Learning how to deal with mild panic

Another mild panic attack in fitness class yesterday, jolts of worry and tears that I wiped away as sweat. I knew it was just my lizard brain in overdrive. I couldn’t stop it by reasoning it away as irrational. All I could do was breathe and keep on going, dampening my emotions by spacing out while going through the motions of the exercise. W- checked on me frequently, cheering me up from time to time, and I finished the class.

It’s not so bad, actually. It would be better to not have to deal with panic at all, but since it happens, it’s better that I know what it’s like in a safe(ish) controlled environment and I can start figuring out what to do about it. Part of the reason that I’m susceptible to panic attacks is probably because I’m using willpower instead of motivation to get through the fitness class, and that can get quickly sapped in a stressful environment with negative self-talk. I don’t intrinsically enjoy this form of exercise, although I like spending time with W-. Also, It turns out that I’m pretty good at imagining how something will hurt, like the time I freaked out over a leapfrogging exercise a month after I’d sprained my ankle, and that sends me into a whirl even as I’m reassuring myself that pain is both unlikely and temporary. The good thing is that I seem to get panic attacks only in fitness class these days, and not all the time either.

What would better look like? I’m good at knowing I’m having an unreasonable panic attack. Wouldn’t be interesting if I could label it and put it on a shelf for the time being, procrastinating the analysis for a quieter and more composed time? I’m good at plodding through the class anyway, even though I’m embarrassed at the thought of quietly sniffling in class. If I can let go of that embarrassment, I can use that energy for other things. I don’t get panic attacks all the time. I can get better at understanding the contributing and mitigating factors, and tweaking things to fit me (a mental soundtrack? a mantra or prepared objections to drown out negative self-talk?). Eventually finding another kind of exercise that suits me better will help in the long run so that I can build confidence along with strength, but I still have to hack stressful situations.

This, too, is part of life, and I can embrace it and make it mine.

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  • Meditation for sure.

    Also try doing without wheat for a week or two if you can. I eat much less now and the “black dog” visits far less often.

    • Hmm, wheat is actually pretty easy to cut out of my diet because I mostly eat meals with rice anyway. Maybe I’ll give that a try this month!

      • Or next month, after we shift our groceries to include more non-wheat emergency food/snacks…

  • My mother swears that the breathing techniques on this site are good for calming down panic attacks http://www.buteyko.ie/ (but I don’t have any personal experience and so can’t endorse it)

  • Shardul

    I’d suggest learning Sudarshan Kriya – taught in Art Of Living.
    With or without the spritual jargon, it is very effective relaxation technique.
    Takes around 25 minutes daily practice.
    [I do not advocate nor do advertise this.]

    • Shardul

      oops.. read that spiritual.

  • Tom

    Are you sure you are not pregnant?

  • Harvey Chua

    Take care. We love you. <3

  • Pat Thomasson

    I admire your courage. Panic manifests for me as a defensive mechanism when I feel threatened. I use self talk to bring me back and remind myself that what I am imagining is not reality and won’t help me reach my goals. I also find that verbally expressing how I feel, to no one in particular, helps.

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