7 Quick Takes: Conquering the Panic Attack

Warning: I’m about to get all real on you.

boom. in your face.

boom. in your face.

I know I seem all cool and collected, you know, a supermom (do you even READ this blog??), but the fact of the matter is I suffer from some pretty nasty anxiety. Not just your run-of-the-mill stress. I’m talking panic attacks that need medication and therapy.

Both of those things I have done or am doing, and they help tremendously. (If you’re looking for a good type of therapy, try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT)

Anyway, I am to the point where I know when I am having a panic attack, I know I’m not going to die, and I know that it will pass. But all of the logical thinking in the world cannot make an attack go away. All you can really do is ride it out.

Then you are left (at least I am left) feeling on edge for days afterward while you suffer the fear of another attack, and yes, sometimes they come in bunches.

Everyone who deals with panic attacks has their own method for coping (effective or not). Here are seven things I need to do to get myself back on my feet again.

-1- Let Yourself Veg

I spent the last couple of days glued to my couch and watching tv. I don’t know what it is about tv, but when I need to turn my mind off, it makes it so easy. I convinced myself (and rightfully so) that it was ok if Ellen watched tv for a couple of days while I recovered. If I had tried to push it or do too much, I would have easily fallen back into the terror, and there is no way I can take care of her while I am having a panic attack.

-2- Talk About It Constantly

People will often tell you to relax or that your thoughts are untrue, and that is one of the most frustrating things you can say to a person who is panicking. Um, we know all of that. A panic attack is a chemical reaction that you cannot stop by just breathing and thinking happy thoughts. With all of that being said, keep talking about your thoughts and fears. You might have to repeat the most obvious things that you know are true out loud over and over again, but staying attached to reality in this way is helpful to me.

-3- Call in Family

IMG_1969

It isn’t as easy with us being out of state, but if you can, call in someone you can trust. I need to have a person around that is going to push me to continue on with my normal life after I have a chance to veg out. Left on my own, I would be too afraid to shower alone, get out of the house, drive, or anything. My mom is great at gently pushing me back into normal.

-4- Stay Away from Sugar and Caffeine

this might have been part of the problem...

this might have been part of the problem…

I think this might be obvious, but I struggle with it. Whenever I am feeling even the slightest bit less than happy, I want a cookie. Who doesn’t? Try fruit and water. It’s not replacement for chocolate or ice cream, but it keeps your mouth busy and your sugar levels in control.

-5- Sleep

Also easier said than done. I usually ask Mike to stay awake until I can fall asleep. He will watch a show on his iPad while I pray a Rosary. A Rosary is one of the few things I can do to calm myself enough to sleep. Why do I make Mike stay awake? I don’t know. It’s just comforting to know that he is awake and alert to help me if I need him.

-6- Pray

The attack I had the other day happened at my doctor’s office (good place for it, I guess). I laid on the table and prayed. While I was praying (just repeating Hail Marys over and over), I thought to myself, “What do people do/think about when they don’t believe in the power of prayer? It must be hopeless feeling.” When things got really bad later that day, I just gripped my Rosary and held on to it all day. I just prayed, “Lord, I don’t have the strength to pray this right now, but I want to feel close to you.”

-7- Bare Minimum Mode

Seriously, come look at my apartment right now. It’s amazing what a few days of not doing anything that isn’t life or death will do to a place. I didn’t do chores, I didn’t go online, I didn’t cook dinner. We picked through the fridge when hungry, changed diapers when dirty and slept when tired. That’s about it.

***

I hope this post wasn’t a serious downer. Actually, I hope it helped at least one person. I am still making my way out of the wake, but I thought, in the spirit of honesty, I would share this with all y’all. If you have any other suggestions for how you deal with severe anxiety, let me know. I am always willing to try something new.

Other suggestions that people have given me that I would like to try: aknowledge and accept the attack, slow belly breathing, redirection tactics (focus on very specific details of the present i.e. this water is cold, it is going down my throat, etc), add more exercise to days when I am feeling good

Now, go see Jen.

