What a panic attack is and how to stop it

It’s one thing trying to improve your ability to control your own stress response so that you can combat anxiety and improve your health. But it’s quite another when you experience serious panic attacks that leave you crippled and that prevent you from engaging in normal activities as part of a life you deserve.

But in fact the tools you will use to achieve both ends are similar. The difference is just that panic attacks might require a more intense and a more focussed approach.

Call me a nerd if you want, but I love to know how things work and that comes in useful when you are using visualisation as a tool. It’s probably because visualisation was the first ‘natural medicine thing’ I did when I decided that a bowel resection wasn’t for me as a way out of Crohns Disease back in the early noughties. If you are going to use visualisation as  a tool then I think you should know what you are visualising looks like.

For me I had to understand what part of my bowel was inflamed what it looked like and how the herbs and foods/supplements  I was going to using were going to change that picture. It is a very powerful tool.

Understanding the biology behind the experience can be a fantastic tool to help you take control more effectively.

Let’s look at what panic attacks are and how you can take them on head-to-head.

The Basics of Panic Attacks

When you experience any kind of stress, it’s because your sympathetic nervous system is releasing specific hormones and neurotransmitters into your system and sorry if this gets a bit science but you have to understand the little before you understand the great. Specifically, these are:

  • Adrenaline (epinephrine)
  • Noradrenaline (norepinephrine)
  • Cortisol
  • Testosterone
  • Estrogen
  • Dopamine
  • Serotonin

When these occur together, your experience of pain is dulled, you become more attuned to your senses, your thoughts are focussed, your strength increases and your muscles contract. Your heartrate accelerates significantly and more blood and oxygen are sent to your muscles.

This reaction was used by our caveman predecessors to get away from predators but we now use that function for anything or anybody we perceive as being a danger.

Unfortunately our brains – while being brilliant computers – can tell the difference between reality and your perception of reality (which may not be the truth by the way).

But the thing is that this increases your overall strength your reflexes and your ability for fight, flight or freeze (very handy when there was  a sabre toothed tiger on the prowl 😊  so  it was a useful response in the right context.

What happens in the case of stress/anxiety/panic attacks is that you notice yourself get anxious and you become worried that this is going to cause you embarrassment or make you faint (perhaps because you have previous experience with panic attacks). You begin to hyperventilate and this combined with the elevated heartrate causes chest pain. And some people mistake that chest pain for the signs of a heart attack.

All this makes you more anxious and that in turn means you ramp up your adrenal response even more. Your heartrate increases more, you get more anxious and eventually you might even start to get dizzy from all that oxygen.

The Solution

The solution then is to recognise that you’re having a panic attack but not to give it any power over you. And the way you do this is to try and detach yourself from it and essentially continue to go about your normal business.

Of course, this is easier said than done but as soon as you stop letting it control you and as soon as you aren’t afraid of panic attacks, you’ll find they end a lot more quickly and eventually can stop entirely.

Most people will have a panic attack at some point in their lives but if you can understand what is happening and control your emotions you’ll find it can disappear as quickly as it arrived.

Visualising your muscles going back to a relaxed state or your breathing going back to normal or visualising your adrenal glands slowing down the release of cortisol to normal can be of great benefit here hence why it is important to understand the basics of a panic attack.

Herbs like Passionflower can help with your response to a panic attack as can L theanine which is in green tea and My Vitamin B complex. Visit the store for more info.

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