I’m sitting at my desk, flicking through YouTube videos on my phone. Suddenly my heartbeat accelerates as though it’s bent on pounding its way out of my chest! I can’t breathe! It’s like some giant fist is clenching my ribs hard to stop me breathing. I’m shaky, as though my legs want to jig up and down. Somehow that makes sense to me. Helplessness overwhelms me, as though I’ve completely lost control. Dread claws at my mind. I’m convinced something awful is about to happen!
The sensation lasts ten to fifteen minutes. I’m trying to breathe slowly, to calm myself down, to snap myself out of it. All the while, my mind is being bombarded by thoughts and feelings. It’s disorientating. Confusing. Scary.
It’s an anxiety attack.
– Alex Davies, 13/12/2016
I wrote the above quote on my personal blog when trying to journal my experiences when all this started. Contrary to explaining depression, trying to get people to understand the anxiety was more difficult. It’s like worry mixed with panic but at the same time it’s not. Somehow it is more than that but less than that. It’s stress but it’s not stress. You see? It’s confusing.
The easiest way for me to describe how an anxiety attack works is for me to show you. Some of you may have experienced this. The following clip is from the ABC News YouTube Channel. Presenter Dan Harris has a panic attack live on the air. Warning: this is an anxiety attack that has been filmed and could be a trigger.
What Can You Do?
Are you someone who struggles with anxiety? Have you had a panic attack before? They’re absolutely awful if you have experienced them. As Dan mentions in the video, they can manifest themselves in different ways. For myself, it’s always been the feeling of being unable to breathe and that feeling of dread as if something awful is going to happen. Can you relate?
But what can you do?
Mind.org.uk has a few good suggestions for managing your panic attacks. I’ll be honest, not all of them have worked for me because everyone is different and some techniques will work better for others. Give them a go. You might surprise yourself. If you’re a friend or family member reading this, perhaps make a note of these so you can try them with your friend or loved one.
- Talk to someone – sometimes talking about what’s making you anxious can help you.
- Breathe – this is almost the stereotyped one but according to www.mind.org.uk it’s the simplest thing that people often forget in panic attacks.
- Distract yourself – this is where my self-harming comes in as it serves as a distraction from my anxiety. Fidget spinners or stress balls can help with this.
- Listen to music – another big one for me. It often helps to listen to music as a distraction technique.
- Try reassuring yourself – easier said than done but that’s where friends and family can help.
- Physical exercise – said to help combat depression as well, it’s something you can do to allow you to get away from everyday stresses.
- Keep a diary – this can help you identify triggers (stay tuned for my upcoming post on triggers!) and help you avoid them.
- Eat a healthy diet – mind.org.uk suggests cutting out alcohol and coffee to avoid the stimulants that can contribute to anxiety.
- Complementary therapies – there are plenty of therapies that can help manage the anxiety symptoms. Yoga, meditation and aromatherapy are the first three that mind.org.uk suggests. Why not give them a try?
- Support groups – another good one, support groups can help you meet people going through similar experiences and remind you that you’re not alone. Why not check out our forums for more support?
You’re Not Alone
Remember, no matter how scary the panic attacks are or how daunting the anxiety may seem: you are not alone. If you need help, reach out to someone. A friend, a family member, I’m sure they will support you as best as they can. If you can’t reach out to them, reach out to us and we will provide whatever support we can confidentially.
You’re not alone.
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