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Comments

  1. Go Jenna! I deal with overwhelming anxiety (ironically, since I became a parent), and it has brought me to the point of panic attacks before. I’m glad to know that I am not alone, and it feels much better just to here I’m not alone. I love what you said about prayer. I’m like you, I can’t imagine how hopeless I’d feel with God.

  2. I vouch for these solutions & yes there are ways you can get over or at least reduce your anxiety naturally. I personally had it really bad but that only changed when I decided to change my lifestyle. What I mean by that is I started exercising daily & eating healthy, I also started taking kick boxing classes as it helps me release and get my mind off of things – in my opinion over thinking is what worsens anxiety. This video is what I believe helped me the most to overcome my anxiety – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ncg7QdloTHA.

  3. Amen. I had these briefly last year because of a job situation and it feels like you are dying. All these tips to hold on to reality (talking, praying, taking it easy) are spot on. Hope you are able to handle these or even move past them on day.

  4. You sweet thing. I am so sorry you have to carry this cross. I occasionally suffer from mild anxiety and it is so awful. It’s nothing like what you describe here, though. I can’t imagine how tough this must be. Thank you for your tips and know that you’ll be in my prayers! xoxox

  5. Thanks for sharing!!

  6. There’s a great CBT trick to stop a panic attack dead at its tracks, it’s called “The 20 second countdown”. It workd like a charm. You can see the instructions here: http://www.natural-alternative-therapies.com/how-to-stop-a-panic-attack/

  7. Jenna, thanks so much for sharing. I went through a really rough period of anxiety attacks and totally related to your post. I learned to change my prayer from “Please please God make this stop” to “God, please give the peace and calm to trust that I will get through this.” I think accepting that they were going to happen–and that I would survive them just fine–was the biggest step forward for me. Yoga has also been a big help to me.

    Thanks for being so honest! I love your blog!

  8. The thing that pisses me off is when people tell me to “calm down”. Well gee, how brilliant. Thanks so much….

    One thing that has helped, other than meds and meditation, is what the Bloggess says which is “depressions lies”. I use that during panic attacks too because I know the crap I’m thinking isn’t true. I just repeat it over and over again like a mantra. But wow panic attacks suck.

    If you ever need to talk or vent, you know my number. Hugs!

  9. Although in the last few years my anxiety levels have been at an all-time low, I’ve been there and understand too well what you are going through! Loved ones are very important for support. I used to take a very gentle yoga class that was more focused on meditation/the mind and being in the moment. That was very helpful. One of the most invaluable resources that was offered to me by a counselor years back is a book by Edmund J. Bourne called the Anxiety and Phobia workbook. The title really sums it up, but reading about everything that I was going through and learning more about it reinforced the science and also the fact that I am not alone. Just pulling it out and reading a few pages when I was going through a rough patch was very useful. Anxiety and panic attacks are much more common than those who do not experience them might think. I hope you find peace and are allowed a break from that stress soon. You’ve got a full plate :)

  10. one more thing. something that helps me in really bad anxious times is just writing it all out in a journal…its almost like emotional throw-up on paper; helps settle me down some and get out some of the nasty I’m feeling on the inside…

  11. Jenna, way to be honest! I personally don’t suffer from panic attacks, but I have some heavy anxiety issues/been in therapy on meds for awhile…its women that can share and be honest that helps strengthen and support other women. way to be :)

  12. Very brave post! My sister has suffered from this as well, and I know it hasn’t been easy. I think it’s great for you to share your story and hopefully help someone else.

  13. KUDOS to you for sharing, missy! I have been dealing with panic attacks myself since my MSU days, it’s always nice to know I am not the only one!! As for those who are not religious and do not utilize prayer, I can speak for myself when I say that I am not religious BUT I also do not feel helpless/hopeless! I utilize meditation techniques (breathing, yoga, etc) and this works wonders for me. And of course if my anxiety attack is bad enough, I can take a xanax BUT I don’t resort to this often.

