What To Do If You Have A Panic Attack?

Updated: Aug 27, 2020

Due to Covid-19, I have been imparted with a hearty amount of alone time. At first, this was delightful because I was finally able to catch up on all those little projects I never had time to do before. I finished writing two books. I learned all about essential oils, replacing every toxic-product in my home with lavender and lemon sprays. I started reading books again without feeling the added guilt that I should be doing something “productive” instead, and now I’m on a plant kick. Can I grow herbs in my tiny window seal? Let's see!

This gift of time has been great to finally complete all the projects I never had time to do before, but with all this newfound free time I have also had the curse of my thoughts. I have lived in my thoughts repeatedly. I have been through every bad and good memory in my life by now. But what continues to come back to me over and over again are the big life questions.

Do I like where I live?

Do I like what I do for a living?

Do I like where I work?

Do I feel fulfilled?

Do the people in my life build me up or tear me down?

As I thought about these questions, way too much, what stood out to me most was how terribly tragic it was that I never allowed myself time to really consider if I enjoyed the path I was on? This matter was so upsetting to me that I decided it was time to do what I always do when I'm in a life predicament. I needed to have a solo hike with God. Whenever I'm feeling confusing, overwhelmed, or uncertain about something in life, I turn to the woods to be with God. I enjoy hiking alone. When I do so, I talk out loud to God. I tell him everything. Then I listen. In the quiet solitude of my footsteps against Mother Earth, I hear him. I've always known what decision to make after a long, solo hike. So off I went to chat to God about my life.

What I expected was a nice, blissful walk in the woods,

but what happened was I got lost, dangerously lost.

One of the most important things I've learned about myself (thank you more alone time COVID) is I'm also terrible at sitting still. I'm an overly active human with a lot of energy. I'd rather run than walk. When it comes to swimming, I don't want to lounge on a float. I want to swim laps and play competitive pool games. Catch me at a coffee shop, and I'm not the girl with a journal and a cup of warm green tea. I'm fueling up with espresso writing my next novel. Moving fast and thinking fast have helped me out a lot in my life, especially when I moved to LA, but when it comes to spending time with God, it's not aided me one bit. So, I did what I do, zooming up to a nearby hiking trail. Then, I parked my car, jumped out and began to hike. I did all this without packing a water bottle in 100-degree weather!

Let me heighten the stakes of this story even more, and inform you that there was NO SHADE on this hike! Oh yes, and I didn't tell anybody where I was going. I promise I have a college degree people! So this was all just a recipe for a disaster, but I said to myself, "You're fine." If I get hot, I can just turn back. Well, I did turn back, but somewhere along this twisty hiking trail I took a wrong turn, a VERY wrong turn. Half an hour later I was lost in this crazy-tangled trail, alone, in 100-degree desert heat, with no shade or water for miles around me. I’ve never had a panic attack in my life, but in that moment, I felt all the symptoms of one creeping in.

For those that have had a panic attack, my gosh I feel for you. For those who haven’t experienced one, let me give you an insight into what it feels like. Your body tenses so tight you feel like an iron-rod. Your breath begins to shorten. You can hardly breath, and your lungs begin to concave inside of you. No, really. You actually feel like your lungs are disappearing inside your chest. The University of Michigan Health System gives a great definition of a panic attack. They describe a panic attack is a sudden, intense fear or anxiety that may make you short of breath or dizzy or make your heart pound. You may feel out of control. Some people believe that they are having a heart attack or are about to die. The scary thing about a panic attack is it results in dangerous symptoms. Some common symptoms of a panic attack are here.

Common Panic Attack Symptoms

  • Palpitations: a pounding heart beat which can be felt

  • Sweating

  • Nausea

  • Feeling unable to breathe or experiencing a choking sensation

  • Feeling faint or dizzy

  • Numbness or pins and needles

  • Chest pains or tightness of the chest

  • Having shaky limbs

  • An urgency to go to the toilet

But the real kicker about a panic attack is that these symptoms occur when there is no real danger. So what triggers a panic attack? OUR THOUGHTS! And boy do we have some nasty thoughts. In, 2005, the National Science Foundation published an article summarizing research on human thoughts. They found that:

The average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts PER DAY,

and of these thoughts 80% are negative!

The high percentage of negative thoughts we have is a great reminder of how much damage our thoughts can do. Honestly, I probably would have been okay if my thoughts didn’t spiral drastically to dark, negative thoughts. Literally, this is where my mind went….

* What if a coyote attacks me! * What if I pass out from heat stroke!

* What if I faint from exhaustion and nobody ever finds me! * What if I DIE!

And in a split second, I lost my breath. The only thing I didn’t do was cry, and that’s because I was too busy trying to stay alive from that one, unique coyote that was going to emerge at 11am on a sunny Tuesday morning to get me. I was deeply panicking! Then,

I thought of these words,"This too shall pass.” Whenever, I am frightened, I say these words to myself. These words remind me that whatever uncomfortable feeling I am experiencing now won’t be forever. Life is full of dark and light situations, but the light will always overcome the dark because God is the light, and putting our trust in HIM always leads us to safety. As I began to say these words, I did the next thing I have learned to do when I am scared, and that is breath deeply. For 15-long minutes I breathed deeply while chanting, “This too shall pass." Like a monk in training I climbed up a very steep, rocky part of the trail, and saw my baby! There she was, my silver Toyota Corolla gleaming in the distance. Just a few more steps, and I was free, away from this isolated, hot hiking trail and on my way to a cool AC conditioned car and a jug, more like a tank, of water. Alas, I was safe! But here's the thing, I managed to avoid having a panic attack before I spotted my car because...

I put my trust in God in the thick if my fears, not when my fears were over.

If I had relied on me, I might have been a goner, but I put my trust in Him during my dark and scary moment. Do you see what I am getting at here? If we put our trust in God only when things are good, then they will never be good. We must put our trust in the Lord in the darkest of times. A lot of us feel in the dark right now. We don’t know how long COIVD will last? If we will have a job when this passes? If we will lose our house? Our business? Will we have to move to a new city? f you’re struggling right now, I am with you. I’ve lost all my jobs, my apartment, and my future is clearly unknown. Come on, I’m hiking on isolated trails by myself. But we must remember our God is a good God. He is for us, and “this too shall pass." Next time you feel panic attack coming on, remember it all starts in our thoughts, and WE have the power to CHANGE those thoughts. When you're in a frightening situation, use this 4-step process below to help stop your panic attack, and watch the fears flow away.

4-Step Process To Stop A Panic Attack

1) Breathe - Take, slow deep breaths

2) Focus on something around you - Use your senses to identify three to five things you can touch, hear, or smell around you

3) Visualize happy - Go through a happy event in your mind from start to finish, imagining as much detail as possible, including sounds, smells, colors, textures.

4) Memorize an encouraging quote of Bible verse - Repeat it over and over again

Have you ever had a panic attack? What tools did you use to overcome it?

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Have you ever had a panic attack? Hopefully, you didn't get it because you went off hiking by yourself without water like I did. What was your experience like? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!