Anyone who's ever experienced a panic attack knows that they are one of the most frightening and alarming things that can happen to you. A panic attack happens when your brain inappropriately sends a signal to your adrenal glands to produce adrenaline in response to feelings of fear.
When our body does this in response to real incidents of danger it can heighten our reflexes and save our lives - such as helping us to get out of the way of an advancing car. However, if this happens without a truly dangerous stimuli - like before you give a speech or in response to criticism from your boss, it's classified as a panic attack.
Some key symptoms of the experience are:
- A racing heart
- Inability to breathe
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- A tingling sensation or numbness in extremities
The good news is that with the right know-how, you can avoid a panic attack in 4 easy steps. These steps are:
- Relax - Relax your body by taking slow, deep, regular breaths. This will restore a feeling of calm, and release anxiety related tension from the muscles.
- Interrupt Repetitive Negative Thoughts - Most victims will have a repetitive mental dialogue during the attack, often "I'm going to die, I'm going to die!" or "I'm having a heart attack - oh god, I'm having a heart attack!" It's important to interrupt these negative thoughts by mentally shouting "STOP!" The sooner you do this, the sooner your body will stop releasing adrenaline.
- Replace the Negative thoughts with Calming ones - Employ a different repetitive thought such as "I'm fine, I'm not having a heart attack" or "There's nothing wrong with me, I'm just having an anxiety attack".
- Accept Feelings of Fear - Giving a speech is a scary thing. So is thinking you're having a heart attack. Tell yourself it's okay to be afraid, and it will take the pressure off and make attacks less frequent.
And remember, if in doubt, consult your doctor!