An anxiety panic attack is a fairly common phenomenon that is characterized by a sudden rush of physical symptoms and uncontrollable anxiety. The American Psychological Association says the symptoms of a panic attack generally last for about 30 minutes, although the attack itself may only be 15 seconds long.
These abrupt and unexpected attacks create unreasonable fear that can cause disorientation, shortness of breath, muscle spasms, shakiness, heavy perspiration, nausea, or dryness of mouth. They sometimes cause heart palpitations or chest pains making the individual think they are suffering from a heart attack.
Emergency room visits and midnight calls to the family physician are not uncommon when in the throes of an anxiety panic attack. Then, after the dust settles and calm is restored, individuals can be left feeling frustrated and uncertain because they don’t understand what just happened or how to prevent it from happening again.
Although there are several common types of anxiety disorders, not everyone who suffers from a panic attack has a disorder. People dealing with a lot of stress at work or home, suffering from a lack of sleep or exercise, or recovering from an emotionally painful incident can sometimes be prone to panic attacks. To help bring your life back into balance, try some of the following suggestions:
See a Doctor
The first thing you should do is make an appointment with your physician to make sure there are no underlying medical conditions. Your doctor can determine if these are occasional panic attacks or a more serious anxiety panic disorder requiring medication and therapy. Plus, a clean bill of health will help to alleviate any concerns about your wellbeing that might escalate during a panic attack.
Learn to Recognize Triggers
Understanding how your body and mind respond to certain types of stimuli will help you develop a better response when you become anxious, or prevent an attack altogether. Obvious triggers are knowing that riding in an elevator or hearing a specific song generates a negative emotional response. Less obvious signs could be having trouble breathing, feeling instantly on “alert”, or a sudden feeling of panic.
Live a Healthy Lifestyle
Low blood sugar can create anxiety in anyone, so it’s important to start the day by eating breakfast and continuing with healthy meals and snacks throughout the day to keep your blood sugar elevated. You should also reduce alcohol and nicotine, and get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Use Diversionary Tactics
If you feel yourself becoming overly anxious and agitated go for a walk down the street or around the park. Maintaining a light exercise regimen such as aerobics or yoga produces endorphins which has a positive effect on how you feel overall. If panic attacks are not triggered by sounds, you might try diverting yourself by watching TV, talking to someone on the phone, or listening to soothing music.
Clean Up Your Surroundings
Chaos creates stress which causes anxiety. Straightening things up will also provide a safer environment so that you won’t fall and hurt yourself during an attack.
Relax Your Breathing and Muscles
When feeling anxious, close your eyes and take ten deep breaths through your nose. Visualize yourself in a serene location such as a stream with the water flowing gently by, or the shoreline with gently cresting waves.
Consult With a Professional
The best way to learn how to relax your breathing and calm your mind is with the help of a professional who can accurately demonstrate the best techniques for your individual needs. Depending on the severity of the panic attacks, cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure therapy may be recommended. In any event, a mental health professional can help you work out a plan to help ward off future panic attacks and put you back in control of your life.