Light seems to hit your eyes a little too bright. Your heart is thumping so hard, you feel it will shatter in your chest. Your body trembles. Your tongue seems unable to utter any words. There’s a pain in your chest. You feel like evading or giving out a huge cry. It feels like you will fall sick any second.
That’s an anxiety attack.
It doesn’t necessarily hit the victim when there’s a stressful situation, like a big interview or a public talk, around. Sometimes, a panic wave will go rushing through your body when you are simply going about your day. Anxiety attack, or otherwise known as a panic attack, can feel incredibly awful, lasting from a few minutes to much longer.
Do you know what happens during an anxiety attack?
If the victim gets a panic attack even when there’s no stressor, what happens? Long story short, an anxiety attack is an amplification of the excitement of your sympathetic nervous system. What happens is, your brain attends to some assumed thread, like a scary thought at your subconscious level. Then, this information is passed on from your thalamus (the brain’s part regulating consciousness, sleep and alertness) to your amygdala (the part of the brain in charge of regulation of emotions, memory and decision-making), which asses the signals as dangerous and incites the flight-or-fight response by passing the signal to your sympathetic nervous system.
Simultaneously, your brain injects extra adrenaline into your blood system – it is what prompts the initial panic attack systems (rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath etc.). These would have elicited as quite a normal response if there was some danger present. Since there is none, you appraise them as something terribly wrong with you: you think you are having a heart attack or really dying. Imagine this panic heighten everything you were already feeling – a full-scale anxiety attack is in action!
Here’s a list of 12 signs of an anxiety attack. You might or might not feel all of them. They occur simultaneously sometimes and at others, another symptom shows after one has subdued.
1. Unreasonable, overpowering strike of panic
3. Pulsating or nagging chest pain
4. Shaking and trembling
5. Troubled breathing and/or choking sensation
7. Nausea and/or stomach cramps
8. Dizziness, feeling faint or lightheaded.
9. Accelerated heartbeat or heart palpitations
10. Numbness, particularly in your feet and hands.
11. Feeling detached and unreal. Basically, you feel like you are going nuts
12. Fearing you’re dying.
So, how do you deal with these symptoms as they arise? Here are the 6 easy tips to cope with anxiety attacks, no matter where you are.
1. Do a simple stretch
You fall short of breath when an anxiety attack kicks in. It further complicates the emotions. As soon as you feel it take a hold of you, try stretching. Simple stretches will do. If you can pull yourself together to yawn, yawn. Both of these activities will help ease the muscle tension and the cycle breaks.
2. Divert your attention to your breathing
All you need to do is inhale for three counts and exhales for five. You repeat the sets for as long as you feel the need.
3. Drink a glass of ice-cold water
Since your body is experiencing exaggerated functioning, icy cold water will help with the regulation of the body’s temperature and subdue the escalating cycle of the attack. Try taking smaller sips and imagine your body and symptoms cooling down as you take in the water.
4. Focus on using peripheral vision
You will need to trigger your parasympathetic nervous system. To do this, practice this simple meditation technique: focus your gaze on an imaginary point in front of you, relax your focus and use your peripheral vision, almost as if you are trying to take in everything with a soft focus. Your brain will receive signals to relax.
5. Move about
Remember your brain giving you a shot of adrenaline because it perceived a danger? You need to shake it off by walking. Go out for a walk or a jog if possible. You can simply move about as well – all you have to do is use that adrenaline!
6. Embrace the reality
Now that you will be feeling calmer, try to identify and face the reasons for the anxiety attack. Even if the cause wasn’t as obvious, it was there. Something did trigger the attack – something that might’ve happened months ago but exists in your mind. You need to locate the exact cue. Even though the attack will feel very real, there is really no actual danger.
Image was originally made by VammatarArt/Deviantart