Panic attacks are overwhelming and frightening experiences, but with the right information and coping skills, they can be managed and prevented.
I'm going to look at what causes panic attacks, how to manage them when they occur, what you can do to prevent future attacks, how to change your mindset about them and how to support someone going through a panic attack.
Let's get started.
What Causes Panic Attacks?
Panic attacks can occur for many varied reasons and they are often the result a combination of factors such as:
Genetics: There may be a genetic predisposition to panic attacks, meaning they can run in families.
Stress: High levels of stress, whether from work, relationships or other sources, can trigger panic attacks.
Trauma: Past traumatic experiences can contribute to panic attacks, as they can leave you more prone to anxiety.
Medical Conditions: Some medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, can mimic the symptoms of panic attacks.
Substance Abuse: The use of certain drugs or excessive alcohol can trigger panic attacks.
Caffeine and Stimulants: Consuming too much caffeine or stimulants can increase the likelihood of panic attacks.
Personality Factors: People with certain personality traits, like perfectionism or a tendency toward anxiety, may be more susceptible.
How to Manage a Panic Attack
When a panic attack strikes, try one or more of these to manage it:
Stay Calm: Remember that panic attacks are not life-threatening. Try to stay as calm as possible. I know I make this sound easy but it will help you to regain control so much quicker.
Control Your Breathing: Focus on slow, deep breaths if you can. Inhale for a count of four, hold for four, and exhale for four. This can help regulate your body's response. If not, try counting your breath, don't worry about trying to control it, you want to try and use it as a distraction for your brain.
Ground Yourself: Use grounding techniques like describing your surroundings or touching objects around you. This helps anchor you in the present moment and again distracts your brain from the cause of the panic attack.
Muscle Relaxation: Tense and release different muscle groups to reduce the tension you are holding onto and again, give your brain something else to focus on.
Positive Self-Talk: Challenge negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Use one that makes you feel powerful and in control. Remind yourself that this will pass.
Get Help: Reach out to a friend, family member, or professional. Talking to someone can be incredibly calming.
How to Prevent Panic Attacks
Preventing panic attacks involves making lifestyle changes and adopting healthy coping skills such as:
Stress Management: Practice stress-reducing activities like meditation, yoga, or spending time in nature to keep your stress levels in check. Be Mindful and pay attention to your thoughts so that you can identify the ones that trigger the panic so that you can work through the emotion before it turns into a panic attack
2. Regular Exercise: Physical activity helps release endorphins,these are our feel good hormones and they can reduce anxiety and improve our mood. If you can't find time to exercise regularly, then try walking to work or to see friends and family. Spending time outside is really good for both mental and physical health.
3. Balanced Diet: Try to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and avoid excessive caffeine and sugar, which can make anxiety worse. .
4. Get Some Sleep: Try to get enough sleep each night. Sleep deprivation can make you more vulnerable to panic attacks. If you struggle to sleep, take a look at where you sleep.
Do you have stuff under the bed? If so, maybe the energy can't flow around you.
Is your space cluttered? maybe that's causing your brain to be stimulated.
Airing your sleeping space can help to keep it fresh and bring in fresh energy.
doing a body scan or guided mediation before bed.
Avoid caffeine and screens for a couple of hours before bed or maybe try a warm bath or reading.
5. Limit Alcohol and Substance Use: Alcohol can be the cause of disturbed sleep and heightened anxiety so try to drink moderately and if you take drugs maybe consider seeking help for substance abuse or ways to reduce your intake.
Changing Your Mindset
Changing the way you think about panic attacks can help you cope better:
1.Education: Panic attacks are a natural response to increased stress and anxiety, not a sign of weakness. The more information you have, the more options you have to move away from your current mindset and prevent them happening in the future. 2.Therapy: Think about having coaching or counselling to explore the root causes of your panic attacks and develop strategies to change your mindset and your response to your thoughts/ triggers.
3.Mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness helps you to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. When we are aware of our thoughts, we bring them into the present moment. This removes some of the emotional and psychological hold that they have over us. We can then examine them ( You may need a coach or counsellor to support this process) and begin to challenge and change them so that we can begin to let them go
4.Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. Don't blame or criticise yourself for having panic attacks. You are amazing. You are having an attack in response to your thoughts but with help, you can change your thoughts and take back control over your mind and your life.
Supporting Someone Having a Panic Attack
If you're with someone experiencing a panic attack, here's some way in which you can provide support for them:
1.Stay Calm: No one ever benefits from having someone flapping around like a headless chicken, but especially not in stressful situations. Your calm attitude can help reassure the person having the panic attack. The key phrase is Don't Panic!
2.Be Present: Stay with them and let them know you're there for support.
3.Encourage them to focus on their Breathing: Gently suggest they focus on their breath and offer to breathe with them. BUT! and this is a biggy. Don't ask them to try and breathe deeply or change their breathing as this will cause more stress. They will be struggling to breathe as it is. You're aiming to give them something to focus on other than their triggering thoughts. Focusing on the breath will also help to ground them and bring them into the present moment which is also a great help.
4.Don't Judge: Don't criticise them or dismiss their feelings. They are not doing this on purpose. Instead acknowledge their experience and when they are back in control, maybe encourage them to get support or use some of the techniques I've mentioned to help them prevent further attacks
5.Offer Help: Ask if they need any specific assistance, such as finding a quiet place or contacting someone they trust.
Panic attacks are challenging things to overcome, but as you have read,they can be managed and prevented.
Making the time to sit with your thoughts can help you to understand their causes. Once you know what is causing them, you can learn to manage them effectively. You can then make the necessary changes to reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attack and regain control over your life.
You could also offer support to those who experience panic attacks in a compassionate way to help them through these difficult moments and to share your experiences. You may have something to learn from each other.
Most importantly, remember, you are not alone and there is help available.
If this is speaking to you and you feel that it's time to regain control of your life, then please contact me via WhatsApp on 07974 618499 or you can email me at email@example.com
For more information about me, this is my website: https://www.simplybe.org.uk/