I found myself in the middle of I-5 traffic in the 80-degree sultry southern California heat, running mildly on time to an appointment, when the traffic came to a dead stand still.
Then “it” happened.
I suddenly felt trapped and unable to move, unable to breathe normally, sort of a victim of traffic and the fear of being late for my appointment. Only, this wasn’t a normal type of fear one has when running late.
I briefly had a vision, as well as a very, very strong urge and desire, to get out of my car and run for the nearest exit. I was sweating. Couldn’t breathe. And felt as if there was no escape.
“It,” what I was having, was a panic attack.
This was not all too new to me. I flashbacked to the severe one I had in November due to a really bad nightmare that woke me up in a panic, filled with fear, dread, and anxiety at a level I had never experienced before (and, frankly, never wanted to again). I had trouble sleeping after that one.
Needless to say, back on the 5 freeway, I knew what was going on and quickly regained my wits and maneuvered my way to the farthest right lane and got off at the closest exit (thanking God it was so close to where the attack occurred). I took the back roads and got to my appointment late, more grateful than ever to just get there safely, getting out of my car and into a cooler environment.
After overcoming the embarrassment, shame, and drama that the panic attacks have brought into my life, I decided to do some research and found, much to my relief, that panic attacks are very normal.
One out of every seventy-five people in the world experiences them at least once in their lifetime. The symptoms are all set on by stress, feeling overwhelmed in one’s life, and occur most often in the earlier years of one’s adult life (20s to 30s). Yet they can happen later in life too.
Yet, how could someone like me, a healthy athletic individual, experience this?
What set mine off was also a very, very common occurrence. I discovered online at my favorite pregnancy Web site, babycenter , that pregnant women can experience panic attacks for the first time simply because they are pregnant! I read that many women don’t even have to experience them in the first pregnancy; several had them with second or third pregnancies. Pregnancy causes a lot of new stressors in a woman’s life (and a man’s) and not just hormones are causing this.
I am not alone.
Then, when I started talking more about what had happened to me, I discovered those closest to me in my life (clients, best friends, business partners) had all had panic attacks at one point in their lives or another. I was blown away! These were/are all very normal, happy, healthy people—even athletes! I felt even more encouraged. How come nobody ever talks about this stuff? I had originally felt so alone and so fearful that I was losing my mind!
Have you ever had a panic attack?
If you have, the first thing to realize is, this is totally normal and okay. Even though there are chances of panic attacks actually becoming a disorder are there, one has many options/choices as to how to go about preventing that from happening. Trust me on this one—I have found many, many ways.
Here are some things you can do to help you with panic attacks, if you have ever had one or think you might be having one, or know someone who has (in no particular order):
1. Do as much deep breathing as possible. This will help calm your nervous system, your mind, and your entire body at the end of the day. Just remember to breathe.
2. Seek help. I talked to a great therapist, my spouse, as well as several friends I trusted who understood what I was going through (or maybe didn’t exactly, yet could talk me through it, pray for me, share affirmations, etc.) You are not going crazy and the sooner you realize that through support, the sooner you’ll realize it will all be okay. Do your research online too, however, talking to the right professional that you trust is the best place to start seeking help—you never know what you might read/find online.
3. Take care of your health through a balanced diet. Lots of sugar, caffeine, etc., can attack your adrenal system and throw your body-mind balance off completely. Make sure you get plenty of greens and vegetables, lots of water, and curb those sugar/caffeine fixes if at all possible.
4. See a massage therapist, chiropractor, or any other holistic type doctor. Keeping your body aligned and moving freely does your body good in so many ways! It keeps all systems flowing!
5. Laugh often. Whether it is at a funny movie, joke, or just yourself.
6. Exercise! This is one that I have been missing more than most and undoubtedly is the number one stress reducer of all of these. Move your body. Sweat. Join that gym. Run with a friend or two and enjoy the social aspects of exercise. Four to five times per week is ideal, even if for just thirty minutes per day. Heck, even just ten minutes per day. Whatever you can fit in will change your life. Setting a goal to run a marathon or something that seems bigger than you (in a supportive environment, of course) can help overcome many fears you might have in other areas of your life.
7. Rest as much as possible. Meditate every day. Do whatever it takes to keep your mind, body, and spirit at rest and balanced.
8. Take some of the load off your plate. More than likely you are overstressed and could do some “taking out of the trash” to relieve that burden you carry. Cut out some appointments out of your day. Make an appointment with yourself to just sit back and relax. Or, at least, don’t put your appointments too close together (so you don’t stress over being late!). Don’t answer the cell phone every time it rings. Prioritize your life.
9. I believe that, unless your panic attacks become disabling and even therapy doesn’t help, medication can be your last resort. Definitely see a doctor to determine this. However, before you medicate or get to that point, seek out holistic/natural alternatives, such as Stress J , a holistic support product, or NutriCalm , or RescueRemedy , are all great natural aids.
I could go on, however, I think you get the idea.
I’m glad that I had these panic attacks, if for nothing else to realize that I am not alone. And if anything, I hope it can help even just one of you to relax and rest easy.
Here’s to your health!
Yours in Transformational Success,
Lois Tiedemann Koffi