Guess who’s back, back again. The last time I wrote here was a month ago, but I have been writing. I’ve been working on some exciting projects, made new friends, reconnected with old ones, read books, had conversations so satisfying they felt like accomplishments, and overall learned a lot.
Today, I wanted to talk about panic.
If you’re a real Panic at the Disco fan, name five discos they panicked in. Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Jokes aside, panic attacks can also happen at clubs. They can happen anywhere and be triggered by anything. A lot of times, we aren’t able to tell if someone’s having a panic attack unless we know them well.
Referring to my handy dandy- I can’t believe I just said that- Oxford psychology dictionary, a panic attack is a period during which there’s a sudden onset of intense terror, fear, apprehension accompanied by signs and symptoms such as shortness of breath, fear of dying, increased heart rate, etc.
Panic attacks are interesting to research. Anxiety isn’t inherently bad, it’s our bodies’ normal response to danger. However, panic attacks and anxiety disorders run on our disability to distinguish real danger from a perceived one. Our bodies react the same way they would if a wolfpack was chasing us.
What’s up with that, body, huh? I thought we were friends.
“But we are! I loooooooove you.” body replied.
Our bodies and minds really do love us and fight their hardest to keep us standing. For example, eating disorders- somehow, we manage to live through them and thrive, despite how much we might’ve fucked up our bodies and mindsets. The same goes for depression or any other mental health issue. Our insides are rooting for us!
Panic (not at the disco) facts
A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60-100 beats a minute. Our bodies can function normally for days, even weeks, with a 200/bpm heartrate. You’re not having a heart attack, and you’re not dying, even though that’s exactly what it feels like.
Remember, a panic attack itself is harmless, a bit of anxiety is completely normal, even healthy. It prepares us for important events and milestones. We’d be in trouble if we couldn’t differentiate between what’s important and what’s not.
So the goal is to learn to live with them and what we can do about them, rather than try to avoid panicky reactions or anxiety itself.
Managing your panic attacks
There’s nothing you can do to avoid panic attacks because usually, they come out of nowhere. Indeed, they often coexist with a mental disorder, but they’re not caused by anxiety.
A technique that’s shown to be very very very *contemplates whether I should add another very* effective is progressive relaxation, tensing and relaxing your muscles. Doing that during the day for up to 30 minutes can significantly decrease the frequency of panic attacks.
When you’re having a panic attack, it’s helpful to focus on trying to remember you’re not going to faint, or “go crazy,” or die. It will be over soon, try to breathe mindfully and relax, remember, panic attacks aren’t dangerous. It doesn’t feel that way, but you’re not going to lose control. You can leave the class, stop the car, get out of the supermarket. You are in control.
It helps to note:
- When it happened
- What the situation was
- Where you were
- Who you were with
- The fear and rate it from 0 to 100%
- What was happening in your mind
- What you were thinking would happen
Exposure to triggers helps build healthy responses. For example, if going to a certain place causes you to panic, you can try going there for shorter periods and evaluating your fear each time. Not overwhelming yourself looking for quick progress is key.
Decatastrophizing also helps. Yes, you thought the worst was about to happen but did it?! What is the probability of it happening? Would it be horrible if it did happen, for example, if you stumbled on your words when interacting with someone or ordering a drink? As the name suggests, it’s evaluating if it is a catastrophe. I have so much more helpful information to share on this, but patience, dear child, patience.
Someone who suffers from panic disorder recently told me they wished people would just hug them and tell them “It’s going to be okay.”, not “It’s okay.” or “Are you okay?”.
Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Some people don’t like to be touched, and respecting physical boundaries is very important, but the other part I think we could all agree on. For a lot of people, myself included, being asked whether we’re okay causes even more anxiety.
As I mentioned, most people aren’t able to tell if someone’s having a panic attack, which I find particularly relieving. Reassurance and support are powerful weapons. However, make sure you let your loved ones what you’d prefer they do during a panic attack of yours, or ask them if they suffer from them too.