How To Stop Your Thoughts From Spiralling During A Panic Attack
From time to time I like to feature guest posts from people who want to share their stories and experiences in order to help others. Charlotte got in touch with me and I’m honoured to feature her story. She regularly writes about mental health and she’s got some handy tips to share. Check out her advice on how to stop your thoughts spiralling during a panic attack…
The room starts spinning, your heart is racing – you can feel it thudding in your chest and you feel like you can’t breathe, you may faint and this thought sends fear through your already anxious mind. You consider if anyone has ever died from a panic attack, you google it, you search for the one article that says a person has, you don’t know why you do this to yourself but you can’t help it.
Anxiety is deliberating to live with, it prevents you from functioning as your ‘typical’ member of society. A trip to the corner shop or ordering a coffee can make you freeze and feel like you cannot talk and all you can think about Is how sweating your hands feel.
It is an invisible illness and highly stigmatised, many of us live with and suffer from anxiety but many of us will hide it or try to push ourselves through it, which is not always the best way forward as it can lead to a relapse.
Despite how common panic attacks are, it is not to say that they cannot be prevented or controlled. Panic attacks can be terrifying, your body is both physically and mentally attacking you from the inside but they do not need to be so scary.
Learning Your Warning Signs
It is so important, to start, that you learn your warning signs, we are all individual and will all have unique triggers and symptoms, which when we learn them and understand them, we can focus on ways to prevent that panic attack. Triggers are important to know as while we cannot hide inside our whole life, we can slowly expose ourselves to situations and build up the confidence, eventually learning that the situation is not scary. Symptoms will vary with each person so learning yours can tell you to find somewhere quiet and safe so you can slow down your heart rate.
In a panic attack our blood pressure rises, so our heart is working double time to slow it down, causing those sweats and nausea, knowing this is comforting because it shows that you are not dying, your body is just protecting you.
When you can feel that panic attack coming on, try to look around you, focus on something you find mesmerising, for me that’s usually nature, the rain, the plants and the sunshine, even a bonfire. You can distract yourself this way because you are reminding yourself that beautiful things exist.
Grounding is a great technique, which ties in the last comment, counting items around you, or sounds can calm the mind down and prevent it from spiralling. When I feel really stressed and my mind will not shut off, usually at night, I put on some relaxing ‘spa’ like music or listen to an audio book and I can take myself to anywhere in the world which isn’t reality, it removes the ability to delve deeper into those bad thoughts.
Productivity Is Key
Productivity is incredibly underrated but it is a valuable tool in recovery, it sounds impossible on the days when you cannot leave bed but hear me out! Take the example of writing, I started writing just over a year ago, I found it very hard to start and I must have re done my book 3 times but the more I pushed myself to write, a little each day, it became a routine and it was rewarding. 6 months after starting to write I self-published my book and the feeling I felt was magical, I had made something permanent on this earth which helps others and could lead to a career in writing. I now do not go a single day without writing as it keeps me productive and makes my brain work, as time has gone on It has also made it easier for me to take back drawing and crafts. The important thing to remember is not to overwhelm yourself, small steps make the biggest differences sometimes.
When you are productive, it gives you time where you can zone out and turn your focus onto your future or your present, it is mentally rewarding but it gives those bad thoughts a time out and sometimes productivity can allow you to reflect and manage those bad thoughts.
If you are having a panic attack, the important thing is to make sure you are safe, try sitting down and put your head close to your legs, it somehow helps with the breathing and nausea.
Go somewhere quiet and remember that it is okay to leave an event early if you need to, don’t ever let anyone’s opinion get in front of your recovery.
Anxiety Can Be Managed
Ultimately anxiety may be something I live with for the rest of my life, it is something that is always with me but that voice is getting quieter as time goes on and as I get further into my recovery, which is a mixture of professional help and self-help. For now, I cannot work due to anxiety but it doesn’t mean I never will work again, this really can be applied to education, relationships or anything that you are not able to do yet, there is no time limit on anything!
Charlotte Underwood is a 22 year old from Norfolk, UK. She has self-published two books which can be found on smashwords.com, she also blogs on mental health frequently and is slowly becoming a mental health advocate on twitter (@CUnderwoodUk).