This blog post is a continuation from part one. To read part one of this series, click here.
After my first panic attack, I experienced more attacks in the weeks and months that followed. These attacks usually lasted for at least 30 minutes. The time frame of a panic attack is different for different individuals; for some it’s a few moments and for others more than 30 minutes. It is dependent on whether you keep pumping fear into your body through your fight-or-flight response or you learn to process the emotions and feelings appropriately which relaxes and calms your system. The more afraid you are of these emotions, the longer the sensations and feelings last. It is also common for the symptoms and after effects of an attack to linger for hours or days after a panic attack.
After months of suffering and pain, I decided to give up the fight against panic attacks. I was tired of running away from these panic attacks and their symptoms. I decided to try something different and unconventional, and surprisingly it worked. Instead of running from these panic attacks, I decided to embrace them. Instead of overreacting with fear to the symptoms of panic, I turned my attention towards understanding them. What surprised me was that this shift in perception and attitude came with a great deal of power and ease. I started feeling so much better. I was not overreacting anymore and my symptoms were disappearing at a faster rate.
I also started realizing that panic attacks are good for you. I say that because panic attacks are symptoms of stress and worrying. When you experience a panic attack, it’s the body’s way of telling you that it has reached its stress limit and that you need to take corrective action to reduce the stress that your body is going through. The bodily sensations that you experience before a panic attack are your body getting rid of excess energy that is caused by too much stress and worrying. And because many people don’t understand this, they think when they experience these bodily sensations they are having a heart attack or something bad is about to happen. And that’s not true.
Almost every panic attack is triggered by an unusual bodily sensation. The most common bodily sensations include a pounding heart, tightness of chest or throat, light headedness, dizzy spells, sweating, or shortness of breath. If you don’t understand these sensations they can lead to intense confusion and fear. The key in stopping panic attacks is in how you respond to these bodily sensations when you first notice them. If you choose to overreact with fear to these sensations you feel, your body’s fight-or-flight response mechanism is switched on and that could eventually lead to a full-blown panic attack. If you do not overreact to these bodily sensations, then it’s not a panic attack, just adrenalin rushing through your body.
Scary, terrifying and uncomfortable as it is, a panic attack is not dangerous. A panic attack will not kill you. Panic attacks are just symptoms of stress and worrying. You have the power within you to stop them, and that power is your willingness to learn and grow from them. Your willingness to go through it, to move towards the feelings of panic and embrace them, will help you overcome the fear of panic attacks and fully recover. That’s the only way to get better and get your life back. You have to see the panic through. You have to let it show you its real nature. You have to stop avoiding these feelings because avoidance does not get you anywhere.
After having suffered with panic attacks myself, I know that this is not easy to do, but that’s the only way forward. Whatever you resists, persists and whatever you embrace get’s dissolved.
About Tawanda Chirenda
Tawanda Chirenda is an anxiety-transformation and resilience-building coach, speaker and founder of The Willing Student Method, a program that helps individuals overcome anxiety, build resilience and live a happier, more purpose-filled life as a result. Although Tawanda is now a resilience-building coach, he came to it the long, hard way, through many years of struggling with anxiety, failure, and helplessness. At the age of 25, Tawanda was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder that drastically affected his normal functioning and everyday life. Through a willingness to learn, grow and change, Tawanda was able to successfully recover from this condition and regain his healthy and productive life. Tawanda has been fully recovered for more than 7 years now and he is a much stronger person than before. You can connect with Tawanda on Twitter and Facebook or visit his website, www.thewillingstudent.com, to learn more about his work.