All in all, today has been quite an up and down day for me. Even though my mind is now the happiest, calmest and most positive it’s ever been, my anxiety still manages to linger- both social and general anxiety.
I go through different spells when it comes to my anxiety. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Sometimes my ‘every day’ anxiety will be worse, and sometimes my social anxiety will be worse. And today? My social anxiety has really hit me hard.
Like many people, I normally get panic attacks when I feel the most anxious or on edge. I am not one to let my anxiety to stop me doing things, so I was perfectly happy going shopping on my own today and just having a browse. However, whilst in one particular shop, I suddenly started feeling really sick and had trouble breathing.
Even though panic attacks can sometimes be caused by a ‘trigger thought,’ they can come without warning. Sometimes you don’t feel uncomfortable or on edge until the panic attack actually happens.
As I also created this blog to help understand mental illnesses more and to decrease the stigma, I have put together a step by step guide to help someone having a panic attack. Whether you’re a sufferer of panic attacks yourself, or you’re with someone who’s having one, here is a short guide of the best things you can do to help someone in that anxious position:
1. Stay with the person and stay calm: If someone is having a panic attack, the best thing you can do is to also stay calm. Remember, this person isn’t dying even though it may be a scary experience. Make sure you comfort them and just stay with them until their panic attack passes.
2. Move the person to a private place: Take this from me, if a person is having a panic attack, the last thing they need is to be in a public place. Take them somewhere quiet and calm to help them feel more comfortable. If they are having a panic attack due to social anxiety, then they probably don’t want to be around a crowd of people.
3. Don’t be too pushy: If a person you love and care about, you naturally will be concerned. However, try not to be too pushy and talk to them too much. I find that when I have a panic attack, I like to have someone there, but I also like to have my own space. Offer supportive words such as, “I’m proud of you,” “You’re okay,” “Concentrate on your breathing.” Trust me when I say that just being there is enough.
4. Don’t be judgmental: I understand it’s hard to help someone through a panic attack if you’re not even 100% sure as to what’s going on. Regardless though, don’t be judgmental and claim things such as, “You’re being stupid and irrational.” Remember: whatever caused the panic attack was probably rational to whoever experiences it. Don’t jump to conclusions and make the person feel a thousand times worse than they already do.
5. Don’t pressure yourself: I have been in positions where people have been with me when I’ve had a panic attack, and they didn’t know what to do which is totally fine. It’s a natural human reaction to be shocked and not know how to deal with something that is new to you. Just do what you think is best- and be as supportive as possible. I never expect for anyone to know what to do when I’m having a panic attack, but I find that someone just being there and comforting me is enough as it helps to calm me naturally. Don’t feel like you’re going to say the wrong thing, if you care, then you’ll never say the wrong thing.
Panic attacks are genuinely one of the worst things going, especially when there is a lack of knowledge about them and a lot of people jump to conclusions and assume that you’re ‘overreacting’ or ‘in a bad mood.’ With that being said, if you’re ever experiencing a panic attack, I’ve also included a step by step guide with what you can do (especially if you’re on your own):
1. Ring / text friends: I find that when I’m experiencing a panic attack, I feel so consumed by feelings of loneliness and just feeling hopeless. It’s important that you remember that you’re not alone. Ask a friend to try to distract you, maybe ask them to talk to you about why peacocks are such underrated animals… trust me, I’ve had this conversation in the middle of a panic attack and it seemed to work.
2. Put in your earphones and listen to some music: Panic attacks seem to be at it’s worst when I’m in a public place and around a bunch of strangers who I feel are watching me or judging my every mood. In order to distract your mind from thinking this, put on some music. Concentrate on every little detail, the beat, the production, the lyrics. Distracting yourself is the best thing you can do.
3. Breathe: This one may be the most obvious point, but breathing is so incredibly important when it comes to having panic attacks. It helps concentrate your mind on each breath you take, and helps bring you back to earth. There are so many breathing techniques out there, but my counselor told me to count each breath on my arm in accordance to my fingers, or hold onto my stomach and breathe in and out 10 seconds at a time. If you’re walking around in a public place and experiencing a panic attack, sit down and take yourself away from everything for a moment to allow yourself to breathe.
4. Only resume what you’re doing when you’re ready: You have all the time in the world, don’t feel like you need to resume life without being 100% ready to do so. Make sure you’re breathing properly, and that your heart has stopped racing. Consider if going out in public is the best thing to do yet, and look after yourself. Don’t force yourself to go back into the situation that made you feel uncomfortable without being ready, you’ll just go back to square one again.
I have also found with panic attacks that are caused by social anxiety, it is just better to let them happen. Okay, better may not be the best word, but definitely easier. Panic attacks are like an uncontrollable fire, and sometimes you need to just let the fire burn because, believe it or not, a panic attack can help you let go of all your uncontrollable stress and emotions.
And the reality behind panic attacks? They happen. They’re a natural human ‘flight or fight’ response. They can occur to some, and not to others. I tend to find that with my social anxiety, I can go months without hardly having panic attacks, and then have a spell of even having 3 per day.
When I experience a panic attack, I tend to want to be alone. I try to separate myself from the world around me, and just take some time to myself. Whether that’s sitting in my room, or sitting on a bench in public, taking time away from hectic life seems to work for me.
Another key sign that I’m having a panic attack is suddenly feeling so drained and sick. Even though this occurs more in a general anxiety attack than a social anxiety panic attack (oh yes, I find there’s a difference in the levels of panic!), I sometimes find that retreating to the nearest toilet also helps. I mean, you know you’re definitely on your own there and no one will walk in on you (hopefully!)
The scariest thing about panic attacks is that I also become scared about having them. What do I do if I have an anxiety attack in public? What do I do if I have an anxiety attack in work? In fact, I have panic attacks in work all the time which makes it a thousand times harder to serve teas and coffees to customers when you’re scared of… well… people in that moment in time. Seriously anxiety, can’t you leave me alone to work in a comfortable environment?
Above everything else, remember to be kind to yourself. The world may seem like it’s closing in on you, but it’s not. You’re not dying. And you know what, you are okay. It will pass in time. I find that I get more panic attacks when I’m around people who I’m uncomfortable with- and have since cut those people from my life. Put yourself first, and never think that having a panic attack is your fault.
Do you suffer from panic attacks and what works best for you when it comes to calming your mind? Feel free to leave your responses in the comment box below!
Need advice on anything? Whether it’s needing some motivation, relationship advice, or just advice in general; feel free to inbox me on Tumblr! I am so excited to start dedicating one day a week on my blog to start responding to your questions on needing advice- and spread a bit of love and positivity! (Please note: You will remain completely anonymous).
Love and happiness always,
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