Every normal person experiences panic or anxiety in response to something that scares them, be it a fear-producing situation that can happen in daily life or a fantasized threat. It can even show up in your dreams. When it’s strong enough and/or frequent enough to restrict your mental functioning or in some extreme instances, even impair your physical function, it’s an anxiety disorder.

Very often one’s sense of security – rather, the lack of it – is the source of anxiety, be it fear of losing a job, fear of natural disaster, fear of attack, etc. What makes some people more prone to anxiety than others is not known, but it’s now thought that the more unexpected and unprovoked an attack of anxiety or the symptoms of anxiety, the more likely the source is biological rather than behavioral.

Anxiety attacks, also called panic attacks, are short-term, extreme bouts of anxiety. When they are frequent for an individual, they are considered symptoms of a disorder. There may be a temporary inability to think straight. Other symptoms – stomach upset, heart palpitations, dizziness, and shortness of breath – are also symptoms of amphetamine use, over-use of caffeine, an overactive thyroid, and heart abnormalities, making medical diagnosis imperative.

Some possible precursors of a panic attack to watch for, especially if they happen over and over again:

Constant worry about things when there are no signs of trouble.

Frequent aches and pains that can’t be traced to an illness or injury.

Tiring easily, yet having trouble sleeping.

A constant feeling of bodily tenseness.

Heart palpitations for no reason.

Dizziness.

Difficulty in breathing.

A feeling of imminent death.

Dealing with anxiety disorders should be done with the aid of a medical professional. But panic attacks call for an immediate personal response and therefore some preparation on your part.

Make a list of the things that you’re afraid could happen. Then write out calming statements that tell you the opposite of your fears, reassurances you can repeat to yourself when panic starts coming on. Also have a list of calming things you can do, such as breathing deeply and slowly, focusing on forcing the air out of your lungs, making deep breaths come naturally.

Lie down with your butt against a wall. Breathing in, press one foot into the wall and breathe out as you release it. For 10 – 15 minutes alternate feet. If there is no place to lie down, press your feet, one at a time, into the ground to feel connected and “rooted.”

Breathe into a brown paper bag. If you have lavender essence oil, put a drop in it for added calming. Lavender oil has a calming, soothing effect, as do helichrysum, frankincense, and majoram oils. Keep a prepared mixture in a dark glass bottle for when you need it.

Remain focused in “the now” by using all of your senses to take full notice of what you see, hear, feel, and smell. Panic is generally associated with remembering upsetting events from the past or anticipating something upsetting in the future. Holding a pet can also help.

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