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing and congrats on baby number 2 and moving back to the mitten!! Hope all is well :)

    Caity

  14. I totally got choked up at #6. Thank you for writing this!

  15. Your honesty and transparency are beautiful! Thank you for sharing. I have never had a panic attack, but often suffer from anxiety that can over power me to stillness. I have learned to recognize when it is coming on and through prayer, and with the help of my loving husband, I can overt the “breaking point”.

  16. Yes, thank you for your honesty. I’ve had panic and anxiety for years, on and off. Luckily not so much the panic anymore, but the anxiety is still there. it’s horrible, but like you, I’ve done CBT and have ways to cope that are lifesavers. Hope this is just a blip and you’re feeling panic-free very soon!

  17. Jenna, I had my first panic attack in November and went to the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack or dying or both. Then I had another a week later. Now I have adarol (spelling?) to take if I get another one, and so far no more. I’ve had many moments where I feel like one is coming on and try to walk around/watch tv/pray to stop it. The worst part is not knowing when another one is going to happen. I need to write a post on this because pretty much only my hubby and doctor know the whole thing, and I feel all bottled up inside about it. I have such a strong feeling of shame associated with this anxiety. It sucks.

  18. Thank you for sharing. I have panic attacks only a couple times a year but that is more than enough. Good advice.

  19. Hi Jenna,
    I’m still new to your blog, but I totally get it. Not gonna lie, I read your blog and I really do think you are a rock star! And panic attacks or not, I have no doubt you ARE a rock star. We’re all human and I truly admire your honesty. My mom and sister have serious anxiety problems as well so I totally understand where you’re coming from. I will keep you in my prayers, lady! God bless.

  20. Jill Schnuphase says:

    The thing is it’s more common than most people think it is. You are not alone.
    I used to suffer from some pretty intense panic attacks and for a year or two was on medication to help me manage them. When they were really bad I would call my Gram, you are so right, it is such a blessing to have someone in your life who is understanding and can help you talk you down.
    And I want to offer you a ray of hope because mine went away eventually, thanks be to God. Have you ever considered being annointed at at Healing Mass? It may be something worth considering.
    You are still Supermom, Jenna. I think you’re an extraordinary person – know that you will be in my prayers.
    Your honesty will bless another person who perhaps doesn’t understand what is happening to them, or maybe they are afraid to talk about it. I encourage anyone who suffers in this way to talk, share, and shine the light into this darkness. And may you have His peace that surpasses all understanding.

  21. your honesty is a blessing unto others, i am certain. thank you for being so real.

    relatedly, when I’m having a major stress-induced breakdown (not quite a panic attack, but they’re very real to me), I have the same thoughts about prayer. I don’t know how people get through them without it. And having people praying FOR me is such a mental help, as well. you’re never alone… just knowing that is so huge. keep that rosary close, friend.

  22. Loved this awesome, honest post. I’m sure it will help others. I’m sharing it on my FB page, hoping it will be a comfort to some of my friends. Thank you! And yes…prayer is awesome!

  23. Sorry, I had to come back, because 2 hours later I was thinking about this. I think you are really brave. and I think managing panic attacks, a child, living out of state, etc…is so much, I don’t know how you do it. So I admire you. Okay, that is all.

  24. Your honesty rocks. And will help others.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] of positive feedback and thank-yous from many women. I was so glad I could help a tiny little bit. http://callherhappy.com/7-quick-takes-conquering-the-panic-attack/ *Your favorite blog(s) that you read all the time. I read a TON of blogs. I mean, check this out: [...]

  2. [...] start with a thank you. I wish I had time to respond to all of your comments from Friday. I did not expect such a huge response, and I am so glad I wrote that post. So, instead of causing [...]

  3. [...] My sweet friend Jenna posted a brave and helpful post this morning (one of the benefits of being lazy and not getting your 7 Quick Takes out on time is you have time to read others before you post!). Jenna shares about her struggles with panic attacks and anxiety. Have you ever struggled with something like that before? It’s hard, isn’t it? Go on over to Call Her Happy and join the conversation! [...]

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