AIDS Care Group

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Panic Attacks: What to do if they happen to you.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned and continue to practice in order to not debilitate

my life with panic attacks. Before I begin this list, let me explain that I still have panic attacks

but because I’ve learned coping skills and exercises to help me with them they have never been

as severe as my first panic attack.

A panic attack includes a combination of the following:

Shortness of breath or hyperventilation

Heart palpitations or a racing heart.

Chest pain or discomfort.

Trembling or shaking.

Choking feeling.

Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings

Learn how to control your breathing. . By learning to control your breathing, you

develop a coping skill that you can use. I’ve talked about my breathing technique. Smell the

roses, in other words take a deep breath and hold it for a second. Blow out the birthday candles,

or take a strong breath out through your mouth. This breathing technique helps your heart rate to

slow down and for your body to calm down.

Learn about panic. Simply knowing more about panic can go a long way towards

relieving your distress. You’ll learn that the sensations and feelings you have when you panic are

normal and that you aren’t going crazy. You can learn that what you’re going through isn’t life

ending. Also, panic attacks generally only last five minutes and never more than fifteen minutes.

You can get through whatever it is that you are experiencing.

Practice relaxation techniques. When practiced regularly, activities such as yoga,

meditation, breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation strengthen your ability to

relax during stressful situations. Not only do these relaxation techniques promote relaxation, but

they also increase feelings of joy.

Watch what you put into your body. Smoking and caffeine can provoke panic attacks

in people who are susceptible. It’s best to stay away from caffeinated drinks such as coffee,

sodas, and energy drinks. Quit smoking or at least try to reduce how many cigarettes you’re

smoking per day. Also be careful with medications that contain stimulants, such as diet pills and

non-drowsy cold medications. Avoid alcohol, which can induce panic attacks. Avoid illicit drugs

that are stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine.

Treat your body well. Getting plenty of exercise. Exercise reduces stress, improves your

health, and decreases the likelihood of panic attacks. Get plenty of sleep. A rested body tends to

be more relaxed. Have a scheduled day. It’s easier on your body if you go to sleep and wake up

at the same time each day. It’s also easier on your body if you have regular meals at certain times

instead of sporadically.

Have realistic expectations. When I first started going to therapy I believed that after a

few sessions I would have an answer to the cause of my panic attacks. I also believed that once I

learned to deal with them I’d never have them again. Ten years later I still get the rare panic

attack. To get there I’ve had to put in a lot of hard work in therapy. I’ve also realized that this is

how my body is built and that I have to work with what I have instead of hoping for something

different. That kind of thought process will only stress you out more and continue the cycle of

panic attacks.

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