By Caroltoo Latest Reply 2012-08-05 11:01:45 -0500
Started 2012-07-29 01:02:56 -0500

Seven Ways to Stop Panic Attacks
By Tina Tessina, DivineCaroline

There is always something in the news or on TV to scare us. Hysterical articles in the media sell papers and attract eyeballs to websites, but are usually exaggerating the facts. If you listen without evaluating what you’re being told, it’s easy to become frightened. There’s a reason why I don’t usually waste time and energy on panic and drama.

In my office, I see the negative results of panic every day. People get upset, they’re afraid of emotional consequences, and they overreact, which can actually create the consequences they fear. Panic is an overreaction to a real (or even imagined) problem. Frightening yourself beyond the real need to deal with a problem puts your body into “fight or flight” mode—as though your life were immediately threatened. Emotional panic can create a shutdown of feelings—so you’re in a state of shock. In this state , you cannot think clearly, or make good responses, choices and decisions. In panic, we do not retain information, absorb what we hear, or accurately assess the situation. Panic is the worst thing you can do in a real emergency, and if the situation is not dire, panic will make it worse.

Panic is a natural startle reaction that gets exaggerated and becomes prolonged. People often learn to panic because, in early childhood, panic can get us out of responsibilities. Freaking out, crying, throwing temper tantrums, or shutting down are all panic responses small children use which cause some competent adult to take over and become the hero. This can be okay once in a while, but as this pattern repeats, it becomes rescuing and codependency. Panic creates drama – unnecessary and damaging exaggeration of the problem—which leads to dysfunctional responses and overblown family drama.

We admire people who don’t panic. Our President is admired for being “no drama Obama” because he retains his ability to think clearly, take his time, and make effective decisions even when the people around him are panicking. People who can stay calm usually come out OK, because they think clearly.

So, what do you do in a scary or upsetting situation? Teach yourself how not to panic, so you can think clearly and handle the problem effectively. Practice these techniques to teach yourself to stay calm when the situation is threatening or the people around you are obviously in a panic.

To learn to let go, follow these simple steps for resolving your fear and anxiety:

1. Learn to recognize the signs of your own panic. If you feel the telltale signs of panic—a racing or pounding heartbeat, flushing of the face or body, and mental confusion—you are in a state of panic. If you are shouting, saying unreasonable things, or just saying whatever comes out of your mouth, without thinking about consequences, you are in a state of panic. Stop what you’re doing, and follow the rest of the steps here.

2. Take some deep breaths. Deep breathing will calm your body, and burn off the adrenaline that’s been released in the panic. Slow down, count to ten, focus on thinking clearly and factually rather than reacting emotionally.

3. Take responsibility to figure out what you’re afraid of. Unless you’re in immediate, direct danger, what’s scaring or upsetting you is probably not as urgent as you think. Make a list of what you’re afraid of. This will help you move beyond free-floating anxiety, and begin to think more clearly.

4. Check the facts. Is what’s on the news really true? Do we have an epidemic, or only 11 confirmed cases in California? Does the source you’re listening to have something to gain by putting you in a panic? Are they trying to sell you something, get federal funding, or get elected? Are you reacting to someone else’s panic? Get some facts about whatever is frightening you. Is there a real, immediate threat, or is it just wise to be cautious? Is your partner actually going to abandon you, or is he or she just angry about something?

5. Make a decision about what to do about each fear. If it’s a health fear, perhaps better hygiene or a talk with your doctor will resolve it. If it’s a relationship fear, finding out what your partner is really thinking (instead of guessing) will probably make more sense.

6. Take some action to resolve the problems or threats you’re facing. Get a flu shot, go for relationship therapy, or have a good talk with your partner or family member.

7. Sell yourself on a positive outcome. Think of all the possible great outcomes of the changes you’re making. Consider what you will learn, and how much better your life and relationships will be without the panic.

With a calmer outlook, you’ll be able to make better decisions, and create a more successful outcome. I wish you peace, within yourself, within your family, within the world.

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Tags: health stress

44 replies

dietcherry 2012-08-03 23:05:05 -0500 Report

After I switched from animal insulin to synthetic, I experienced my first hypo panic attack and didnt have a clue of what was happening—-I had never felt anything like it and the impending doom that overcame me was terrorizing!
All my Endo said was they came with lows but never mentioned the etiology of a panic attack. I had to research it on my own and this was the early 90s so there wasnt a whole lot of information to gather.

Finally an article in Time magazine explained that the panic comes from a surge of adrenalin flooding your system even though there isnt any rational reason for your bodies fight-or-flight reaction. And in diabetics, the body releases adrenalin to prompt the liver to release glucose, hence the reason for mine.
Once I understood this, I was cured; for me it was simply the knowledge of what was going on that released me from the attacks.

