Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack or even dying. Learning the emergency drill for panic attacks can give you a sense of control over these powerful feelings.
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks are uncomfortable, involuntary, and often occur without warning.Although panic attacks themselves aren’t life-threatening, they can be frightening and significantly affect your quality of life. But treatment can be very effective.
Follow these four simple steps:
Step 1. Relax.
Relax by taking slow, deep, complete breaths. Calm yourself by remembering that you are only having a panic attack and that nothing more serious is happening to you. Continue to take slow, deep, complete breaths. Slow, deep, complete breaths will relax your body, which is the first step to reversing the release of adrenaline.
Step 2. Stop Negative Thinking.
Stop negative thinking by shouting the word “STOP!!!” really loud inside your head. By shouting the word “STOP” you are interrupting the emergency message that your brain is sending to your adrenal glands. Often people having a panic attack get into an endless loop repeating the same catastrophic thoughts over and over in their head. Interrupting this endless loop gives you the opportunity to replace the scary message with a calming one.
Step 3. Use Coping Statements.
A coping statement is a positive statement that is at least as strong as the catastrophic statement that you have been scaring yourself with. Replace the negative thought with a positive one. Choose a statement that addresses the negative thought.
For example, if you think that you are having a heart attack (a common fear during a panic attack) then you might be saying something in your head like, “Oh my God, I’m having a heart attack” or, “I can’t cope!” After you shout the word “STOP!” immediately replace the fear thought with a positive statement that helps you to cope with the situation, such as “I’m only having a panic attack, I know how to cope and it will be over in three minutes if I relax” or, “My fear is making my heart pound harder, my heart is fine” or just “I am fine, everything is fine.”
Brainstorm the kinds of fearful thoughts that bring on panic for you and then make a long list of coping statements that you can look at when you need to rather than trying to think of coping statements in the middle of a panic attack.
Step 4. Accept Your Feelings.
Accepting your feelings is very important. Minimizing this experience usually serves to perpetuate it. Start by identifying what emotion you are feeling. Most panic attacks are caused by the emotion of fear or some variation of fear. Identify the emotion you are feeling and find the reason that you feel it.
In all of these cases take the appropriate precautions. Have a regular check up so that you know that your heart is healthy. Walk in a well-lit area and be aware of your surroundings on the street. Walk like a warrior and not like a victim. These are all important precautions to ensure your safety. Then, when you use a coping statement that reminds you that you had a check up recently and that your heart is fine, you can reassure yourself that it’s okay to be afraid, knowing that you are safe. Fear is a positive emotion that reminds you to take care of yourself. Listen to your feelings, take good care of yourself, and keep your emotions in proportion to the situation by keeping an appropriate perspective.
- Make a list of situations which you want to stop avoiding
- Specify your initial goal
- Specify the steps you’ve decided on in order to achieve your goal
- Visualise the situation before going into it
- Allow the anxiety to build as much as you can tolerate and then start using the emergency drill above to reduce your fear.
Do things every day that you enjoy doing and that lower your levels of anxiety – gentle walking, listening to music or guided meditation CDs, being outdoors etc etc. Make sure you notice and really praise yourself for all your small successes and if you have a bad day, tell yourself “Ok that was a bad day, but overall I’m doing really well.”
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with panic attacks, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.