What a Panic Attack Feels Like to Me and How I’ve Learned to Cope
I have found that one of the most difficult aspects of coping with chronic anxiety is dealing with panic attacks. Even though I’ve learned how to lessen the effects of panic attacks over time, I can still be unexpectedly blindsided by one.
To make matters worse, sometimes I anticipate having a panic attack, which causes — you guessed it — more anxiety. It can sometimes then become a vicious anxiety-inducing cycle. That is why it has become so important for me to be aware of what panic attacks feel like and what I can do about it.
What a Panic Attack Feels Like to Me
In previous work that I’ve done in mental health, I’ve worked with individuals who have dealt with chronic anxiety and experienced panic attacks. I’ve found that I could relate to some of the symptoms they talked about.
Personally, when I experience a panic attack, it feels like my body is « slammed » by an onslaught of anxiety symptoms in full force, all at once. I immediately experience a rapid heartbeat, I suddenly have a hard time breathing, I feel light-headed, nauseous, and I begin to tremble. I also feel a tremendous amount of fear, and often there is no logical reason for this. Sometimes, the momentary panic is so intense that I experience tunnel vision and can’t focus. It is truly a terrible feeling that I find not only mentally hard to deal with, but physically hard to deal with as well.
How I’ve Learned to Cope with Panic Attacks
Even though it is a terrible feeling, I have learned how to lessen the effects of panic attacks and deal with them in a way that the anticipation of it happening again is not something I am constantly worried about. This is how I’ve learned to cope:
- Breathing to slow my heart rate. I’ve learned that if I can manage the physical symptoms, it lessens the length and intensity of the panic attack. Primarily, I slow my heart rate. I take deep breaths in slowly, hold them for a beat, and then let them out slowly. This slows down my heart rate.
- If I am around someone I trust, I immediately verbalize what I am feeling. I find that if I do, this allows a release of emotion that helps to calm me. This is one of the reasons I think it is so important to have a strong support system. Having someone to turn to that you can trust and that you can share your fears with can be instrumental for being able to calm and ground yourself so that your anxiety does not escalate.
- I use grounding techniques. I focus on different things I can see, hear, feel, and smell. If I don’t keep myself grounded, my anxiety can get worse and I can start feeling worse. It’s almost like a hot air balloon that begins taking off. I need something to keep me anchored to the ground. Focusing on things that I am taking in through my senses helps me to stay anchored.
Panic attacks can be difficult to endure, and experiencing anxiety about panic attacks can only make them worse. Try using some of these techniques to help deescalate your panic when you feel it coming on. Share in the comments below any strategies you use that you find helpful.