One thing I committed to myself this year was to be authentic. Given my experiences with mental health issues, I have become a strong mental health advocate and supporter of breaking the mental health stigma attached to those who suffer with mental health issues. I feel like the more we talk about our own experiences with mental health, we may help others and work to drop the stigma that is still so apparent in our society.
Given this commitment, one thing I would like to talk to y’alllll about today, is the old panic attack. Panic attacks, and panic attack disorders are complex and what I am writing in the following sentences, is NO replacement for traditional therapy or help from your Doctor. I am the FIRST to say that if you are struggling with your mental health in anyway, please GO TO YOUR DOCTOR. They can help you in various ways, including referrals to a counsellor/psychologist/psychiatrist (whichever they think is best for you). This is an essential step in getting better.
Also, I feel like I could actually write a whole book on panic attacks with my experience… but I will try and keep this post as short as possible…
Now with all that said, lets get to it…
I am no stranger to a panic attack (may also be known as an anxiety attack).
I had never suffered with them until my 21st birthday and after a rather big night out, I ended up having my first panic attack. Possibly the most terrifying experience of my life. And I have had them on and off ever since.
Panic attacks are not pleasant. The first one you have and you don’t know what it is, you actually feel like you are going to die (you are not by the way). For me, my legs gave way, my heart sped so fast I thought I was having a heart attack, my arms and legs had pins and needles, I started hyperventilating and was overcome with the worst terror I have ever felt of my entire life… Not fun you guys, not fun.
When you have not had a panic attack for a long time and then you do have one, it can knock you for six. That is why I wanted to pop in and share five ways that help me take care of my self post attack.
SO back up quickly please Lauren, what is a panic attack actually?
“A panic attack is an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to fear, stress or excitement. It is the rapid build-up of overwhelming physical sensations, such as:
- a pounding heartbeat
- feeling faint
- nausea (feeling sick)
- chest pains
- feeling unable to breathe
- shaky limbs, or feeling like your legs are turning to jelly
- feeling like you’re not connected to your body
During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that:
- you’re losing control
- you’re going to faint
- you’re having a heart attack
- you’re going to die”
As you can imagine, it is not a nice experience. This “fight or flight” response is useful for when we are truly in danger and need it to survive. This was also very useful back innnn dayyyyy when we had to run from or fight predators (Oh hayyyy saber tooth tiger). But it is not useful when it is happening with triggers that aren’t actually dangerous but what the mind perceives as dangerous. These days our predators could be work deadlines, getting on busy trains, others seeing us having a panic attack, overwhelm, financial stress, life stress etc. Panic attacks can make the body and nervous system very sensitised, and it takes less and less to set them off and this can become a painful cycle (Dr Claire Weeks, Hope and Healing For Your Nerves).
So with such a huge physical and emotional experience, what are some ways I take care of myself after an attack?
- Being Kind to Myself– This is NUMBER ONE and KEY to feeling better. After a panic attack it can be really easy to start believing the ego running commentary that likes to say how much of a failure I am, how embarrassing it is, how useless I am for still getting panic attacks sometimes, etc. This is just simply NOT TRUE. For whatever reason, the panic attack has happened. My body has gone through an enormous amount of adrenalin and stress and the last thing I need is a berating from my ego. What I need is KINDNESS, and lots of it. By giving my self kindness and compassion for this experience, I am increasing my self love, worth and resilience and know that if it happens again it is ok, because I will love and accept myself regardless.
- Resting and Getting a Good Nights Sleep- It can be tricky in our fast paced world to be able to take some rest after a panic attack. However, taking some time to rest really helps me. Whether it is an hour on the couch literally just lying there, or if it is sitting down with a cup of chamomile tea and grounding back into my body while I give myself lots of kindness and compassion ^^^^^^^^. Then getting an early night and having a good sleep – It does wonders.
- Eating Nourishing Food – Giving my body a good balance of nutrition is important. Usually a carbohydrate heavy meal with a little fat and protein is great post attack. Some examples could be wholegrain toast, peanut butter, honey and banana or some wholegrain pasta with salmon, broccoli and olive oil drizzle. Nourishing, soothing and comforting, whilst providing my body with essential nutrients.
- Talking it Out – Talking out the experience really helps. Being heard, as well as having love and encouragement from someone I trust is very helpful. Whether that is from JL, a family member or friend, or booking in for a therapy session (Zero shame in seeing a counsellor B T W, I think everyone should see one T B H).
- Staying Away From Technology – This is a really helpful one. After a panic attack I literally feel like I have been run over, it is exhausting both emotionally, physically and mentally. Technology only adds to my frazzled brain. Taking a little break from it is all good. My health is far more important than being a little late answering some emails, or heaven forbid, not posting on Instagram…
So there we have it. Those are 5 things I find helpful if I experience a panic attack.
And just to note. If you do experience anxiety or panic attacks or any other mental health issues – you ARE worthy, You ARE worthy of love and you are MORE than enough.
And just anooottttherrrr note… Recovery from panic attack disorder is 100% possible. With the right help from medical and psychology professionals, you can not only learn to manage panic attacks, but also have a complete recovery from them.
I may still get one every now and then but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a full recovery, and it doesn’t mean that down the line I won’t either.
Have a fabulous day 🙂
Have you ever experienced a panic attack? Have you ever been through or known someone with a panic disorder? What are some ways you help take care of yourself after a panic attack? Or if you have never had a panic attack, what are some ways you take care of yourself through a stressful time?