Anxiety and panic attacks. Talk about a nightmare—these bastards cause far more destruction and chaos than the Taliban. I’m not in the least bit surprised to learn anxiety is linked to increased mortality rates, and those suffering are more prone to cancers, heart disease, depression, and suicide.
And they’re common. They don’t discriminate yet we still try to conceal them and instead opt to walk around with overwhelming shame and guilt which only stands to make things worse. Way worse.
The aftershock of just one panic attack can carry on for weeks, months, years, and sometimes a lifetime. Kim Bassinger is said to have stayed home for six months crying after her first panic attack.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or a rookie—when panic attacks, all rationale goes out the window, and it’s “can someone, anyone, please call an ambulance because this time—I shit you not—I’m actually having a heart attack. And quite possibly a stroke?”
It’s almost comical how terrifying it is when you think about it rationally. I’ve lost count of the number of trips to the Doc I made convinced I was dying only to be told my vitals were fine. Nothing was fine…
My left arm was constantly numb (that’s a heart attack—just ask Google), my chest felt like Andre The Giant was sitting on it, and I’d often have to wrap something around my head because I was convinced my skull might crack.
Have you experienced something similar? Is this going on in your life right now?
There’s nothing fine about it, so you better do something pronto because it can get worse. These motherfuckers won’t just go away. You’ve got to take action. And even if you’ve tried and failed to date, you’ve got to find the strength and the energy to look elsewhere and try something else. Because when you choose the right action, you can look forward to a future where you’re not walking around on eggshells dreading every minute or every day.
With an anxiety disorder—once acknowledged and accepted—you can take steps to improve your situation drastically. Even better news is that with panic attacks, it is perfectly feasible to put an end to them completely. What kind of impact do you think that would have on your life?
As with everything, there are terms and conditions. You’ve got to read the small print. You must understand while panic attacks are not uncommon, your story is not someone else’s. There are varying degrees and circumstances unique to each individual, so keep your expectations in check.
The problem with panic and anxiety is that our instinct to fight, deny, and repress it is so deeply ingrained within our DNA that we end up facilitating even more chaos and destruction. The ego doesn’t help either, and instead of intervening at stage one, we intervene at stage four, or five—making things significantly worse.
If you’ve been struggling with panic attacks for ten years, don’t expect the bastards to pack up and fuck off without putting up a fight. However, it’s a battle you can win—as long as you fight smart.
Here are six tips to help you do that, and hopefully put an end to your panic attacks once and for all:
1. Talk to someone
You’ll come up with a million excuses not to get help or talk to someone. I’m not writing this to help you feel justified in them. I think you’re a lunatic if you’re going to try and resolve this one on your own.
Even if the person you get help from isn’t very good, they’re still probably better than your solo efforts.
Having said that, don’t just talk to anyone—talk to someone who knows what a panic attack actually is, someone who knows how to ask the right questions so they can tell you exactly what you need to do to put an end to them once and for all.
It is likely the greatest investment you’ll ever make. When you get this sorted, everything in your life will be significantly better because you’ll actually have a life.
There is a chance you can do this on your own. For that, you’re going to have to listen. There is a reason it’s called a panic attack: It is raising an alarm that all is not ok. Your best bet is to listen. And take ACTION. My guess is you have an idea as to why this is happening, but you’re procrastinating waiting for a miracle. Or a time machine?
Your gut and intuition are probably right. However, your fear and reluctance will do their best to condemn you to more torture. A moment of tremendous courage can completely change your life.
Working for some asshole who bullies you and makes you feel like a piece of shit? Go out, get a new job, and quit.
In a shitty relationship with someone who apparently loves you yet abuses you? I could write a thesis on this one. Here’s my conclusion: they don’t deserve to have you in their life. Leave them.
There are a million reasons this might be happening. There’s a solution to each and every one of them.
My life felt like a game Buzzwire. One wrong move would set off the panic alarm. It was a full blown military operation trying to contain them. And not a good one.
That is until I tried yoga…
Yoga might have saved my life because it introduced me to a foreign concept at the time known as breathing.
I still remember the first time I avoided a panic attack in a crowd by simply remembering to breathe. I nearly pissed myself I was so happy.
Yes, when you start, you will most likely feel extremely uncomfortable. That’s to be expected considering you are facing everything you have tried to ignore. Now you’ve got to face it. Or don’t. But the latter is more painful. The former will change your life.
Start with Headspace, Calm, or any number of apps designed to help chill you out. But don’t expect miracles. They’ll creep up on you as long as you’re patient and make the commitment.
You should also try yoga. The benefits are too many to list here.
4. Make a decision
When you listen, you’ll be faced with a decision. One decision—no matter how terrifying —can disarm your panic attacks. Your indecision will give rise to a hell of a lot more.
Here’s a sample case study:
There once was a girl who was miserable in a shitty relationship with a shitty job. Her anxiety was in the red, and she regularly had panic attacks. She tried everything, but nothing seemed to help. That is until one day when she mustered up the courage to quit her job and end her relationship. She gave up on the scenic route and went for the jugular. The girls got balls. She lived happily ever after.
Decisions are tough. But nowhere near as tough or detrimental as opting for torture by not deciding in the first place.
Let’s break it down: What’s wrong in your life, and how do you fix it? Breaking it down into manageable steps and get started. If you don’t know, get help.
5. Slow down
Everywhere you look, people are going to make you feel like shit for not accomplishing more and working harder. Nothing will ever be enough because you’re constantly in comparison mode. You are allowing those people to take up space and occupy your mind rent-free.
You have to permit yourself to slow down because society won’t do it for you.
Social Media is nothing but a bragging forum for personal achievement and subliminal messages delivered by the self-righteous which will leave you convinced the solution is to achieve more.
Maybe they’re right? Maybe achieving more is what you need in the long run, but you’ve got to take care of yourself and honor the fact that you are sick. And you need to get better.
Right now, we are seeing unprecedented levels of stress-related diseases. When you’re paddling upstream, you’re never going to catch someone paddling downstream. So stop focussing on them.
If you need to go on disability to get your shit sorted—go on disability. If you need to take a year out from life, that’s exactly what you should do.
This is the world we live in. Some people need to go fast. Some people promote fast. Some say you don’t have time for patience in this hectic world if you want to get to where you want to go. Maybe so. But they are not living with a disability. You are. It’s high time you acknowledge that. If Usain Bolt broke his leg, do you think he’d be out on the track?
Panic attacks are a serious condition. They ruin lives. It does not have to be that way, but you cannot just ignore them. If you take them seriously and heed their lesson, there is no reason why you can’t say sayonara.
Please Note: This is just a blog post. I have no idea what your circumstances are. I just know you need to do something different if this is the reality you are living in. Things won’t just change—you have to make them change. The sooner you do it, the easier it will be. And the sooner you’ll start living a life worth living.
And when you do have a panic attack? Well, shit happens. Beating yourself up will only increase the likelihood of you having another. Get rest. Breathe deep. And indulge in whatever self-care you need to feel better.