One of the most common questions I receive on my radio program is, “What’s the easiest way to get rid of my anxiety?”
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Good luck with that. There is no easy way. If I knew, I would have told everyone and saved myself a lot of nerves. I spent some time dealing with panic attacks myself after my husband survived a “sudden death” cardiac incident. It was terrifying, and it took me some time to figure out how to handle these situations.
The Sentence that Changed My Life
A panic attack often begins with physical symptoms like stomach aches, heart palpitations, sweating and other bodily sensations. Meanwhile, your brain is absolutely convinced you're going to die right now. It’s difficult to imagine this certainty of death if you’ve never had a panic attack.
I’ve read up a lot about this syndrome, but one sentence in a scientific paper changed my life and how I dealt with these situations.
“Nobody has ever died of a panic attack.”
It turns out that was all I needed to know.
One time I felt the sensation of panic hit me in a plane terminal. I grabbed onto a pole, wondering if I were going to die right then and there… alone. Some time passed before I said to myself, “If I was going to die, I think I would have dropped by now. So, I'm not going to die. This just feels awful.”
This logical thought process worked for me in times of distress.
Acknowledge Your Symptoms Rather Than Avoiding Them
Implementing calming techniques will help you gain control over your panic attacks. It’s important to breathe and let go of fighting the physical and mental sensations. You're not attacking these symptoms and anxious thoughts; you're just letting them go. It's like inviting the monster to tea. You're allowing him to sit at the table, but not allowing him to interact.
During a karate class early on, I felt my heart rate suddenly rise while practicing a kick. I stayed crouched down to the floor until the sensei eventually came over and asked me what I was doing. I felt embarrassed telling him I was having a panic attack.
“Are you dead?” he asked me. I told him no.
Five more seconds passed before he asked me again, “Are you dead yet?” Of course not.
“Well, then get up and continue what you're working on,” he said.
I sure did. My heart rate increased once again. This time I thought, that's kind of normal, isn't it? I'm supposed to pump blood everywhere if I'm jumping up and down and kicking.
Embrace the challenge that comes from your brain and your body while having a panic attack. It's the only way to take control.
You know how I know? I've been there, and I’ve done that.