FOUR COPING MECHANISMS I USE DURING A PANIC ATTACK

This one feels different from the last one.

That statement has loomed in the back of my mind too many times to count, and I’d be lying if I said that it has completely gone away.

I’ve been (knowingly) dealing with an anxiety disorder for the past five years. With that has come its not-so-fair share of anxiety and panic attacks.

PANIC ATTACK VS. ANXIETY ATTACKWHAT ARE THEY?

According to Healthline, Anxiety can be mild, moderate, or severe. For example, anxiety may be happening in the back of your mind as you go about your day-to-day activities. Panic attacks, on the other hand, mostly involve severe, disruptive symptoms. During a panic attack, the body’s autonomous fight-or-flight response takes over.

You might hear people talking about panic attacks and anxiety attacks like they’re the same thing. They’re different conditions though.

Panic attacks come on suddenly and involve intense and often overwhelming fear. They’re accompanied by frightening physical symptoms, such as a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, or nausea.

The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) recognizes panic attacks, and categorizes them as unexpected or expected.

Unexpected panic attacks occur without an obvious cause. Expected panic attacks are cued by external stressors, such as phobias. Panic attacks can happen to anyone, but having more than one may be a sign of panic disorder.

Anxiety attacks aren’t recognized in the DSM-5. The DSM-5 does, however, define anxiety as a feature of a number of common psychiatric disorders.

Symptoms of anxiety include worry, distress, and fear. Anxiety is usually related to the anticipation of a stressful situation, experience, or event. It may come on gradually.

– healthline.com

Although they are medically said to contrast one another, a thing that they agreeably have in common is that neither of them feel good. For myself, full-blown panic attacks seem to hit me the most frequently, even if they do start out as tidbits of anxiety. I’ve read somewhere that you could even have both at the same time, and I don’t doubt that. Up until I researched, I didn’t know there was a difference… if we’re being honest. I just knew that what was happening to me in those moments was unpleasant–the worst I’ve ever felt.

If I could describe the feeling, I would exaggerate it as death in your rearview mirror. That’s because, oftentimes, it almost seems as if your heart is dropping from your chest to your feet, and your soul is ascending its bodily foundation. Others would take my description as dramatic, but if you’ve ever experienced it, not even those depictions are enough to explain the overwhelming sense of fear that the attacks are bound to bring. From the profuse sweating and numbing limbs to the seemingly irregular heartbeat and lingering erratic thoughts, the effects are draining, to say the least.

I remember one of my first episodes… and how I was so afraid and worked up that I dialed 911 as I sat (hysterically) in a Subway restaurant that was located inside of my local Walmart. I’d gone through the troubles of giving my name and my whereabouts to the operator, only to calm down minutes later. I was so embarrassed when I called her back and told her “never mind,” and I wasted no time apologizing.

However, as I continue sorting through my mental health and figuring it all out, I’ve learned the importance of not letting my disorder control me; instead, I must control it.

That’s something that’s certainly easier said than done, but here are a few tips that I find beneficial when keeping myself calm during an episode.

LET IT RUN ITS COURSE

We all yell “trust the process” until it’s our own process that we have to trust, LOL. Naturally, panic’s first response is fight or flight, but I’ve found solace in treating it as a moment in time that will soon pass. I just try to focus other side of it, the end, instead of putting my attention on the scares of what’s happening currently. Closing my eyes, visualizing beautiful settings, or placing my thoughts aid in making the time (seemingly) go by faster. I also try to relax my muscles and keep them as still as possible. Reminding yourself that you are in the driver’s seat of your own body will cut down on hyperventilation as well. It’s important to sit in those feelings and emotions. Think of it brief moments of meditation.

AFFIRM YOURSELF, SIS

Repeating affirmations in my head until it blows over has proven to be extremely helpful for me. The mind is a powerful thing, and so is the tongue. Talking yourself through an attack not only relieves some of the fear of the unknown but it makes the length of your emotional discomfort not so much of a stressful factor.

Here are my favorite things to say to myself:

  1. You got through this the last time; you will get through it this time.
  2. This is only temporary.
  3. You are not your condition.
  4. These attacks will not kill you.
  5. What you are feeling is normal.
  6. This is not your fault.
  7. What you are experiencing matters.
  8. You are not overreacting.
  9. Your feelings are valid.
  10. It will get easier.

READSOMETHING

A book, a magazine–whatever you can find, read it. June of 2016, I was sitting in the ER after freaking out, because I confused an anxiety attack for some type of heart issue. I’ll never forget the doctor’s suggestion to pick up a book whenever I feel myself slipping into an episode. He explained how it helped in giving him a peace of mind whenever he’d go through one himself. Whether it’s a paperback or an ebook on your phone, concentrating on the words on the page offers great mental support.

If you’re like me, and you’re into urban fiction, here are a few authors that I suggest:

  1. B.M. Hardin
  2. Shvonne Latrice
  3. Ashantay Keys
  4. Jade Jones
  5. Chenell Parker

MUSIC IS THE ANSWER TO ANY PROBLEM

If only that were true, life would be a little easier. LOL. However, music is certainly one of the answers to anxiety. I love music. Always have, always will. Compile a playlist of songs that bring you the most happiness, and make use of it any time you feel an attack coming on. I prefer listening to music in headphones. To me, the surround sound effect that it creates mixed with the euphoric feeling that it brings… it’s unmatched. Put the volume on 100, tune out any and everybody, and let the lyrics consume you. Alexa, play “Up” by Cardi B!

Which coping mechanism have you tried and/or will try? Leave a comment below, and let me know!

Until next time…

Ash.