I recently had an experience where I was sitting at the emergnecy room due to an emergency with my son. While we waited, I did what any shameless person would do—people watched. There was a young man who came in seeking treatment for a panic attack. Something harfuml, but acciednetal, had happened at his employment. Because he felt responsible, he felt intense anxiety, causing him difficulty breathing and concentrating. As he waited, we tried to reassure him a bit, but he mostly turned to his phone to calm himself down and find solace by looking at pictures of his pet cat.
Anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, heart palpitations, sweating, and dizziness. It can also cause mental symptoms such as racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, and fear of the unknown. In some cases, it can lead to panic attacks. Anxiety is like a boulder rolling downhill, picking up momentum as it progresses until it reaches a point where it can no longer be stopped. The longer it carries on, the more powerful the effects become until it reaches an overwhelming climax.
Common anxiety signs and symptoms include feeling nervous, restless or tense; having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom; having an increased heart rate; breathing rapidly; sweating; trembling; feeling weak or tired; and trouble concentrating.
Up to 35% of people will experience a panic attack at some point in their lives.
What can you do if you're having a panic attack?
Take deep breaths and try to focus on something in the present moment. Talk to someone you trust for support and reassurance. Seek professional help if the panic attacks become frequent or intense. For example, cognitive-behavioraltherapy (CBT) is an effective form of psychotherapy that can help you identify and modify triggers of your panic attacks and learn coping strategies.
How can you help someone who is having a panic attack?
There are many grounding exercises you can do. Some of them include breathwork such as square breathing or deep belly breathing. Others focus on drawing attention to our senses, like the 5 senses exercise. The 5 senses exercise involves focusing on each of the five senses in turn and observing what is experienced in each moment. Additionally, mindfulness activities such as walking in nature or meditating can be effective grounding exercises.
Grounding exercises can help us to stay present in the moment and reduce stress and anxiety. They can also help to increase mindful awareness and improve overall mental health.
Here are some examples of grounding exercises.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Listening to binaural beats
Splashing cold water on your face
Eating something crunchy
Going for a walk in nature
Rolling a pen or pencil between your palms
Taking off your shoes and feeling your feet on the ground
Hold a piece of ice
Close your eyes and identify all the different sounds around you. Can you pick them apart from each other?
your hair on your shoulders or forehead, the weight of your clothes on your body, the weight of your body in a chair.
put the days of the week in alphabetical order
count backwards from 100 by 7
Recite a poem or passage in your head
Make yourself laugh
Describe a step by step process of a very common task
Practice vizualizing the face of someone you love
Sit and hold your pet