what i've learned dealing with frequent panic attacks

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I want to start off with a few disclaimers:

  • Mental health is a really tricky thing to talk about. It's a very vulnerable and emotional thing, and each person has his or her own story and journey through it. I am not a professional in any way; I am only speaking from my own experiences.
  • I hope to in no way make light of anxiety or panic attacks. It can be a serious condition, and I will always recommend seeking help from a doctor if this is something you experience.
  • This is kind of a heavy post & I don’t plan to make every post this heavy, it’s just been something that I’ve wanted to share with you for awhile. This is based my personal experience. Anxiety & panic attacks are common and everyone handles them in their own ways. Some things work for me but not for others. My hope is to shed some light on this super common and incredibly difficult experience.

Panic attacks are very common.

I realize i just said this, but I really can’t emphasize it enough. I think I had them occasionally when I was younger, but I didn’t realize what they were. As I’ve gotten them more recently and learned about them, I started talking to people about it (as an external processor, it’s how I cope). It amazed me how many people responded with, “Oh yeah, I get those too.” I had no idea. Now I’m not telling you to go shouting it from the rooftops or anything, but talking about it with people I trusted made me feel less alone and I learned so much about how people handle them.

They can come at any place or time, no trigger necessary.

This is a bummer of a realization, but I think what helps about knowing this is that I don’t need to diagnose it every time it happens. I wanted so desperately for there to be an easy cause & effect answer, and sometimes there is, but more often than not it’s random. Once I came to terms with that, I was able to accept that my body was just doing a weird thing that it was made to do. Which brings me to my next point...

Knowing the science behind what’s happening helps me to get through it.

When I went to the doctor to talk about this (which I highly recommend if it’s something that happens to you often), he told me that panic attacks are when stress builds up for so long that it erupts like a volcano. 

(A side note: stress looks different for everyone and everyone has a different threshold of what they can handle. One person may be able to work three jobs and go to school and be okay, while someone else can only tolerate one part-time job. There’s nothing wrong with that.)

So - stress had built up so much that my body thought I was in danger and responded by going into fight-or-flight mode. The fight-or-flight response is defined as a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. So basically, your body is trying to protect you. Here’s a little diagram that I found on the internet:


This is your body responding to what feels like a threat to your life, which is why it’s so common to think you’re dying when you’re having a panic attack. Learning this information helped me to recognize what was happening, and tell myself that I’m going to be fine and it will pass soon.

It is one of the scariest things I’ve experienced, and people that deal with them on the regular are total badasses.

Like I mentioned, it’s very common to feel like you’re dying when you’re having a panic attack. I don’t know about you, but death kind of freaks me out and thinking that it’s happening is pretty terrifying. Some people get these on a regular basis (if that’s you and you haven’t sought help for it yet, please do that), and those people are basically escaping death all the time. Kinda like James Bond. 

If they happen to you, it’s okay.

I think the main point I want to make here is that anxiety & panic attacks are very normal experiences, and you’re not a total freak because you have them. You’re probably a freak for other reasons, but not this one. ;)

I’ll leave you with a few things that help me when I’m experiencing one.

I do believe that it’s something that can be overcome in life by taking care of yourself. Psychiatrists & psychologists are trained on these things, and I would 100% recommend talking to them if you deal with anxiety, depression, panic attacks, etc. Relief is out there <3 

Here are some things that help me when I’m having a panic attack:

1. Remember that what’s happening is very common.

I read somewhere to think of a panic attack like a headache. It’s a very common, non-life threatening thing. It’s uncomfortable and annoying, but it’ll pass soon. 

2. Remember that your body is trying to protect you.

As I mentioned, it is going into fight or flight mode, and once it realizes you aren’t actually in danger, your body will return to business as usual.

3. Accept that you’re having a panic attack, and just let it pass through you.

It’s easy to want to dismiss it as nothing, or move around a lot to try to shake it off. In my experience, this only makes it worse. It’s better to just try your best to stay calm, and know that it will be over soon. 

4. Practice yoga & learn about deep breathing.

Breathing can do wonders for many physical ailments. Breathing in deeply automatically calms the body down. When I start to feel anxiety, I breathe in through my nose while counting to 5, and then I exhale out of my mouth, counting to 7. Repeating this and focusing on your breathing are also good ways to focus your mind on the present.

5. And lastly, this grounding exercise has been quite helpful for me:

If you’ve never experienced this, but have a loved one that does, just talk to them about it. They often know what they need, but aren’t always able to communicate it when the attack is happening. Typically just sitting with them, reminding them to breathe, and telling them that they’re going to be okay are some of the best things you can do. 


Listening to:

(In some of my darkest days, the album You Make Me Brave by Bethel Music has brought so much hope & peace)

a first

Leave a comment: 32 comments

hello precious human person. thank you for being here. what a fun and lovely thing that you've ended up at this little page I just made.

my name is ashley. i have never been much into blogging before so i'm hoping you'll have a bit of patience with me. i never know what to say in these things because i always end up thinking, "why would anyone care about what i think?"

& i still have that question floating around me basically at all times like the ball on the words of a sing-along song.

so here i am, trying to shove those words aside and let my thoughts out of their white hard cage hoping to connect with you. you see, i have a lot of thoughts & feelings and i'm sure you do too. so many, perhaps, that sometimes you're not sure if it's the thoughts and fears filling the room like water or if the walls are actually coming in on you and when i'm certain that i'm drowning the only thing keeping me from suffocating is writing. so i'm going to do that here, if that's okay with you.

as i said before, i want to connect with you. anyone who has a heartbeat is hurting in some way, even when your scripted response is always, "I'm great, how are you?" so hopefully in the coming weeks and months we can talk about some of those things that we deal with that make us lie when someone asks how we're doing.

in the meantime, i'd love to hear some of your thoughts in the comments. what kind of things do you want do talk about? what kind of things do you want to dig into together? I'm hoping this will look like a bunch of friends who ordered pizza and the pizza shop made a mistake on one of them (a delicious mistake) so you get an extra free one. 

I can't wait to see where this takes us.


Listening to:

oh & here's a lil sassy face outtake for ya ;)


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