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Panicked?: Pause or Prevent Panic Attacks- By Dr. Sha'

Coping with Panic Attacks: Understanding, Triggers, and Daily Habits for Relief


A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear or discomfort that triggers severe physical and emotional reactions. Panic attacks can be debilitating and frightening experiences, often catching individuals off guard and leaving them feeling overwhelmed. These episodes typically peak within minutes and can manifest with symptoms such as accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, and feelings of impending doom or loss of control. Panic attacks can occur unexpectedly or in response to specific triggers. Understanding what panic attacks are, their triggers, and adopting daily habits to manage them can make a significant difference in reducing their frequency and intensity.


What Triggers a Panic Attack?


Panic attacks can be triggered by various factors, and they differ from person to person. Some common triggers include:


1. Stress: High levels of stress from work, relationships, or life changes can contribute to the onset of panic attacks.


2. Phobias and Fear: Specific phobias, such as fear of heights, enclosed spaces, or crowds, can trigger panic attacks when exposed to the feared stimuli.


3. Trauma: Past traumatic experiences, such as accidents, abuse, or witnessing a traumatic event, may lead to panic attacks, especially when reminded of the trauma.


4. Physical Health: Certain medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, heart conditions, or respiratory disorders, can mimic symptoms of panic attacks or trigger them directly.


5. Substance Use: Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and illicit drugs can exacerbate anxiety and increase the likelihood of panic attacks, especially in susceptible individuals.


5 Daily Habits to Help Reduce Panic Attacks:


1. Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Incorporating mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation into your daily routine can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. Set aside a few minutes each day to engage in these practices, focusing on the present moment and letting go of anxious thoughts.


Try this Breathing Strategy: 4-7-8 Breathing Technique


Before we begin, find a comfortable seated position or lie down on your back, whatever feels most comfortable for you. Close your eyes gently and bring your attention to your breath.


Step 1: Preparation

Begin by taking a deep breath in through your nose, filling your lungs with air completely. Feel your chest and abdomen expand as you inhale, and hold the breath for a moment.


Step 2: Exhale Completely

Now, slowly exhale through your mouth, releasing all the air from your lungs. Feel your chest and abdomen contract as you breathe out, letting go of any tension or stress with each breath.


Step 3: Inhale for a Count of 4

Inhale deeply through your nose to a count of four. Imagine the air filling your lungs with each count, expanding your chest and abdomen fully.


Step 4: Hold for a Count of 7

Hold your breath for a count of seven. Feel the stillness and calmness within you as you hold the breath, allowing yourself to relax deeply.


Step 5: Exhale for a Count of 8

Now, exhale slowly and completely through your mouth to a count of eight. As you breathe out, imagine releasing all tension and stress from your body, letting go with each count.


Step 6: Repeat the Cycle

Repeat this cycle of breathing—inhaling for four counts, holding for seven counts, and exhaling for eight counts—for a few more rounds. With each breath, allow yourself to sink deeper into relaxation, feeling more peaceful and at ease.


Remember that you can return to this practice whenever you need to unwind and find inner peace.


2. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Establishing healthy habits such as regular exercise, balanced nutrition, adequate sleep, and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake can improve overall well-being and reduce the risk of panic attacks. Exercise releases endorphins, which act as natural stress relievers, while a nutritious diet and sufficient sleep support optimal physical and mental health.


3.  Identify and Challenge Negative Thoughts: Pay attention to negative thought patterns that contribute to anxiety and panic attacks. Practice cognitive-behavioral techniques to challenge irrational beliefs and replace them with more realistic and positive thoughts. Keep a journal to track your thoughts and emotions, identifying triggers and patterns to address them effectively.


4. Establish a Relaxing Routine: Create a calming daily routine that includes activities you enjoy and find relaxing. This could involve reading, listening to music, spending time in nature, or engaging in creative hobbies. Prioritize self-care and allocate time for relaxation amidst daily responsibilities to reduce stress and prevent panic attacks.


5. Seek Professional Support: Don't hesitate to reach out for professional help if you're struggling to manage panic attacks on your own. Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can provide valuable tools and strategies to cope with anxiety and address underlying issues contributing to panic attacks. Additionally, medication prescribed by a healthcare provider may be beneficial for some individuals in managing symptoms.


While panic attacks can be distressing, incorporating daily habits to manage stress, promote relaxation, and address underlying triggers can significantly reduce their occurrence and severity. By understanding the nature of panic attacks, identifying personal triggers, and implementing effective coping strategies, individuals can regain a sense of control over their anxiety and lead fulfilling lives. Remember, seeking support from loved ones and healthcare professionals is essential in navigating the challenges of panic disorder and finding relief.

-Dr. Sha'

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