Panic attacks are NOT uncommon.
Some people experience them once or twice in a lifetime while others have them whenever they’re speaking in public or are preparing for an important phone call. In severe cases, sufferers may feel like they’re going to die.
Anxiety is defined as “fear of the unknown”, and historically, it aides in survival. It’s close relative, fear, prepared us to choose fight-or-flight in dangerous situations by heightening our senses and dumping the fine-tuning chemicals into our blood stream, like adrenaline and epinephrine.
Yet today, while still protecting us from genuine danger, fear and panic somehow morphed into a bunch of barely relatable and dysfunctional afflictions: panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.
As your rate of breathing accelerates, you begin to chest-breathe instead of belly breathing (breathing deeply). This causes hyperventilation, where you are blowing off too much carbon dioxide (CO2) . This leads to a rise in blood pH, which in lay-terms, means symptoms like dizziness, weakness, fainting, headache, and tingling in the hands and feet.
1. Focus on deep breathing.
Hyperventilation brings on many sensations, like lightheadedness and tightness of the chest. By learning to tune into your breathing, and then consciously controlling it, you develop a coping skill that you can use to calm yourself down when you begin to feel anxious. If you know how to control your breathing, you are also less likely to create the very sensations that you are afraid of.
2. CO2 Normalizes blood pH.
If you are already experiencing a full-blown panic-attack, breathe into a paper bag. It will reduce many of the extraneous symptoms of panic and help normalize your breathing by re-balancing your bloods pH.
3. Practice relaxation techniques.
The opposite of a panic-response is a relaxation-response. If you are prone to anxiety attacks, learn and practice relaxation techniques. When practiced regularly activities such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and progressive muscle relaxation, you are strengthening the body’s relaxation response. It also helps you become aware of the difference between bodily sensations that are relaxed versus sensations that indicate dysfunctional tension. Make time for relaxation exercises every day!
**Note: If these techniques do not help, please see a therapist for a deeper evaluation of the causes for your panic.