Monday, July 16, 2012

When Panic Strikes!

Managing Whirlwind Panic Attacks

Recenter, Reset, and Relax

Whirlwind panic attack- RUN!
Ok, hypothetical situation: It's evening and you're lying in your bed getting ready to sleep. You're tired after a long day and you're fully prepared to welcome this night's rest. All of a sudden your heart begins to pound, terrible and stressful thoughts begin to swirl around wildly in your mind, you cannot catch your breath, in fact you cannot breathe at all, your scared but you can't pin point why, you are overheating to the point where you need to strip off all your covers and excess layers, you become restless and agitated shaking and even twitching your legs, thrusting your limbs up a down, your sobbing uncontrollably, it may sound like your heaving, what is happening? Panic has stricken! You are in the whirlwind of a full blown panic attack! It snuck up on you and now what? Does this situation sound real or familiar to you? Well, this was my experience last night around 9:00 pm. In retrospect maybe there were some signs that this was coming. I had been having pretty bad regressive episodes for the majority of the night, I was terribly homesick, I felt uneasy and sad but I wasn't expecting this. Then all of a sudden- boom! Like a tornado the panic comes in and tosses me around leaving me unsure of what to do or how to make it stop. Well after this terrifying experience I have come up with a phrase to fight back. Similar to what your taught as a child if you're caught on fire, "Stop, drop, and roll" (sidenote: these steps are so often repeated to school children but seriously, what is the likelihood that any of us are ever going to be caught on fire and need to use these actions that are so engrained in our heads?) my phrase in case of a panic attack is recenter, reset, and relax. I understand that these steps are not nearly as self explanatory as "stop, drop, and roll" so I will take it upon myselt to briefly explain or define what I mean by each step.

Metallic Silly Putty is a girl's best friend-
Recenter- Take a step to ground yourself, any tool that works for you. For instance I ultimately called my parents and let the help talk me through it and use deep breathing techniques but I am aware grounding processes are different for everyone. I'll take the liberty of offering a few other suggestions: shower, hold ice, play with putty, grip or rub a grounding stone, and my personal favorite deep breathing. 

Reset- Recognize your surroundings, where you are, who you are, what time it is, and remind yourself this is just a moment in time and a passing experience. This is the step where it's important to fully realize and return to reality and attempt to engage in a normalized activity. For me this resetting was continuing to talk to my parents, once I had calmed down, about other things that were completely unrelated to the panic attack like my new apartment and upcoming plans. Anything that feels normal or typical to you that is unrelated to your previous panic attack will help you reset and reaffirm that you and the world are still ok. Things are the same now as they were prior to the panic attack.
And if all else fails...

Relax- This step seems pretty self explanatory. Once you've come down from your elevated state just engage in something calming and brainless that will help ensure that the panic does not ensue again. My relaxation came in the form of watching television and smoking one last cigarette before bed. But as always it is different for everyone. It can be reading, listening to music, drawing but I suggest you do something that will both relax you as well as distract you from any potentially negative thoughts.

So obviously I am not an expert but these are steps that helped me last night and I thought just maybe you may find them useful as well. As always, as to not let you down or stray from my blog's premise, I will include some quotes. However these quotes don't directly pertain to anxiety or panic attacks. These are actually the quotes I wrote in my journal last night while attempting to bring myself out of the whirlwind. They didn't actually prove to be super useful because I was too engulfed in the panic but I am thinking that maybe if I had looked at them prior to the full blown chaos the heat of the panic attack could have been avoided. Who knows? Anyways this is what I came up with as calming and grounding quotes-

"It may be when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey."

- Wendell Berry

"Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do."

-Benjamin Spock

"You have to decide if you're going to wilt like a daisy or if you're just going to go forward and live the life that you've been granted."

- Kevin Costner

"My trust in a higher power that wants me to survive and have love in my life, is what keeps me moving forward."

-Kenny Loggins

"You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give."

-Eleanor Roosevelt

Yes, I know, a very diverse and lengthy collection of quotes but they all touched on something I was having difficulty coming to terms with. Looking back on them now I am glad I recorded them last night although they didn't help in the moment. Perhaps one or many resonate with you or perhaps none of them do. Either way I hope something in this post hit your core and will help you next time panic knocks on your door.

Remember when panic strikes- Recenter, Reset, and Relax!

Or try not to because... least that's what I keep telling myself-


  1. Aw baby, I'm sorry you had such a rough night but I can relate. I found this blog to be really helpful actually. I will have to try it next time. I really need to make a plan to put in place because I really have nothing. When in the moment- I can't think of anything helpful to do. I used to always resist such techniques because I thought they were "stupid" but I think I am finally ready to at least attempt them. I'll let you know how it turns out ;) I hope today is a better day. <#

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