All of a sudden I began to have difficulty swallowing. I had a dry mouth and it felt like a ball of fur was blocking my airway. I was beginning to panic. I couldn't breathe and I was feeling hot and my heart was racing and to top it off I was on a main road driving my car! OMG what's happening, I didn't understand what was going on. I managed to pull the car over and that's when, thankfully, a friend, who was passing by stopped to help.
That was me, 15 years ago and that’s part of my panic attack story. It was in fact my first attack and I survived.
Shortly afterwards I went to see the doctor who told me that what I was experiencing was a panic attack! It was the first time I had heard those words and I was stunned!
WHAT! WHY? Well that wasn’t something I asked the doctor right then as I was in shock. Me, the person Who is totally capable at life, doing a good job working hard and looking after others. why would I be having a panic attack?
When I took some time to really look at what was going on for me and what I might be panicking about I could see that I was in fact quite stressed and anxious.
For me, I experienced a couple of these attacks, and it took me some time to figure it all out. When I was able to see what the trigger was, as soon as I alleviated it I never had another panic attack and I still to this day haven’t! Fingers crossed I won’t.
The reason that I’m telling you all of this is to see if any of it resonates with you and if so you might check out some of the info below which, hopefully, will be of some help to you.
Panic attacks happen for various reasons but usually because you have some form of anxiety which is fear related.
Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve said before, we need some anxiety as it helps us to survive! Remember that fight and flight stuff that I have banged on about before.
So here’s some info which I hope might help…
One of the first things to remember is that your panic attack will pass . The anxiety will lessen and the attack symptoms recede. Knowing your symptoms can help you to recognise what is happening for you and know that you will be ok. Make a note of them so that you have something to refer to as a reminder. Symptoms vary from person to person although some of them are:
Shortness of breath
A sense of fear or terror
Tingling or numb hands
What can you do to help yourself?
You can’t always choose where and when an anxiety attack will happen but there are a few things you can do which might help temporarily. I say temporarily because there will be a route to your attack. This route can be discovered and explored by you but is best dealt with whilst with someone you feel safe with.
So getting back to temporary help... First of all let those around you know that you are susceptible to anxiety or panic attacks and how they can help you.
Then you can learn a breathing technique and use it regularly so that when you need it it is available to you to help you to regulate your breath and calm your heart rate down.
You can also learn a muscle relaxation technique, again use this regularly so that when you need it it is available to help you.
Recognise your triggers. This is really important as once you become aware of your triggers you can put strategies in place to help.
Keep a journal. That way you can take a look back at what has been happening for you in the days prior to the attack. This can be an indicator as to your triggers.
Then there are some more obvious things to think out of such as taking regular exercise which can help reduce stress levels and release tension making it less likely that you will have a panic attack.
Eat regularly and follow a healthy diet plan (if you are unsure then check out what your local doctors surgery has to offer)
Someone once told me that caffeine and smoking can make a panic attack worse but I’m not too sure about that one so perhaps you can check it out.
Download a free mental health app/tool which can help to lessen your anxiety.
Speak to your doctor.
Then there is talking therapy, which is where I come in. In a counselling session with myself you can explore what is going on for you along with your stress and anxiety, find your triggers, explore coping strategies & how to use them and you can also gain mindful techniques.
Lastly I would remind you that it is important to remember to look after yourself whilst you are exploring what goes on for you and you can do this by journalling what comes up for you, talking to a trusted friend or seeking counselling.
If you want to make an appointment for counselling then you can give me a call on 07478754839.
Don’t struggle alone!