Every year, thousands of people are rushed into emergency rooms convinced that they are having a heart attack. They’re experiencing sharp chest pains, a racing heart, dizziness, weakness, difficulty breathing, and they honestly feel like death is imminent. It’s both a relief and a shock for these patients when a cardiologist diagnoses a panic attack instead.
Panic attacks are not to be treated lightly. Intense anxiety can produce symptoms that are very real and very powerful. Over the long term, intense anxiety can exacerbate stress-related health problems and increase the likelihood of a heart attack in patients who already have cardiac issues.
If you feel a panic attack coming on, consider these 5 immediate ways to tame the rising terror.
The first step in calming a panic attack is to recognize your particular mix of symptoms, preferably before they occur. Are you in a situation that often triggers anxiety? Is your heart beginning to race? Are your palms starting to sweat? Are you feeling suddenly fearful? When it comes to nipping a panic attack in the bud, knowledge is power.
Anxiety tends to feed upon itself. Once you’re feeling anxious, it’s easy to become even more anxious about feeling anxious. By acknowledging and accepting the sensation as just another emotion among many, you may cut short that escalation.
Focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly and deliberately. Conscious, deep breathing can trigger your body’s natural relaxation response, lower your heart rate, and further de-escalate a panic attack.
Clear The Fog
During a panic attack, your brain goes on overdrive. Worries and fears race through your mind and many of those thoughts will be irrational. Try to mentally peel yourself away from the deluge in order to shine a harsh light on these thoughts. Challenge your worries and fears. Have in your coping strategy a series of positive statements to countermand what most worries you.
If the worry-traffic in your mind reaches traffic-jam level, try visualizing a place of great calm. The mental effort it takes to envision tropical sand between your toes, evoke the scent of coconut oil, and remember the slickness of a cold drink in your hand can go a long way in overcoming a panic attack.
Many patients suffering from anxiety benefit from diet or lifestyle changes, psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and anti-anxiety medication. As is true for all health issues, the first step toward calm, peace, and fewer trips to the emergency room is a thorough evaluation and a correct diagnosis by a licensed professional.