The Panic in Panic Attack - Finding Your Calm, Breath, and Balance
Heart racing, breath shortening, vision blurring, words jumbled, hands clenching, muscles tightening, complete and utter confusion and sadness as rivers flow down the face. While symptoms of a panic attack can vary by individual, these tend to be the most common. And they can feel pretty terrifying, especially since they can seemingly appear out of nowhere.
While some panic attacks are more intense than others, when in the midst of experiencing one, it can feel like the world is closing in on you as you get pulled under the turbulence of the waves with no ground below you to catch your footing on. With a greater understanding of panic attacks and knowing how to find your breath and return to balance, you’ll be able to ride the waves and do so with love and compassion.
Recognizing the Signs of a Panic Attack & Understanding the ‘Panic Point’
According to PsychologyToday, it’s estimated that nearly 1 million Americans experience panic attacks per month. While these moments are widely misunderstood and concealed, this number is likely much higher. It hasn’t been until recently that people have started talking about mental health and raising awareness to this long built up stigma. Current pop culture, such as Ted Lasso, portrays the cycle of a panic attack and organizations such as the Indianapolis Colts’ Kicking the Stigma have begun raising awareness.
Panic attacks are considered episodes of intense fear and anxiety based on a perceived threat. These threats can seem very real and frightening when in the middle of these moments, even if they pose no real danger.
To better understand a panic attack, visualize a mountain with a climb up, the highest point, and then a pathway down to grounded lands. The highest point can be considered the “panic point,” or where the panic attack holds the most intensity and pressure. As you climb up the mountain to the highest point, the fear, anxiety, and stress leads to the panic point.
After the panic point, there will be a trek down the mountain leading to a stable ground and a lush forest of trees, marking the calm after the panic attack. Even though it may feel like a forever sensation in the moment, you will become grounded again. Know that through the entire climb, you are okay and you are strong.
You are brave for climbing the mountain. With the energy and emotions that release during these experiences, you are giving yourself freedom from some of the stresses and anxieties that lay stagnant within.
Physiological Effects of Panic Attacks
It’s important to recognize and understand the physical, emotional, and mental sensations that may arise. Even though they may vary depending on the intensity, the overall signs are as follows:
Physical: breath shortening, rapid heartbeat, dizzy and blurred vision, tight muscles, jumbled words, clenched and shaking hands
Emotional: confusion, sadness, un-grounded, separateness
Mental: worry, stress, panic, nervous, fear, loss of control
Feeling a Panic Attack Coming? Try These Simple Practices to Find your Breath and Yourself
When in the midst of a panic attack, it can feel nearly impossible to find any sort of breath and that these sensations are going to last forever. During these times, the most important thing is to just find and return to your breath and yourself—a concept way easier said than done. It’s crucial that each practice for doing this is simple and gentle and uses tools that can all be accessed within the self.
Below are some of the practices that I have personally used in hopes they will be of benefit to you or your loves:
Use your senses. Focus on one thing you can see, smell, hear, or touch and become very aware of that. This brings you back to your presence and surroundings.
Place an ice cube or an ice pack on the back of your neck.
Place your attention on making your exhales longer and really extenuating these as much as you can in the moment.
Become aware of your body and physically feel that you are here in the now and you are ok:
Place your hands on opposite arms and gently massage each arm.
Place your hands on your legs and gently rub up and down your leg. This also helps the blood flow so you are moving the stagnant, ‘panicky’ energy.
If you are with someone you trust, ask them to rub your back and/or shoulders.
Visualize grounding and rooting yourself into the earth, just as a tree stands strong. This helps bring balance and grounding into the self.
Be mindful of your thoughts and be so super supportive, kind, understanding, and loving of yourself. Let loving thoughts and words flow through you with unconditional self-love.
Pause anything else you are doing at the moment and just be present with yourself, your senses, and your breath.
How to Support Your Loved Ones When They Experience a Panic Attack
If you are with someone experiencing a panic attack, the most important role for you is to be the support with your unconditional love. When someone is experiencing a panic attack, there really isn’t a set duration that the moment will finish.
It’s crucial to let the cycle and the waves ride without putting pressure on the situation. The most beautiful and loving thing you can give to your loves in this time is to just be there for them with your heart.
Unconditional Self-Love & Self-Compassion
Just as you extend love and compassion onto others during a panic attack, remember to do the same for yourself. This extends to after the panic attack as well. Release any judgment or anger that may arise and let love and compassion flow. Honor yourself by believing there is nothing ‘wrong’ with you and acknowledge it’s in these moments we are releasing fear, and being given an opportunity to heal and love unconditionally. You are brave, strong, and capable.
Trust that all is within you and you are supported. If you feel you need support from Spirit, you may give yourself the stone of unconditional love, Rose Quartz. In the True Healers mission to support you in every way and spread healing to all, we offer you this crystal in many of her forms. Always remember, you are a beautiful being of light and experiencing a panic attack does not define you in any way.
From one light being to another, I have personally experienced many panic attacks at times in my life. I hear you, see you and feel you, and I know that these moments can be some of the scariest and indescribable at times. It’s my honor to be a support for you and my hope with this reading is that you feel seen, supported, and loved unconditionally.