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Does the fear of anxiety or having a panic attack hold you back? I remember when it used to happen to me and it was not a good feeling.  My first panic attack happened when I was riding a commuter train home and I felt like I was having a heart attack.  I had no idea what was going on.

I was afraid to drive, to go out of my house, ride an elevator – anything where I would feel trapped. That was not me and it was frightening.

After numerous tests at the doctor, I discovered that there was nothing physically wrong with me and that what I was experiencing was the result of anxiety that I needed to uncover. It was emotional and not physical.

I learned quickly that unresolved emotional issues show up physically or as phobias. I had never heard of a panic attack before – so I researched and found lots of information as well as help from a counselor.

I was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder from an event that occurred two years earlier.

It took two years for my mind and body to process and be able to handle what happened.

Fear of panic attacks controlled my life and I needed to get past that. I was a victim to the condition and it was a huge barrier to living my life and doing my job at work. I was a diminished, frightened version of myself.

This is how I overcame it:

Research

I educated myself through reading, professional help and asking others.

Mindset Shift

This was a significant first step and there were two shifts that I made:

  • I had to be willing to seek professional help for an emotional illness with the same comfort I felt seeing a doctor for a physical illness.
  • I learned and accepted that a panic attack was an event that I was able to control – I no longer had to be a victim to it.

Understanding the Root

I had to understand, through the gentle probing of a counselor – what was buried deep inside me that was forcing its way to the surface.

As I started to talk, it just started coming out – all the anger, the hurt, the frustration from being assaulted and bullied from a previous relationship that ended two years earlier.

I kept that buried all that time – not even realizing I had unresolved emotional issues.

That was another big step – understanding that I was reacting to a situation and it was not me falling apart.

Coping Strategies

Knowing I could control the attacks was key.

When a panic attack started to occur, I would identify it as something foreign invading my space and I chose to not let it in. I would mentally hold myself strong, tell the sensation to go away and redirect my thoughts.

I learned to inhale slowly for several seconds and exhale slowly for about 6 seconds.

I forced myself to go to all the places I was afraid to go to because I had experienced a panic attack there previously.

I could also recognize when I was feeling lower levels of anxiety. I would wake up in a morning and feel dizzy and that was my sign that something was bothering me, so I would stop what I was doing and just start thinking about what is on my mind and allow it to surface.

The most significant learning is that emotional health is incredibly important as it can affect every aspect of your life. This all occurred 30 years ago and I have been anxiety free and panic attack free for many many years.

I learned that I am in control of everything that goes on in my life. I have choices. Oh what a feeling!

If you are experiencing panic attacks or anxiety – this article, 11 Tips to Control Your Anxiety, from Calm Clinic may be a great resource for you.