Panic attacks are one of the worst physical symptoms of anxiety. What can we do when panic hits us, and what choices do we have?
At that moment, when panic attacks, it consumes us.
Panic convinces us that we’re trapped, and we’re so focused on our survival and getting through the panic, we forget that we do have options and choices.
Choices seem like the last thing we have when panic sets in, but we can do more than just allow the panic to consume us and take over.
Feeling trapped and believing our only option is to suffer the panic is part of the trick of panic. It’s a big reason why panic attacks are allowed to continue.
When we appreciate that we do have one more than choice, we can start to look at panic attacks in a different way.
We can look to control and stop them.
Here are five of our most popular reactions to panic attacks. One of them will make all the difference.
Choice #1: Fuel the fear and run
Throw the shopping basket on the floor, and run for your life.
Keep moving forward – run, walk, jog – do anything, as long as people can’t see the sweat on your forehead and the panic on your face as you have a panic attack. That would cause you great embarrassment.
What would people think if they could see me?
What people think matters, so continue to worry about what people are thinking and allow that worry and fear to stoke the fire (panic).
Like a steam train, watch as your fear keeps your panic chugging away and continues to get worse as you stoke the fire.
Choice #2: Question your sanity
Are these symptoms real?
Are they life-threatening?
Is it just indigestion?
Is it a migraine?
Should I call for an ambulance? I might look stupid.
Allow all the ‘what if. . .?’ thoughts to continue to fuel the panic and produce more thoughts about scenarios that will never happen.
Keep questioning your sanity and convincing yourself that you’re not normal.
Allow these negative beliefs to fuel your panic further.
Choice #3: Search Dr Google
Get out your phone or laptop and frantically type in your symptoms on Google.
Fuel the panic further as you read through the symptoms and life-threatening results, believing every word of them.
Spend the rest of your life in and out of doctor’s surgeries, getting more frustrated and disillusioned with every visit.
Make lots of trips to the hospital, seeing specialists and having tests, looking for a diagnosis – one you know you won’t get because deep down you know it’s anxiety.
Allow the constant need for reassurance to keep fuelling your panic.
Choice #4: Fight the panic
Fight the symptoms of panic.
Have a battle with the anxiety and panic, even though you know you can never win against something that is naturally within us all.
Continue to beat yourself up and become more and more disillusioned as you convince yourself your life will never change.
Waste all your energy so you get to a point where you feel like you have no fight left in you – vital energy that could have been used to overcome the panic.
Allow your lack of energy to continue the panic.
Choice #5: Accept the symptoms, stand firm, don’t fight and don’t stoke the fire
Accept the symptoms of panic, and when it hits, don’t fight it.
Say to yourself:
‘I recognise that I’m having a panic attack, but I also accept that it won’t last. It never has. No matter how much I panic, I know it’s never caused me any physical harm. I know it’s a fact that it can’t.’
Get immediate confidence and reassurance by knowing that a panic attack isn’t going to harm you – because it can’t.
A panic attack has NEVER caused physical harm to anyone.
It’s the unknown and ‘what if’s…’ that fuel the panic. This knowledge will help you get rid of these things instantly.
Stand firm, and recognise that, like a bully, panic feeds off fear.
When you give it nothing to feed on, the panic goes away.
Face the panic head-on, and shout out: ‘DO YOUR WORST!’. Shout it out in your head if you can’t do it publicly. Don’t worry about what other people are doing or thinking – that is not your worry or concern.
When you face the panic head-on, it won’t get worse. It will get better.
As your anger, determination and confidence grow, feel the symptoms continue to subside.
Know that when you don’t stoke the fire, panic has nothing to feed off.
As your panic is almost gone, smile. Thank anxiety for keeping you safe. Reassure it, and tell it, on this occasion it wasn’t needed. It was simply a false alarm.
Keep doing the things and visiting the places that cause you to panic, and keep telling your brain you’re OK. No need to panic.
With time and practise, watch as your anxiety and panic triggers ease each time you do these things – until you reach the point you no longer panic.
Choice #5 comes with its challenges. Facing up to a bully isn’t easy. But I can assure you of this: it is no more of a challenge than facing the prospect of being bullied by panic attacks for the rest of your life.
Which choice will you make? I like #5.