If you’ve watched “Friends” as many times as I have, you know the episode when Ross finds out about Rachel and Joey. That look of pure shock and panic is all over his face but he insists he’s "fine.” I’m not really sure Ross will never be fine, but we will save that for later.
Panic can strike at any time and it has a weird way of showing itself. One moment you can be sitting down thinking about nothing out of the ordinary and all of a sudden it hits you….like a train. Your chest tightens up, the time between breaths decreases, you start to sweat and your hand is trembling. Many instances people who have experienced a panic attack report feeling like they were having a heart attack, the symptoms are that similar. Panicking can permanently scar some individuals because of the severity of the actual experience. Simulating a heart attack is not an ideal way to find out that you need to address your stressors and anxiety. If you’re like me and have experienced panic attacks, I am sorry you experienced it, but I’m also here to tell you there are ways to manage them.
During a panic attack, you want to do your best to ground yourself. Do your best, although it won’t be easy, to do the following:
- Feel where your body is. Are you on the ground? Standing? Up against a wall?
- Focus your eyes on one thing. If you look around too much you’ll be overstimulated
- Try to match your breath with someone else if you have people around you
- Perform a 6 second inhale and 6 second exhale if you’re alone
- Call a loved one, listen to the calmness of their voice
Prior to a panic attack, you have a few options. Acknowledging triggers and moments where you are stressed is important. If you do not address stress, it builds up and eventually will become too much to manage and you may be prone to a panic attack. Therapy is one of the best options, however journaling your day, and being mindful of your stress level will help you become more aware. If you are not aware of your triggers or current stress level, this is a good place to start.