Panic attacks can fill people with dread. They are a very severe form of anxiety which can come on suddenly. Having a panic attack can feel so dreadful that people may mistakenly think they are having a heart attack.
Hyperventilating, heart pounding and sweating, accompanied by fear or dread, are just some of the symptoms of panic attacks. Managing anxiety at this level can require many different skills and treatments
However, take heart. Some years ago, I had really bad panic attacks for 18 months, including nocturnal panic attacks, and I survived them and recovered. I haven't had any since. What did I do?
There were many things that helped me in managing the anxiety. Here are 5 of the key ones for you in case they help you too.
Panic attacks tip 1: Determination not to give in.
I decided that it was no good sitting around being frightened of having a panic attack and that I would do whatever it took to get rid of them. I was not prepared to just sit and wait, nor to consider the possibility that this was how I would be for the rest of my life. No way!
I became an active seeker of my own cure. I was determined. I was not going to whither under their might. I was going to hang on to any thread of hope however tiny and not give up. Even when it was dreadful I refused to give up. Even when progress seemed to be out of my reach I did not give up. Why would I?
Panic attacks tip 2: Listening to understand why I was getting them.
I started to pay attention to my "psyche", I asked my panic attacks why they had come, I asked them what I needed to learn from them. Over time the message became very clear to me and a way of managing the anxiety became clear.
I learnt it was "my psyche" or sub-conscious telling me I needed to make changes in my life. I realised I was so busy during the day there was little that I listened to. My psyche or inner voice/being was smarter than me, though. She worked out that I would listen to her if she woke me with a nocturnal panic attacks!
I made a significant number of life changes at this time. I had to make the changes in order to demonstrate to my psyche that I had truly listened and taken note of what she was trying to tell me. Once I started changing and improving my life there was no need for panic attacks.
Panic attacks tip 3: Meditating every day.
Meditating day in and day out, no matter what, made a huge difference in managing the anxiety. I went back to the local meditation class and that was an enormous benefit. I went every week without fail. And then I practised every day.
Meditation is a training. It is a discipline. I became disciplined. Before this I had meditated every now and again. That was not enough. I learnt to stop fearing anxiety and the panic attacks through meditation.
I will always be deeply grateful for the teachers in that group, for the techniques they taught me, and for the wisdom they shared so generously. It was a crucial key for me in managing the anxiety and overcoming it.
Panic attacks tip 4: Being a professor studying the anxiety.
I developed the ability to talk quietly to myself about what was going on when I was having a panic attack as if I were a detached observer, as if I were someone else standing back looking on.
For example, I might say to myself, "That's interesting, here comes the sweat. I wonder how many litres I can sweat, or where does all the water come from anyway? I wonder what will happen next, will it be the nausea building up or the diarrhoea? So how fast can a heart go and anyway where does the water come from? Do I have a water bucket especially for panic attacks under my armpits?"
The anxiety was no longer so frightening. Having a panic attack almost became interesting.
Panic attacks tip 5: Concentrating on my breathing.
When I was anxious or in panic I practised simply watching the anxiety arise and fade away, arise and fade away, arise and fade away. I kept my concentration on my breathing, in and out, anxiety arising and fading away, in and out ... I could put my hand on my belly and feel the air going in, the air going out. This stopped the panic from building.
I still do this if I ever get anxious, which as a normal human being I do, but I just put my hand on my belly and feel the anxiety arise and fade and panic attacks do not arise.
Managing the anxiety of panic attacks: Summary.
These five ways of managing the anxiety of panic attacks are based on my own personal experiences. I am not suggesting that what I did will work for you or anyone else who is having a panic attack, or that these are the only treatments that matter. In fact, there will be a second article on the other 5 key factors that helped me as well.
However, I can say that these techniques worked for me. Sometimes when people have panic attacks all hope leaves them. I want to give you hope. If you are having a panic attack I hope by sharing my story it can help you find more peace of mind. It is there for the taking.
Written by Rachel Green: Motivational Speaker, CSP | Emotional Intelligence Specialist | Confidence Coach.
Rachel is the Founding Director of Confident Woman Australia. She has qualifications in psychology, adult education, speech pathology, the Feldenkrais method and emotional intelligence. She is the author of 20 CDs and 1 DVD.
Rachel found meditation instrumental in helping her overcome panic attacks. The meditations that she used can be found on the 2 CD set "Happy NOT Hassled: Using meditation to manage your emotions and find contentment". No need to work out what to do, you just sit down, put on the CD and follow the instructions.
Rachel can also speak at your conference or event on: Managing anxiety: don't panic yet! This is an inspiring speech, hilarious, practical and relevant.
Copyright Confident Woman Australia, 2011.
NB: Any information contained on this site is not provided as an alternative to the obtaining of professional psychological advice from an appropriately qualified practitioner, please seek the help you need in managing anxiety or gaining relief from panic attacks.