When I started this blog I wanted to put out helpful and meaning content in amongst the flowers and the frippery, what is the point of having a platform and not using to help people? I put out a little call on instagram asking what people would like to see on the blog and there was an overwhelming reply of "anything on anxiety". It makes me sad knowing so many of you are suffering but I hope that this post will be helpful, and if you have any of your own tips please leave them in the comments. Is it possible to stop a panic attack? Yes it is.
Since we started vlogging in December 2016 I have had several 'almost panics' on camera. Usually I will hand the vlog to Michael whilst I concentrate or I will stop vlogging for a few minutes. I distinctly remember having one in the background whilst we were on the way to the Apple store, and another on the a1 North (obvs, my fave place in the world). It is never my intention to film them but they are a part of my life and can sometimes creep up unexpectedly. There is one sure fire way to stop a panic attack, in failing that, and depending on circumstances you have some other options before full panic ensues.
Acceptance - this was something learnt in CBT and takes practice but if you can accept you're about to have a panic attack, your panic attack will not happen. Usually when the anxiety starts to build up too much, you panic that you're panicking. As soon as you can interrupt that building panic with an "ok great, I am about to have an attack, bring it - whats the worse that can happen?" you've acknowledged your present feeling and you will find you never peak fully. Acceptance is THE WAY to stop a panic attack, I promise. But in failing that here are some other methods:
I wrote this post on deep breathing. Kicking your parasympathetic system in to gear will slow the amount of 'fight' your body thinks you should be doing.
There is a technique that gets you to name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can touch and something you can taste to help ground you. Distract your panicking brain back to the now and help you realise there is no danger. A panic attack is not necessary. But you can use anything to ground you. I use the hair bobble round my wrist and snap it against my skin to the beat of music. I also use a little gold pineapple necklace (like this one) and run it between my fingers whilst concentrating on how it feels.
Yes you would like to be on a beach sipping gin, yes you would like to be back in your fluffy bed watching harry potter with a hundred candles lit but you are currently in your office, at the dentists, sat at traffic lights etc and you can feel you're about to panic. You can feel it bubbling up, if you can tune the ability visualise yourself in your happy place and breath, hopefully you will start to calm down. I struggle with this one as my panic attacks usually happen when out and about and I find there is too much stimuli going on to focus on a quiet happy place. On the flip-side and one that works for me is...
Hello to me doing jumping jacks in the carpark of a motorway service station on the a1 south. It has been scientifically proven that exercise helps with anxiety. It also helps at the most crucial tipping point of being on the cusp of a panic attack too. It takes your 'fight or flight' adrenaline and puts it to use, tricking your brain in to thinking that you have either run away from the danger, or you have fought it. You will feel totally exhausted after and panic will be at bay.
If all the above have failed then you may have some trusty diazepam to help you. I feel they are a last resort but there is never any shame in taking medication for mental illnesses, or momentary moments of panic.
This too shall pass
This helps us circle back to the beginning. I think the best thing to remember is that a panic attack can only chemically last a short period of time before your body sets itself right. You know it will end. Thats why if you accept it happening in the beginning you short cut all of this. I know it sounds simple, and I know it's not. Once you've started to conquer your underlying anxiety the panic attacks will fade away. If one pops up out of the blue and you're like "what the shit is this for" - don't over think it. Deal with it, forget about it and just put it down to a brain blip. You got this.