Caroltoo 2012-08-04 01:09:56 -0500 Report

Thank you for sharing that. I was not aware that it is adrenalin that prompts the liver to release glucose. When you don't realize that is what's happening, it is very frightening. If you know what is happening, there is no reason to fear it, so no panic. Glad that resolved it for you.

dietcherry 2012-08-04 10:28:00 -0500 Report

Well yes in theory but there are those with paralyzing attacks that know its the coursing of adrenalin and yet still cant control the panic…?????

I wanted to add: everyone has adrenalin rushes——its the accompanying panic that some feel and are unable to tame that results in an "attack". The mental exercises above seek to address that phenomenon.

tabby9146 2012-08-03 10:29:25 -0500 Report

thank you Carol. I have started to have these very short, occasional dizzy sometimes, just light headed spells in stores. Most of the time I try not to let wondering if it is going to happen again, as I go into a store, bother me, but I wonder if my problem is blood sugar fluctuations or anxiety, because each time this has happened, my numbers have been good, it resolves on its own and I have no other symptoms, no sweating, nausea, or any of those things. I just feel fear 'after' the light headed or dizziness. They feel like a low blood sugar spell, but not quite as severe. I do have some light shaking that is brief. I have had one of two low blood sugar spells in the past so I know what those are like.I control by diet and exercise. so is that what an anxiety attack feels like too? how do I distinguish between the two when my blood sugar numbers always look good right after this happens?

snuggles071 2012-08-04 18:00:27 -0500 Report

i was going to bring this up too i have been having the dizzy spells the last few months,brought it up to the dr he felt it was my blood sugar to test it when it happens well i have and it is fine,i know what low blood sugar feels like it is a totally different feeling ,he said maybe anxiety but im not anxious when it happens,it uch a scarey feeling but im stumped too

Caroltoo 2012-08-05 11:01:45 -0500 Report

I had something similar for a while. Eventually, I turned to chiropractic care and found mine was the result of a misalignment of the top 2 cervical vertebrae. Used to go the chiro feeling dizzy, generally fluish, then walk out feeling fine.

tabby9146 2012-08-03 10:31:25 -0500 Report

When this first happened at a check up about two years ago, or a year and a half ago, I told my doctor, and she told me that since my numbers are within a good range each time, I am one of those that is super sensitive to blood sugar going down or up fast. But somtimes it won't happen for weeks or months. She never mentioned anxiety. I always made sure to eat protein and fiber and not too go too long after eating when I go into a store.

Caroltoo 2012-08-03 17:23:20 -0500 Report

Sounds like you are making good choices for your BG control! Yes, there are some real similarities between the symptoms of low BG, high BG, and anxiety attacks. If you test and in an acceptable range, I'd treat it with slow, deep breathing, and focusing on something positive and relaxing rather than allowing yourself to be swept into the maelstrom of emotions that come with the fear that something bad is happening to you. Of course, if it continues, contact your doctor for an evaluation. As you get control of the symptoms, remember to help yourself desensitize to the fear by brief, safe trips into stores. You don't want to let this develope into agoraphobia because you fear what will happen when you go into a store. Another thought: stores have powerful AC systems and there is sometimes a minutechange in air pressure when you go in that can also bring a brief feeling of light headedness. That's a purely mechanical process, not health related except that your body may be overly sensitive to minute pressure changes.

Graylin Bee
Graylin Bee 2012-07-31 17:07:59 -0500 Report

Good info, thanks Carol.
Since my near death battle with MRSA I have had to learn to watch for sudden unexpected triggers. Deep breathing and reminding myself that this is now and not then work every time. Just have to remember to do that as soon as the first few rapid heartbeats start pounding in my ears.

Caroltoo 2012-08-01 15:49:25 -0500 Report

Good point, Graylin: be aware and catch it when it first starts and do what you need to do to relax.

Set apart
Set apart 2012-07-31 06:13:23 -0500 Report

Thanks for sharing Carol, I think it's taken me a lifetime to learn to pick my battles! I don't usually over react to certain situations living with D now I have assess the situation and also make sure I am feeling okay before I panic! I tend to over react when I am not feeling well or just tired!

diabetic28 2012-07-30 18:06:38 -0500 Report

Mine are getting better everyday ad my sugar starts to level down ty for all the info everyone it is such a great help

Nick1962 2012-07-30 10:48:49 -0500 Report

I guess I’m one of the lucky ones that has this type of thing trained out of me. Not that I still don’t have them (panic attacks), but now they’re mostly of my own creation.
#4 is especially true. Way too often we tend to “go off” based on limited information, or limited knowledge. We see a study that something is bad or harmful, but we stop reading after that, never bothering to check the validity of the study. And all too often we tend to spread that panic.
Like I said, I guess I’m lucky. I’ve always had jobs that require me to think on my feet, so through many seminars and training sessions, I learned to assess, understand, then act - not just “react”. Rarely is a situation worthy of the panic we assign it.

