How I Manage Moments of Panic

There are times when there are very real moments that are of slight concern that my brain blows completely out of proportion. There are also times where a delusion of mine completely spirals out of control, and I have what I can only assume to be some kind of mild panic attack. For context, I’ll give a brief description of one of these mild panic attacks:

It generally starts with a miniscule feeling somewhere in my body. Maybe I get an itch somewhere on my chest. This itch plants the seed for a series of events leading up to an extremely alarming situation. My thought about that itch leads to me thinking it’s something wrong with my heart. Then I realized I had a bit more caffeine today than I normally do. I’m overdosing. I’m having a heart attack. All the symptoms point toward a medical emergency. Quick, take an asprin!

This is something that actually did happen recently. I did call 911. I did take an asprin. I went to the hospital via ambulance –– and I was fine. My heart is of exceptional health, and I have been told this by several doctors on several occasions before and after this event. Yet paranoia and delusion relating to my heart continue.

Shortly after this episode, it happened again. There were two things that I did that seemed to be quite effective.

The Breathing Exercise

1. The 4-4-4-4 breathing exercise. This is an exercise employed by military professionals who are faced with extremely alarming situations. I won’t compare my paranoia and delusion to the horrors of active combat, but I will certainly compare my reactions to them similarly. It goes as follows:

  1. Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds
  2. Hold for 4 seconds
  3. Breathe out through the mouth for 4 seconds.
  4. Hold for 4 seconds
  5. Repeat 1-4 until panic has subsided

The Change in Environment

2. Attempt to change your environment. For me, during my last episode, I was on the city street. It was dark, lonely, and cold. I found the nearest cafe where there was people, warmth, and a beverage to nurse while I collected myself. This could apply in an opposite setting. Maybe you’re in a place full of people, it’s chaotic, hot, too many flashing lights. Find a quiet place, or less quiet, like a bathroom. Sometimes it’s good to be around people because there is safety in the potential of good samaritans. But it can also be good to be alone, where there are fewer people to exacerbate the panic. Go to where it feels right.

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