath
- Racing heart
- Shaky hands
- Sweating or chills
- Feeling of imminent danger
- Loss of control
During a panic attack, chemical changes also happen: the body is flooded with adrenaline and your vascular system constricts, reducing blood flow to your brain causing lightheadedness. Your body is preparing to take action against an imminent threat, but when that threat doesn’t materialise, rather than calm itself down (as in normal situations), your body goes into overdrive.
Panic attacks last anywhere between 2 and 30 minutes, but can feel much much longer. The bad news is if they are left unmanaged, they can lead to panic disorder. The good news is there are ways to lessen their impact on your life and regain control. The task, understandably, can seem insurmountable, but it is possible and most importantly, worthwhile.
There are 3 key areas to focus on
First, lifestyle. It always pays to have a healthy diet, but for anxiety and panic attack sufferers, this is crucial. Eating regularly will stabilise your blood sugar and frequent exercise will help manage your stress levels, boost your mood by increasing endorphins and serotonin levels and release tension. Partaking in activities that will reduce your anxiety levels will help reduce the frequency of becoming overwhelmed and suffering a panic attack.
Breathing exercises. Yes, it will be hard to do this during an episode, but practise makes perfect. Regularly doing breathing exercises will both reduce anxiety and equip you with the tools to manage an attack during the onset. Some people also find meditation helpful, but don’t berate yourself if you do both of these things and still suffer panic attacks.
It isn’t a quick fix and will take time; gradually the intensity of an attack will decrease as you become better and recognising the signs and are able to take some control back over your breathing and calm yourself down.
Last but by no means least – Ask for help!
There is no shame in this and you do not have to suffer alone and in silence. If you find the intensity and / or frequency of the attacks increasing then speak to your doctor. They can discuss the best treatment options for you including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and / or medication.
Taking medication is not admitting defeat, you just may need a bolster to help you deal with things normally. You may also need to try a number of things before finding the one that works for you, but having support from a professional (as well as friends and family) will make the process easier.
You can win the fight against panic attacks. And with patience and perseverance, you will.
Connect here with WatchFit Expert Roseanna Miller