Caroltoo 2012-07-30 13:46:27 -0500 Report

Very true … need to check out the validity of the source and of the "facts" since so many of our news sources focus on the dramatic and frightening stories.

Assessment of the information we are processing is a crucial part of maintaining our calm.

Nick1962 2012-07-30 16:24:10 -0500 Report

Well, I think the whole article applies to life in general. Assess what it is you’re reacting to, and if it’s really worth it. Then act on that which can be acted upon.
I recently witnessed a single car accident on a busy wet freeway. Of the at least half dozen others that saw it, I was the only one to stop. Wasn't sure what I would find once I got to the car, or if I could do anything (and I don't mind saying my heart was pounding), but it turned out OK, just some body damage to the car. I know a lot of people who'd just dial 911 and wait for the ambulance because they've already convinced themselves the scene would be gruesome.
I guess the lesson of the article for me is don't talk yourself into being unable to react to what might be a small thing, and don't react until you have all the facts.

Caroltoo 2012-07-31 16:02:07 -0500 Report

You reminded me of one of my child rearing rules. When Jeff was growing up I always used to stop myself before I reacted to his behavior/request with the question: is this going to be important in two years? If it is, deal with it. If it isn't, consider whether or not it's worth making a fuss about it. Usually found it wasn't.

Nick1962 2012-07-31 16:04:31 -0500 Report

Yes, so very true, and unfortunately I was well into my second marriage before I learned that lesson!

Caroltoo 2012-07-31 16:16:51 -0500 Report

Yes, it works well in marriage also! So often what we fight about in relationships is really just annoyances where we vent the frustrations of the big things that we aren't talking about (and, may not always be anything happening at home).

Nick1962 2012-07-31 16:21:20 -0500 Report

To me that is a form of panic attack in itself. Especially raising kids. So often we're scared of doing it wrong.

Caroltoo 2012-07-31 16:27:14 -0500 Report

Yes, I think that is a lot of what causes parents anxiety. The second is the child's demand for an answer NOW. You really have to give yourself permission to wait and think. Another of my lines with Jeff was: if you insist on an answer right now, my response will be "No"; if you can give me some time to think about it, you may get a "Yes". That one works with spouses also.

Nick1962 2012-07-31 18:08:47 -0500 Report

It's a shame experience isn't someting you get until right after you need it.
My biggie has always been "think about how I might answer before you ask"

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-07-29 17:42:27 -0500 Report

Thanks for sharing Carol. None of this worked for me when I had them on a regular basis.

Caroltoo 2012-07-30 13:41:26 -0500 Report

Yes, Joyce, the ones based in really traumatic events often do require therapy. Glad you got the help you needed.

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-07-30 13:59:40 -0500 Report

Carol all panic attacks should be addressed by a professional. They can get progressively worse especially if you don't know the cause. The sooner you seek help, the sooner the problems can be resolved.

Caroltoo 2012-07-30 14:10:58 -0500 Report

I've seen many people work successfully with their's in the early stages when they get some tools like this, so guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. Panic attacks that are severe and/or repeat, definitely need professional care.

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-07-30 14:40:21 -0500 Report

I am not disagreeing with you I am saying that some people can be successful in the early stages. Panic attacks can go away and never come again for some people. For others they may go away using these tools and they can come back years later. There are also those who these tools may not work for. At the end of the day the person should seek professional help if the tools do not work and if they have several panic attacks. We are all human beings yet we are all different to a point so what works for some certainly not work for others and definitely won't work for all.

red flower lady
red flower lady 2012-07-30 14:59:55 -0500 Report

Finding healthy help to overcome this be it mind traing tools, or seeing a dr either doesn't matter as long as it is addressed.

Caroltoo 2012-07-30 18:30:18 -0500 Report

Work is fun! Girls are doing well. I'm working nights this week on a suicide watch, plus some day shifts. Obviously, I'm still an adrenalin junkie! Thanks for the good wishes. Hope you are doing well also.

jayabee52 2012-07-29 13:05:34 -0500 Report

Excellent topic Caroltoo! Thanks for sharing!

Caroltoo 2012-07-30 13:42:46 -0500 Report

Thanks, James. Lot's of little hints here for things we can do for ourselves when we are making our own situations worse by overreacting to whatever is happening to us or around us.

jayabee52 2012-07-30 19:14:05 -0500 Report

fortunately I am not easily prone to such attacks. I have had a few times where I was a bit anxious but I did controlled breathing and focused on what I was supposed to be doing, tellimg myself "it will be alright I will get through it".

Caroltoo 2012-07-31 16:49:00 -0500 Report

Yes, that works well for me too. That's one of the benefits of recognizing EARLY what is happening … reduces the panic considerably!