The reality of overcoming your Panic issues will involve possessing the courage and skill that will teach you how to cope during a Panic Attack.
Over a twelve year period I suffered what probably amounted to thousands of Panic Attacks and episodes of extreme anxiety so I know firsthand how debilitating and overwhelming they can be.
Recovery from panic means doing the exact opposite to what your natural instinct to protect yourself is telling you to do. This means no avoidance of the feelings. To recover from panic symptoms you must allow the feelings to process and for feelings to process you must feel them. With regards to avoidance, yes you can maybe get away with avoiding a situation or person but ultimately you cannot avoid yourself.
Non avoidance means going towards the symptoms rather than resisting and trying to run from them. Allow yourself to feel and for your body to heal. This is the only way.
With this all in mind you must go through these feelings of panic and so it becomes important and necessary to learn mechanisms that will help you to cope and remove some of the fear during an attack.
There are steps that you can put in place to lessen the effects the attack has on you and it is also possible to learn to intercept and stop an attack in its tracks at any point during the process.
Ultimately, none of these feelings are dangerous and they will not hurt you, however bad they feel.
Here are some helpful tips from me as to how I coped and learned to stop my own Panic Attacks:
- Remind yourself that all that is happening is that you are feeling fear, but there is no danger.
- You are already experiencing the worse that will happen, this is all a panic attack is (A feeling of extreme fear).
- Every Panic Attack will end no matter what you do, it's a natural process that will bring itself to a close just sit it out.
- Tell yourself that at the moment you are feeling scared and that is ok, this is a false feeling and you just have to wait for the calm to return.
- Observe your anxiety without fighting it or judging it. If you resist remember it will get worse, allow it to happen. Allow your body to dispel these feelings and begin to heal. You have to get suppressed feelings out.
- Remember this is a normal stress response, nothing more and it cannot hurt you.
- Panic is like a roller coaster, it cannot stay at a peak, so wait when it peaks and allow it to go down, ride the coaster
- Switch to Belly Breathing, concentrate of long deep slow breaths that move your diaphragm up and down.
- I used to say to myself "ok do your worst, I don't care, sure someone will help if it gets bad" I almost invited it, that way you are taking away the hold it has on you.
- Do not add to the Panic by worrying about where this may lead, this is a Panic Attack not a Catastrophe Attack, Its all talk and no action.
- Change "what if" to "so what"
- Do not go into your head, stay in the present, your brain cannot concentrate on two things at once, so I found I could stop a Panic Attack in its tracks by coming out of my head and focusing on the present task, or by briefly distracting myself- switch to "present mode"
- If you stop adding to the fear, the attack will lose power- stop throwing petrol onto the fire!
- Slow everything right down, reactions in Panic are all rushed and extreme. Learn to act the opposite, switch to" slow mode"
- Wait before you react, postpone the irrational initial reaction. Delay your reaction.
- Notice your gains and how far you have come, stop focusing on what you cannot or did not do
- I made a pact to myself to only move forwards, keep the end goal of being Panic free in mind. I stayed focused on the end goal always and adapted my future choices to meet it.
- Each time you allow the attack to dictate your actions, you give it more power. When you learn to act oppositely to how it wants you to react, you begin to disarm it where it hurts.
- Panic feeds on fear, it's like its food that it needs, without fear it has nothing. It needs your fear to survive, so starve it of oxygen.
- See panic as a symptom of the bigger cycle going on. Don't focus on the attack focus on the bigger cycle, break the thoughts, feelings and behaviours chain link.
- When the attack passes you will be amazed how different you feel. Note at that point you can see the attack for what it is and note you can return to yourself after, this should give you knowledge and patience to sit out the next attack knowing things will ultimately be fine.
The secret to overcoming an Anxiety/Panic attack is firstly to understand that during a Panic Attack you are already experiencing the worst that will happen. That is all a Panic attack is, an intense feeling of fear.
It will not make you die or go crazy or have a heart attack, because it cannot do that . It's just a feeling of fear.
When you begin to have a Panic attack, firstly acknowledge that it's there and accept it's there. When you accept it that does not mean you have to like it or feel comfortable with it. You are just allowing it to do its thing.
Think about it when you have a leg ache, you acknowledge that your leg hurts and you internally accept its hurting, you do not have to like the fact that your leg hurts, but you don't stamp it on the floor in an effort to get rid of the pain either as that would just make things worse. You need to work with it, that is the secret.
Fighting and resisting Panic will only make it worse and give it more to feed on. Fighting it would be your natural instinct to protect yourself, so now you must do the opposite. Learning to accept Panic symptoms is a very powerful step to overcoming them.
The next step is to wait and allow it to pass. By this I mean you must delay your reaction. Stand there and do nothing. In a Panic episode everything speeds up, feelings and thoughts become rushed and we stop thinking rationally. One of the problems with people when they are panicking is panic temporarily robs you of your ability to think straight and rationally. By waiting and delaying your reaction you are not being dominated by your Panic Attack and this step will buy you some time to regain your senses and make rational choices and decisions on what to do next. If your normal reaction ( as mine was) is to flee the situation as soon as an attack starts, all I am asking you to do here is postpone that decision. You do not need to tell yourself you cannot leave, just not right at that defining moment. Stay right where you are.
Now you can ride the attack, imagine it's a roller coaster, notice it coming in waves and going up and down the hills. When it climbs it peaks and then releases and goes down the hill. You are now riding your attack, and also learning in the process that this is it, it's already trying to do its worse and you are there, allowing it and watching it at work. It may feel uncomfortable but you are doing it.
If you were engaged in a task prior to the attack, then work to continue it. Once your mind is on other things the attack will subside quicker.
Remember that it is not your job to stop the attack and bring it to an end. It will come to an end by itself whatever you do. That is because every Panic Attack will end.
One really important point is to get involved with the present. This is because people never panic in the present! . A Panic Attack is all about imagining something bad happened in the past or that something bad will happen in the future, it's not about the present, so by getting involved more and more in present life, you save yourself the pain of attacks and prevent attacks. It can also be stopped in its tracks by switching to "present mode".
Learn to understand your own body and reactions and work alongside it. This is really important. You body and mind are amazing and know how to heal if you allow it to heal.