Panic attacks are the most frightening of all stress symptoms and are experienced by approximately one in ten adults. But panic attacks can be even more frequent for those of us who are grieving and feeling overwhelmed.
A panic attack causes your heart to start pounding, you feel dizzy, sweating and shaking, causing you to be terrified that you are going to faint or completely lose control.
It may appear out of nowhere but is usually triggered by an overload of stresses, worries and life events such as the death of a loved one. You may misinterpret a panic attack by thinking you’re having a heart attack, dying or going crazy. Once you have one panic attack you are always looking for signs of another, which causes you to become even more anxious and irrational.
Remember that they are unpleasant and frightening but that panic attacks in themselves are harmless. They happen when you are feeling tired or run down and less able to cope with stress.
How to Cope with Panic Attacks
• Remember feelings of panic are exaggerated reactions to stress.
• They are harmless by themselves.
• Distract yourself by studying your surroundings in detail.
• Slow down and focus on the word “calm” – repeating it over and over.
• Accept your feelings, knowing it will be over quickly.
• Take slow, deep breaths; concentrate on breathing in and out.
• Shout out “stop” and deliberately think about something else.
• Break your thought pattern by putting a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it every time you have an unwanted thought.