About three years ago, I began to experience episodes of severe anxiety out of the blue that would terrify me, and I brought with me to high school. While my panic attacks still occur and shake me up, I have learned many ways to help myself, and hopefully help others.
When my panic attacks first began, I was around 12 years old, and had just gone through a traumatic event. Oftentimes, I would wake up in the middle of the night with nightmares triggering an attack, or public settings would bring me to a bad place.
The attacks started smaller, more frequently in the middle of the night. I would awake in tears, telling myself that I couldn’t breathe. It felt like everything was out of my control, even myself. I couldn’t stop the shaking in my hands and my uncontrollable breaths, I couldn’t sleep through the night or keep my dreams like that of a happy 12 year old. Over time, they became less and less frequent. Evidently, it seemed like I had just grown out of them until they returned again a year later.
I still have not figured out what causes my panic attacks to this day, but the symptoms remain similar to what they did in the beginning. Trouble breathing, crying uncontrollably, shaking, and being in such an uncontrollable state that nobody could help me, or so I thought. There are ways to take back control and help yourself out of that anxious state, but sometimes we have to tough it out. When I am experiencing a panic attack, it feels like my brain becomes alphabet soup and the palms of my hands are spiraling. Other times, I can’t get myself to stop zoning out, my thoughts bouncing around. It’s like I’m stuck in place and it’s all going on inside, but nobody would ever be able to tell. Even when it feels like it will never end, eventually my hands stop shaking and my breaths become steady. Here is how I do it.
Count by 7s (or whatever number you like)
I’m not too hot at counting by seven, and when I started to get my brain thinking about something other than my instability, I became distracted and my body calmed on its own. Make sure the intervals you’re counting by aren’t too easy, or you won’t have to think enough.
Hold Some Ice
This one probably doesn’t sound very trusty, but it really works. When I hold a plain cube of ice in my hand, and sometimes squeeze, the cold distracts me and lets me organize my thoughts. The same goes for eating sour food. Both help get our senses balanced and working.
Let It Out and Take Its Toll
Sometimes the best thing we can do for a panic attack is let it happen. Even though panic attacks are scary, and it’s hard to know when it’s coming or how it will feel, it’s good to let it all out, too. They cannot always be eased, so occasionally we have to tough it out through the tears and anxiety. If nothing else, keeping things from being bottled up is never a negative.
Finding someone, like a mental health professional or even just a friend, to talk to consistently to work out confusing thoughts you may not know you had, or just to talk can always help, whether you experience panic attacks or not. To keep ourselves organized and aware of the symptoms, looking out for the signals of a panic attack (like a rise in anxiety) can decrease the likelihood and severity of an attack. When we are in such a state, it is not required that we ask for help or suffer it on our own, but either way you are never alone. Even when it is hard, try to remember exactly that to get you through the not-so-easy times because it will only make you stronger.