Personally, I have had one panic attack in my life. It was a horrible experience. It occurred when my father was hospitalized near the end of his life, my husband was out of work, I was in my last semester of grad school and I got my breast cancer diagnosis. I remember feeling like I was suffocating and needed to lay down, which occurred more like a faint than sitting down gracefully to catch my breath. I knew to put my head between my knees and regulate my breathing but honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it out alive. I have to say I am grateful for the experience, as it has given me a point of reference for the clients I serve that have ongoing, debilitating occurrences.
Having a panic attack can make you feel like you are going to die.
Panic attacks come on fast. There is a general feeling of being overwhelmed that leads to a temporary paralysis both mentally and physically. Often the person experiencing a panic attack feels a shortness of breath. People report thinking that they were dying, feeling cold, losing feeling in a limb or rapid heartbeat. If you, or someone you love, experience panic attacks, there are many strategies that you can put to practice that can help you get to “the other side”.
Here are some of the basics:
1. Breathe: deep, not shallow, inhales with slow exhales, head between your knees if needed.
2. Identify the “triggers”: Know the situations, or people, that cause you to feel overwhelmed and plan for those experiences in advance.
3. Calm yourself ahead of time: Meditation, prayer, quiet time, yoga, long walks are all good ways to spend time processing life, making stressful situations more manageable.
4. Write the script: Once you know the triggers, practice the scenarios through imagery to give yourself confidence. Remind yourself how you have survived in the past and that whatever you are encountering is temporary.
5. Identify your support system: Trusted friends, support animals, mentors or professional counselors should be used to provide accountability and for traumatic moments where you need to be “talked off the cliff”.
As always, let me know if I can help.