How do I stop panic/anxiety attacks?

Some background, some drama

A panic/anxiety attack is a very sudden and frightening experience that can feel like you are having a heart attack, dying or losing control. It is an abrupt onset of intense fear for no apparent reason, accompanied by very real physical changes, such as a rapid and pounding heart rate, sweating and rapid breathing. Social anxiety interferes with your normal routine and causes tremendous distress on a regular basis. You may constantly doubt your social adequacy and worry about receiving a negative evaluation. Social phobia can spoil one’s life unless appropriate steps are not taken to get it under control.

Do’s and Don’ts

Steps can be taken to stop a panic/anxiety attack and to help prevent further attacks from happening. The “How Do I" series tries to list down a few Do’s and don’ts to guide and help you to atop panic/anxiety attacks.

Do’s

  • Recognize the physical symptoms, such as racing heart, nausea, tremors and intense fear.
  • Control your breathing to return your heart rate to normal, lower your blood pressure, slow the sweating and re-establish a feeling of being in control.
  • Take the required prescription medication.
  • Try to continue your normal activity and daily routine to prevent the panic from consuming you.
  • With the help of a therapist learn ways to focus your thoughts and take control of the panic.
  • Try to stop your anxiety-producing thoughts and replace them with thoughts of something that brings you happiness or peace.
  • Implement relaxation techniques to calm down and take control of the exaggerated stressful or anxious experience.
  • Use your senses to tackle the attack. Use the sense of touch, listen to music or visualise pleasant things which calm you.
  • Talk to your doctor about your attacks and decide your next step of action. Seek medical help sooner rather than later.
  • Take good care of your body and mind. Eat a healthy diet, get enough rest, be physically active and routinely participate in activities you enjoy.
  • Consider learning a new method of relaxation, such as yoga, meditation or mindfulness.
  • Get help from a friend to distract you from your panic and analyze your fear so that you can overcome your feelings of stress.

Dont’s

  • Don’t run away. By staying where you are and taking control of your symptoms, you are taking steps to train your brain in recognizing the absence of real danger.
  • Don’t ignore or repress emotions that can make them more powerful and more fear-inducing. Acknowledge your anxiety.
  • Don’t indulge in stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine which can make you feel jittery and tense and worsen existing anxiety.
  • Don’t let fear control your life.
  • Don’t force yourself into fighting the fear overnight. Excessive anxiety will not disappear overnight.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek help: friends, family, colleagues or even a counsellor or therapist.
  • Don't try to sleep if you're in the midst of a panic attack, as being under high stress can make it more difficult to sleep. First try to relax.

Last words

If social anxiety is sabotaging your goals and stopping you from living the life you want, seek help. Social anxiety is highly treatable. You can get better and grow in the process. Yes, most people sometimes get a little self-conscious or feel somewhat shy around others, but social phobia significantly worsens the quality of life. Once you become more socially confident, you open the door to so much – new job opportunities, new friendships and, basically, more fun.

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