As salesman and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said, “How can you hit a target you can’t see.” In order to “see” a panic attack we have to know about its causes and understand them to the best of our ability. While panic attacks do have a solid base in our physical bodies and the chemical makeup of our bodies, we can at least begin with how we think and what we think about.
In fact, one of the techniques that counselors and psychologists use and teach to patients is visualization. This simply means that we focus on places, people, objects that are relaxing and can take our minds away from the merry-go-round of negative thoughts that come with panic attacks and extreme anxiety.
In addition, we can, with practice, begin to recognize the onset of an episode and move immediately to such techniques as deep breathing. This takes some concentration but it is rather easy to take deep breaths that will physically relax the body. Breathing techniques have the added benefit of helping us focus on something positive as well.
Know where you stand – that’s the advice many people receive from reliable and trusted counselors and others. To even get started in prevention we have to recognize the situations and the activities that bring on extreme stress, anxiety and ultimately a true panic attack. If there is a particular person that seems to be the root cause, along with associated activities or events, we must learn to avoid thinking about this individual and those events. With training, we can learn to focus our minds away from such causes.
There will always be stress in life, with family, work and finances, for example. Some stress is just part of being alive. But if there are places and situations that always trigger high anxiety and panic attacks, we must at least consider changing our lifestyle to avoid those places and situations. Of course, it may be necessary to experience these things, especially if it’s a work or family situation. But if there is any way of changing how we live, work and interact socially, we must do so to prevent future panic attacks.
All of these techniques should be tried before resorting to medications, unless a trusted family doctor recommends medication from the beginning. Even then we should assess how our lives are progressing during and after taking prescription drugs that are specifically meant to deal with panic attacks. In discussions with the doctor and with family members, we should consider how a combination of self-help techniques, professional counseling and prescription medications will work. Remedies and prevention methods can and should be changed when they are not working or when the side effects are less tolerable than the attack itself. Some of the more successful anti-depressant medications also work well with anxiety and panic attacks.
As you search for answers to this serious condition, remember that complete, 100 percent prevention may not be possible. But there are ways to limit the effects and possibly remove panic attacks from our lives to the point that we can truly live again.