My least favorite two words.
I was diagnosed with this disorder during the spring semester of my senior of college.
Before I give the tips and tricks I’ve learned to lessen the severity and power panic attacks has over you, I want to tell you my experience with these terrifying moments.
First, I want you to know three key truths that those of us who struggle with panic all want to know:
You are not alone.
You are not crazy.
You are not dying.
Personally, noticing the shift in my bodies chemistry was very alarming.
Literally, one day I was immensely different.
I couldn’t sit on the couch without feeling a sickening terror within my chest.
I would immediately lay down and I couldn’t help but scream and cry.
It was the only way to lessen the symptoms.
The difficult part was when I gave into this sickening feeling to lessen the symptoms, it made my panic attack release in full force.
So I wasn’t really lessening the symptoms at all.
I would start shaking uncontrollably, shivering (although I felt extremely hot) and the worst experience of it all?
Not only feeling but believing I was being suffocated and about to die.
No matter what anyone said while they were with me in these moments, it didn’t matter.
My body believed my brain that I was being suffocated to death.
Sometimes these episodes would last for 5 minutes and sometimes they would last for an hour.
All I knew is that when it was finally over, I couldn’t help but cry tears of relief although I could never truly feel relieved.
That attack was over but I knew the future of them wasn’t.
Thankfully, through the course of the past two years, I have found three ways to combat these terrifying experiences and find hope again.
Hope that this disorder doesn’t own me and I can be in control in the midst of feeling completely out of control.
Make sure you’re not physically hot – I realized that a trigger for a panic attack was when I started to feel overheated. Typically, this would happen at night when I was wearing heavy pants or the room was too hot. Now, when I wake up feeling the sickening feeling in my chest, I change into shorts or loose clothing. Sometimes, I even turn the air down at night to make sure my bedroom stays cool until I wake up in the morning.
Walk around – If being too warm isn’t the issue or I’ve changed into looser clothing and I still feel a sense of panic, I make sure to walk around. For me, I like to do this on my back porch (getting fresh air helps the feelings of suffocation dissipate) or I walk around the main area of my house with my hands above my head. This allows me to receive more fuller breaths of oxygen and my body starts to relax, knowing that I’m actually not in danger.
Speak the truth over yourself – What you say is what you believe. This is extremely helpful during a panic attack. I found that saying, “You’re safe.” or “This isn’t real.” over and over again helps not only my brain but my body surrender in acceptance that there is no rational reason for me to be in fight or flight mode and I can relax.
I hope some of these strategies can help you navigate through the terror of panic attacks and I want to scream from the rooftop that you are not defenseless.
You can rule over panic instead of panic ruling over you.