An anxiety or panic attack is what you could essentially describe as a “fear of fear”, meaning that although your body doesn’t have anything rational to be afraid of, it initiates your fight or flight response. One of the most difficult things to deal with when experiencing anxiety or panic attacks is the fact that you don’t always understand what triggers them. Some of the most common symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks mirror the symptoms of truly dangerous medical conditions as well, such as myocardial infarction, that make your terror seem even more legitimate during the experience. Fortunately, anxiety attacks generally only last around 5 – 15 minutes, so all you have to do is get yourself through the episode and you’re golden.
One of the first things you need to find out is whether or not you have any real medical issues. See your doctor and have them run some tests on you. Once you tell your doctor the symptoms you’re experiencing, he or she will most likely plan on running you through a string of tests anyway to rule out the most common medical problems associated with those types of symptoms. Once you’ve been checked out and everything appears to be alright, take an opportunity to really let that sink in. More often than not people tend to freak out even more because during an anxiety attack they truly believe that they are dying, and dying is a pretty scary idea for most of us. Relax and tell yourself, “I’m fine, there isn’t anything wrong with me, they’ve ran all the tests on me and I’m not going to die.” Knowing that you aren’t dying is one of the keys to overcoming your disorder, constantly remind yourself of this when you begin feeling anxious.
Your next step is planning out all of your actions and identify things that make you feel anxious. If driving makes you anxious and has a tendency to throw you into an anxiety attack, try to avoid heavy traffic areas and drive in the right line so you can pull off into the emergency lane when necessary. Always identify a way out of situations that make you feel anxious. If large crowds of people make you anxious, always try to position yourself where you’re close to an exit. While you’re at it, try to identify the things that make you feel safe, along with people who make you feel safe. Most all of us have cell phones in today’s world, utilize your phone to contact a friend or loved one who can help “talk you down” when you’re experiencing anxiety attacks.
Face your fear, do not simply avoid situations that make you anxious. You do not want to allow this disorder to rule you – you are in control of your mind and your body, force them to comply with your wishes. There are probably thousands of inspiring stories all over the internet and television that have people talking about overcoming the odds, and most of the time they do this simply by convincing themselves that they can do it. Your mind is a very powerful tool, and if you’re able to control it, you can literally do just about anything. Harness the powers of your mind to keep you focused on the task at hand, don’t allow your mind to wander and run wild, this will only further compound your problems. Always remind yourself that you’re okay, identify your experience as an anxiety attack and allow yourself to get mad at it. You will eventually become fed up with your disorder and you’ll tell it to hit the road, always remember that you’re the one in charge of your feelings.
Talk to your disorder, remind it that you’re in charge, and cast it out like a demon. I recently read an article about ESPN analyst Stuart Scott fighting a rare form of cancer in a Men’s Health article. Stuart Scott talks to his cancer, telling it that he is going to defeat it. Anxiety disorders are just as much a health condition as cancer, albeit not as life-threatening. Stuart Scott has managed to overcome his cancer on two occasions already, and now he’s battling it a third time. Scott pushes himself in spite of how his cancer makes him feel, he doesn’t allow himself to give up. If Stuart Scott can fight something as serious as cancer, can’t you fight your irrational fears? Tell your anxiety to hit you with it’s best shot, ride it out, and then you’ll see that you’re still alive, still there to fight another day. Anxiety attacks won’t kill you, and they rarely last longer than the time it will take you to read this article.
Force yourself to go out into public, don’t let these anxiety attacks turn you into a recluse. If you refuse to leave your “safe areas” then you will become a hermit, you’ll experience a whole new kind of terror, possibly even becoming agoraphobic. Put a stop to your anxiety before it drags you even further down into a pit of hopelessness and depression. Over time, I promise that you will become increasingly better at combating your fear. It’s okay to use friends and loved ones to help you through your toughest times, but in the end, you’re the only person you can rely on. Use your crutches when you absolutely have to, but don’t take advantage of them. Only worry about things in your life that you have some control over, not the things that are out of your reach.
Find things that relax you – one of the best reliefs for me was music. Music, especially songs that I like and can sing along with, tend to take my mind off of what I’m experiencing at that moment. If you can sing along through a few songs to try and calm yourself down, your anxiety attack will most likely have already passed by the time you finish. I tried to listen to slower, relaxing music – I didn’t need anything too upbeat or fast paced, I wanted something that would slow me down. Pink Floyd was one of my best medicines when fighting my anxiety, the slow mellow tones of their music really took me down a few notches.
Lastly, exercise on a regular basis. Exercising helps relieve stress, which is one of the main components in an anxiety disorder. Find yourself a fun, easy to stick with exercise regimen and do it every day that you can. Aerobic exercise, strength training, it doesn’t matter, just find something to work out some of that stress that you have bottled up inside you.
I hope some of these things help you, I’ve been experiencing anxiety and panic attacks for about twenty years now. I’ve used all of the tools that I’ve mentioned in this article to help me function normally in society – most people have no idea that I have any kind of anxiety disorder unless I tell them. You will also overcome your problems, just be patient and take things one day at a time. Our lives are too short to let them become dominated by irrational fears, fight your anxiety with every weapon at your disposal.