One in ten people can expect to have a panic attack at some stage in their life. The busy holiday season such as the Christmas season may set off the first attack or subsequent attacks.
The symptoms may include rapid heart beat, shortness of breath, chest pains, nausea, hot or cold flushes and sense of impending doom.
Panic attack symptoms can last for a few seconds or as long as an hour.
As the fear of having an attack can, ironically, trigger one then it makes sense to set up some strategies before a demanding time like the winter holidays. Coping with panic attacks during the Christmas season becomes a lot easier if a sufferer already has techniques to hand or knows that specific remedies will work for them.
The following are some great tips for dealing with panic attacks during the holiday season:
• If you feel a panic attack coming on and you start to breathe rapidly, try to breathe slowly in and out of your cupped hands or a brown paper bag. Either will help your oxygen levels return to normal and lessen that feeling of giddiness that comes with over-breathing.
• Adopt a healthier lifestyle during the festive period – take or step up your regular exercise, avoid alcohol and cigarettes and eat regular, nutritious meals to keep your blood sugar level stable.
• Don’t try to fight a panic attack as all this will do is increase your levels of adrenaline. Instead, try to accept the feelings you experience and understand that your symptoms are only trying to trick you. Imagine yourself floating, detached, over them. They will eventually subside.
• During an attack, put the focus outside of yourself. Listen to music or do something you enjoy until the feelings pass.
• Tell yourself that your symptoms are only temporary and not life-threatening or medically dangerous.
• Reduce your exposure to unnecessary stress which means, during this hectic time, that you need to learn to say no to anything which will overload you or your nervous system.
• Learn and practice a relaxation technique. Try closing your eyes, slowing your breathing and imagining each part of your body in turn growing heavier and warmer. Imagine all your tension disappearing and let go of every limb, your torso and head in turn until you are completely relaxed. After fifteen or twenty minutes of this, gently bring your focus back to the present and open your eyes. You will feel both calm and refreshed.
• Find someone to confide in about your panic attacks, whether it is a friend, family member or therapist. Turn to this person if you need support or help coping with your panic attacks during the Christmas season.