The symptoms may frighten you if you have never experienced an anxiety attack (sometimes called a panic attack). Even during an episode, your first thought may be that you are dying. Trying to gain control over anxiety attack symptoms takes practice and patience.
The panic can overwhelm you, but once you know what to expect from anxiety attack symptoms, you can create a game plan to help stop them when they hit.
Common anxiety attack symptoms.
Anxiety attack symptoms (panic attack symptoms) can mimic the signs of a heart attack. If you experience an anxiety attack for the first time, consult with your physician to rule out any physical conditions.
Common anxiety attack symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath, trying to catch your breath, shallow breathing.
- Rapid heart rate, fluttering in the chest, heart palpitations.
- Feelings of panic and dread.
- Chest tightness or pain.
- Tightness in the throat, trouble swallowing.
- Numbness or tingling in arms or extremities, cold feeling in the feet, hands, and face.
- Sweating, trembling, having the shakes.
- Fatigue or tiredness.
- Trouble focusing on tasks.
- Headaches, stomachaches, digestive issues.
- Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.
The long-term danger of chronic anxiety is the deterioration of your physical and mental health. This is because the stress hormone cortisol stays constant instead of only rising during an emergency. This can lead to heart disease, obesity, cancer, depression, and other physical and mental conditions.
Managing stress and anxiety.
You must learn how to manage stress to reduce your likelihood of having an anxiety attack. The truth is that stress seeps into every area of our lives. For example, if you have problems at work, that stress will carry over into your personal relationships and home life. Eventually, you will have difficulty falling asleep, may stress eat, and feel depressed on Sunday nights because you have to work the following day.
In the above example, the symptoms will compound and may increase your risk of developing obesity, heart disease, type II diabetes, and depression.
To circumvent worsening physical health and mental conditions, practice a few of the following tips for managing stress.
Have you noticed that when you are stressed, you breathe faster? Your breath is shallow, and you might even feel like you are about to pass out from the lack of oxygen. Pausing to breathe deeply can reset not only your breathing pattern but your stress level. But how do you take control of your breathing when panicked?
Practice deep breathing before you have an anxiety attack. Doing so will make you feel more confident about the next panic attack. Pause a moment to take a deep breath, inhale through your nose, and exhale the air through your mouth at the count of three. Repeat a few more times until you notice your heart rate regulating and feel calmer. You will probably feel weak or tired after an anxiety attack as your body resumes its normal rhythm.
Remind yourself that you’re okay.
We often forget that we are not in actual danger when an anxiety attack hits. The panic we feel is genuine and masks the reality that we are okay and safe. While practicing your deep breathing, remind yourself that you are fine and no real danger is present. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 method of grounding. Name five things you see, four objects you can touch, three things you hear, two scents you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
You may want to repeat an affirmation, like, “This is only anxiety. I am fine. I am safe. I am okay. I am strong and will get through this. It is only anxiety. The Bible says this too shall pass.” Create your own affirmations and write them on a notecard to carry with you or on the Notes app on your phone.
Do something else.
The more you focus on your anxiety attack symptoms, the more panicky you will feel. For example, if you are driving and are suddenly aware that you are having trouble swallowing as your throat feels constricted, the panic will spread. Your heart rate will increase, you may begin sweating and trembling, and your breathing might increase until you believe you will hyperventilate.
You need a distraction. If you are driving, pull off the side of the road (at a safe location) and listen to music or a humorous podcast. If you are at home, consider getting involved in a task like cleaning out a closet while listening to upbeat music or watching a comedy on the television. Laughing can help boost your mood and take your mind off your symptoms.
Find an exercise you love.
Managing your anxiety symptoms can be as easy as committing to exercise a few days week. You can treat exercise as an anti-anxiety medication; physical exertion helps to boost mood and stabilize emotions. You may find that you think more clearly after a good sweat session or that your worries don’t seem as insurmountable as they did earlier.
The key is to find an activity you love and will follow through on. Getting started is always the hardest part, but choosing an activity that seems more like play makes you more likely to do it. Try brisk walking, cycling, spinning, jogging, swimming, weight lifting, Pilates, or dancing to start.
Call a friend.
Do you have a close friend you can trust with your anxiety attack symptoms? Ask your friend if you can call them during a panic attack. Your friend serves as a sounding board and a source of support. Your friend can remind you that you are safe and walk you through the deep breathing exercises. Maybe they can join you in watching a comedy show or engaging in another distraction if possible.
You can always ask your friend to attend a counseling session with you to learn various ways of helping you overcome anxiety and manage or avoid triggers. Take note: you want to choose a nonjudgmental friend who will also push you a little bit to move through the fear. A counselor can help.
Add some playtime.
We can get stressed out when we constantly delve into responsibilities and tasks others need to do and ignore our need for playtime. Play can be any activity that brings you joy. It could be a hobby, such as gaming, fishing, reading books, crocheting, or thrift shopping. On the other hand, your playtime could be self-care activities such as a manicure or pedicure, hair appointment, spa session, or simply leisurely shopping with a coffee in your hand.
Your playtime can also be physical sports, individual or team sports. Try joining a softball or bowling league, taking golf lessons, or trying a new activity. Schedule time during the week to engage in play. You might be surprised that you feel less stressed after playing and are ready to tackle your week.
You might need additional support besides a trusted friend when confronted with a trigger or experiencing multiple anxiety attack symptoms. Panic attacks can be so severe that you avoid trigger locations or events. For example, you cannot avoid the crowded grocery store long-term just because your social anxiety triggers an anxiety attack.
A counselor can work with you to slowly reintroduce the trigger in a safe environment. They can also help you reframe your thoughts and emotions regarding the trigger, eventually taking away the power it holds over you. Therapy aims to help you move forward, armed with strategies, to continue living a successful life.
When anxiety attack symptoms worsen.
Do your anxiety attack symptoms seem out of control? Does the panic overwhelm you? You may need extra support through the assistance of a licensed counselor. Your counselor will teach you evidence-backed strategies for overcoming anxiety attacks and triggers.
Contact our office today to schedule an appointment with a counselor. You are one step closer to beating anxiety attack symptoms.
“Heart Attack”, Courtesy of Getty Images, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Deep Breath”, Courtesy of Brett Jordan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Morning Coffee”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Paints and Brushes”, Courtesy of Steve Johnson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License;