Panic attacks are a symptom
Panic attacks are a symptom: locating their cause and addressing them through altering your perspective to sever the link to your fight-or-flight response will relieve them. Completing a timeline of traumatic life events will help you pinpoint where and when your panic attacks started. When you have this information, you can reflect back on these negative life events, asking yourself if they continue to create negative emotions today. Are there any links to the circumstances of your original panic attack? If so, these need to be challenged and changed positively. Challenge your schemas. If you created them in childhood, consider their accuracy. Children often inflate situations or completely misinterpret them. If you created them as an adult, how could your summary of the original event be altered? How could it be perceived as less personal, less emotional and less frightening?
Here are a few steps you might like to take to manage your panic attacks.
Once panic sets in, some sufferers feel very isolated and often embarrassed by their condition, and therefore prefer to suffer alone. But one alternative you can do to alleviate anxiety is to force yourself to socialise in a tense situation and talk to people. Smile and seek out conversation. It may be hard at first, but you’ll find that occupying yourself is much easier than worrying about the onset of panicky thoughts.
See it for what it is
Your mind is trying to protect you from a perceived danger, so you are really having a ‘Protection Attack’. What this actually means is that you are in protection mode and not panic mode, as being in protection mode means your body is functioning normally and is in control. Panic by definition means being out of control. Knowing this should make you feel better. If you are under no threat you can reassure yourself by saying, “I am under no threat, feeling this way is a misunderstanding, because I am not in danger”.
Focus on Small Goals
Distract your mind, and occupy your thoughts to distract your anxieties. The easiest way to do this is to identify some simple targets. For example, concentrate first on sitting comfortably, and sigh away the anxiety. Now imagine what you would like for dinner or what you will watch on television this evening. Read more about setting goals…
Trace the Feeling
It is likely to feel that the anxiety feeling rises from your stomach and up into your throat, almost as if in a circle motion. Once you can picture in your mind the movement of the feeling, imagine reversing it, and spinning it in the opposite direction.
‘Protection Attacks’ can be scary, and dealing with them is certainly no laughing matter, but laughter is at the other end of the emotional scale of fear, panic and anxiety. So when you first begin to feel the onset of an attack, immediately summon up images of a time that you laughed uncontrollably with much clarity as you can or picture in your mind that comedy film that has you in fits of giggles. The positive feel-good endorphins could stop the attack entirely in its tracks.
Don’t add to the adrenaline rush, find a place to sit down and gather your thoughts. Concentrate on your breathing, and imagine everything around you has gone into slow motion including your breathing. (For some counting backwards from 50 slowly with eyes closed is very beneficial). Find composure first, and then calmly move if necessary.
Remind yourself that anxiety is not usually life-threatening, you know you will be okay as you have been okay before and have always come out of anxiety and ‘Protection Attacks’ in the past. Remind yourself that this is just a false alarm, a ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ reaction that many people experience in their lives.
You might also like to try out some grounding techniques… Trauma Research UK’s Grounding Techniques
Living with panic attacks can be extremely challenging, however, you are not alone. Here at Trauma Research UK, our belief is, ‘it’s not what’s wrong with you, it’s what happened to you’. With this philosophy, we believe that everyone can successfully overcome their mental health issues if given the right help and support. Read more…