Coping with Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are a surge of sudden and intense anxiety. They are normally brief, lasting from five to 10 minutes, but can last up to a half-hour. Panic attacks always subside and they are not an indication that anything is physically wrong with you. You can learn to cope with panic attacks, but it takes practice.
They come on quickly, causing racing thoughts about what is happening and why. You may worry and feel like it is never going to end. Those 10 minutes or so that it lasts can feel like a lifetime. You can teach yourself to better cope with a panic attack, however, by using the same tactics that you would use to relieve anxiety.
Panic Attacks Are Strikes of Low Self-Esteem
Anxiety is born out of a feeling of low self-esteem or self-worth. During childhood, we learned that we could get what we needed, such as love and attention, by pleasing our mothers. This learned skill stays with us through our lives, and over time it has made us anxious as adults. We fear what might happen if we don’t please someone.
This is a negative emotion, and if we internalize it or personalize it for long enough, we come to believe that we are not worthwhile — which causes anxiety and depression. But as you learned to please people for affirmation, you can learn to change your thinking to improve your self-esteem and self-worth by pleasing yourself.
Minimize Them by Bolstering Self-Esteem
Panic attacks are an intense form of anxiety. In order to minimize them, or at least minimize their intensity, you must practice a sometimes uncomfortable feeling of creating a panic attack, but this time outside the confines of a racing heart or shaky hands. This way you are in control of the situation. You will have time to figure out what kinds of anxiety are causing these intense feelings, and then work on minimizing them.
Consider what might be affecting your self-esteem so much that it is converting to an intense form of anxiety, one which you cannot predict. Notice the negative emotions that are coming on so strong. Are you afraid of something you did that you are sure will not be approved of by others? Is something coming up in your life that you haven’t even realized that’s making you so anxious?
Try to identify your fear, and then confront it. If you hold steady and face it, you will have a chance to discover that everything will be fine. Then when your next panic attack occurs, you will already have an idea of the negative emotions causing it. When you practice having your own symptoms, you are in control and you can slowly let go of those negative emotions and replace them with positive ones. With practice, your panic attacks may lessen in severity or disappear altogether. It’s all about realizing that you are worthy and thereby boosting your self-esteem.
Symptoms of Panic Attacks
Physical symptoms of a panic attack include any or all of the following:
- Being shaky, feeling confused or disoriented
- Having a rapid heartbeat or dry mouth
- Sweating, dizziness, and/or chest pains
If a panic attack is making you breathe rapidly, make a conscious effort to slow your breathing. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, slowly. Being able to slow your breathing can ease other symptoms of a panic attack as well. Focus on being calm. Identify the negative emotions that are causing the attack and work to discard them from your mind. They have been there too long already.
Learning to relax, which isn’t always easy, can help to relieve some of your anxiety, and may also help you to deal more effectively when your next panic attack occurs. You will learn that you can handle a racing heart or a tight throat. When you practice having your own symptoms, you’re always in control.
Panic is Just “Fight or Flight” Gone Wild
Panic attacks are all in the interpretation. Panic is the fight or flight response gone wild. When you try to fight the panic, you end up in a scary place that seems to get worse and worse, not better. But when you let yourself experience the sensation, you come out the other side realizing that you are no worse off for the experience, and may actually feel better about yourself for riding it out.
Panic is all in the interpretation, as it is with anxiety. Learn to interpret the panic attack as something that is not dangerous. It is something you’ve handled before, and can handle again. It’s not real life, and you can change your thinking to believe that.