Our mind is the most complex and amazing organ on earth and yet it comes with no user manual at all. This seems like a huge oversight when you realize that even a tube of toothpaste has ‘user instructions’. We are with this amazing piece of data processing kit, with approximately 100 billion connections between our ears with no instructions how to use let alone how to use it to the best of our abilities, it’s no wonder we can find ourselves crossing a few ‘wires’ on the journey of life.
Over the last 40 or so years the focus of education and our families in many cases has been on developing the left side of our brain. This analytical, logical and judging part is fantastic for passing exams and getting jobs and career progression, which is great. However, it is easy for this part of our brain to get overloaded. The conscious mind can in fact only handle up to nine pieces of information at any one point in time. In today’s information overload society it is easy to see how we get overwhelmed and want to switch off. There are many escape routes, you may even be using a few of them, excessive alcohol, food, drugs (prescription or otherwise), excessive TV, being very, very busy or excessive exercise to name but a few. Unfortunately, over time these methods only add to anxiety and or panic attacks which don’t address the source of the problem.
What is happening when you have a panic attack?
A panic attack is usually a reaction to fear (which can be conscious or subconscious).
The physical responses you experience during an attack are the result of your body automatically reacting to this perceived fear, as you subconsciously slip into self-defeating negativevisualizationn. You may picture yourself losing control of the current situation and not being able to handle it. Your body pumps adrenaline to prepare for the perceived crisis. Fight or flight automatic reptilian brain response to anticipated danger, saber tooth tiger or none!
What you feel is something like this, not always in this order or all of them
- Irregular heartbeat
- Shaking and sweating
- Dizziness and light headedness
- Shortness of breath – breathing very rapidly
- Choking sensations and nausea may even get sick
- Chest pain and heartburn
- Tingling sensations in your extremities
- A fear that you are going crazy
The body mind/mind body loop is triggered and the cycle begins all over again.
Your subconscious mind does not know the difference between an imagined threat and an actual threat, it simply responds in the same way. It is our conscious mind which has to make a judgement and decide on the level of danger.When experiencing anxiety or panic attack your mind remains stuck on fearful thoughts. Instead of either solving the problem or removing yourself from the situation (which you are very likely do in a real emergency), you get stuck on the perceived threat and remain unable to let go of the fear. It may be old fears that have got triggered by some changes going on in your life now or a slow buildup of stress which you have grown to accept as just ‘normal’ these days.
For many people it is the fear of having another panic attack that creates the biggest fear and stress leading to avoidance tactics which then start to rule their life.
Next month I shall give you my special three top tips for dealing with a panic attack.
Have you been affected by panic attacks? I would love to hear about your experiences.