Do you have anxiety? Have you ever had a panic attack before? If so, you know exactly what I mean when I say that panic attacks can be frightening. They can make you feel as though you are out of control, in danger, or even dying. The good news is, you have the ability to potentially stop a panic attack before it starts.
People are different when it comes to the symptoms experienced during a panic attack. Physical symptoms of a panic attack may include shortness of breath, racing heart, tightness of the chest, nausea, feeling lightheaded or faint, feeling sweaty or having chills, or numbness/tingling. Possible emotional symptoms of a panic attack may include a sense of detachment, fear in general, or fear of dying or losing control.
It is incredibly important for you to know and understand what can possibly trigger your anxiety or panic. You may already know some of your own stressors, however, there may be triggers you’re not yet aware of.
Conflict, or the possibility that conflict may arise, trigger anxiety for many people. Making a mistake, or the fear of making a mistake is another trigger for some. Concerns about health like going to the doctor, fears of getting sick, or worrying that a pain you feel in your body is something catastrophic can contribute to anxiety and panic. Daily stressors and/or feelings of being overwhelmed with life and what you have on your plate can certainly ramp up your anxiety levels. Major life events such as moving, getting divorced, sickness in the family, becoming an empty nester, etc., can lead to an increase in anxiety and feelings of panic.
There are many, many possible triggers to anxiety. Everyone is different. The important thing to think about is what your own triggers might be. How do you do that? Create awareness.
The next time you feel lightheaded, a knot/pit in your stomach, or your heart races (whatever your symptoms of anxiety are that are unique to you) pause and ask yourself what is going on around me? What thoughts are circling around in your head? How are you feeling?
This awareness will help you know when to take action. The ideal way to stop panic before it starts is to recognize when you FIRST begin to feel your anxiety symptoms start to rear their ugly head. Then, take action. Do something about it. Use a strategy to help calm your anxiety symptoms so that you do not continue down the path to a full-blown panic attack.
Here are a few things to try. Again, everyone is unique, so it is your job to figure out what works best for you.
Calm the Storm Before it Makes Landfall and Causes Major Destruction
1. Take Several Deep Breaths
Often, when we feel stressed about something, our breathing changes. When you take deep breaths, a signal is sent to your brain to calm down and relax. Your brain then sends the signal to your body. This decreases your heart rate and gives you the opportunity to slow your anxiety down. Because it is easy to remember, I like to use the 4-4-8 rule… breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 4, and then release slowly for 8. Do this at least 4 times. If you have the ability to check your heart rate, you can literally watch it decrease as you take deep breaths. It works!
2. Change Your Environment
Simply getting up and walking into the next room may decrease your anxiety symptoms. Even better if you can step outside and breathe in some fresh air.
3. Distract Yourself
Engage your brain in something else. Do the dishes, read a book, call a friend, play a game on your phone, do something that distracts your brain from your anxious thoughts. This temporary relief may provide just enough time and space for you to slow and even stop yourself from spiraling down the anxiety path to a panic attack.
4. Eat Something Fun
Sometimes eating something we enjoy tells our brain that “everything is great.” “No worries.” “You are doing just fine.” I think sucking on a sucker or lollipop works well. Also, chewing gum, having a little chocolate, or grabbing a peppermint may work as well.
5. Go for A Mindfulness Walk
A mindfulness walk does not need to be a structured activity that requires planning and practice. It can simply be you, taking a walk around (wherever you are, inside or out). As you walk, pay attention to what is going on around you using your 5 senses. This shifts your thought process away from your anxious thoughts and more toward the moment you are currently in and what is going on around you right now. Not only are you altering your thought process, but you are also changing your environment and getting your blood flowing (releasing endorphins and possibly improving your mood.)
Expressing your thoughts and feelings on paper can assist you in gaining control over them. Articulating your anxious thoughts may give them less power over you, furthering your ability to manage them in a healthier way. You may even notice that some of your thoughts are distorted and not accurate. Creating this awareness gives you the ability to challenge or disprove them.
All in all, what you are trying to do is let your brain know that everything is okay… that you are not in danger. If you take the time to recognize your physical and emotional symptoms as well as gain an understanding of what your own personal triggers are, you will have a stronger ability to calm the storm BEFORE you have a panic attack.
You are not alone in this. Many people struggle with anxiety and panic. If you are having panic attacks or are experiencing high anxiety, please give Tx Harmony in The Woodlands a call today or contact us here. We are here to help.