Panic attacks are horrible. I wish I could say I have the solution for getting rid of them, but it's just not that easy. I wanted to talk about panic attacks in this post to shed some light on what they're like for me and how I push through them. Everyone experiences panic attacks in different ways, but for those of you who can relate to what I go through , I hope it helps.
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is a short experience your mind and body goes through when you have an overwhelming build up of thoughts and/or emotions, typically relating to fear. You may feel dizzy, shaky, paralysed and unable to breathe. Your entire body goes into fight or flight mode, preparing you for the danger involved in the situation in front of you. Most of the time the danger doesn't even exist, but your body won't recognise that - if you interpret a situation with fear in mind, your body is going to react to that fear.
Panic attacks occur for me purely because of fear. The fear that something bad could happen, the fear that I could embarrass myself, the fear that I'm not good enough, the fear that people won't like me and the list goes on. Even with no reason to, I create these fears in my mind. And it's not just being "a little bit scared"... this is intense fear which a lot of the time will result in a panic attack.
What does it feel like?
For me, a panic attack starts with a rush of negative thoughts.
Imagine standing in the centre of a football field with crowds of people standing around the outside. Think of those people as negative thoughts. When a panic attack starts, they all begin running towards you at full speed. You stand there frozen, and as they get closer and closer the whole field starts to spin. It gets harder and harder to breathe. They're closing in on you, and the moment they make contact is the moment you crumble.
Every time I have a panic attack, it results in me bawling my eyes out with terrible breathing patterns. Either I don't breathe at all or I breathe so quickly I feel like I'm going to pass out. The crying is the hardest part for me. I feel like if I didn't cry, I could get through panic attacks in public easily. But it's the crying that makes it so visible. I think I just get overwhelmed by the panic attack itself. It all happens so fast that my body's only reaction is to cry. I hate it.
How do you get through them?
When I start to have a panic attack and I'm at home I will go into my bedroom, sit on the bed and put my head between my knees. I'll cry it all out, staring at nothing but the floor beneath me. I try to avoid thinking about anything except for getting through that attack that is currently happening. If I am in public, I will remove myself from the location the panic attack started. I'll run if I have to.
As I said in the anxiety video I made for my Youtube Channel, a fellow youtuber said to me "it always ends". That has to be one of the best things I've ever heard in relation to panic attacks. I had one the day after she said those words to me and halfway through it, as I was thinking that I'm screwed, I thought to myself "this will be over in 5 minutes" and I started to slowly calm down. If you try to remove yourself from the panic swirling around in side of your head and think about how it will be over in a few minutes (unless your panic attacks go for hours, but typically they are hasty things) then I feel like a panic attack is a lot easier to handle.
In trying to avoid them altogether, I really have to focus. It's all about creating a positive head space and telling yourself over and over that you will be okay. One meditation I try to use when I can is "I am calm, I am pure, I am peaceful". If you're repeating these words non stop, the negative thoughts don't have a chance to creep in.
Panic attacks and work
I learned over time to always put myself first in terms of my anxiety. Every time I had panic attack I found it would be elevated by thinking "I won't make it to work now" or "these people are waiting for me" or "I'm meant to be doing this" or "what is that person going to think of me". When I realised that my own well being came before anything else, panic attacks were a simpler process to get through.
If you are able to take a day for yourself, even a few hours for yourself then do it. It's your life and I think it's really important to put yourself first. If you're in the position where you have no choice but to get to work (or keep working) after one, just know that it's one day in your life to get through so do what you can. Even reward yourself by planning a yummy meal after work, or buy yourself a little present if you make it through the day (I once bought a MAC lipstick).
If your workplace doesn't take into account the severity of what you go through and doesn't recognise the effort you put in to keep going, it's really important to try and find one that does. That may be easier said than done, but if your anxiety becomes related to work because you keep experiencing it at that one place, it might be helpful to start fresh somewhere new rather than having everything fall apart.