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What is a Panic Attack?

Why it Helps to Think of Your Anxiety Like a Smoke Alarm

I am willing to bet large amounts of money (disclaimer: I don’t have large amounts of money) that almost everyone is familiar with anxiety. You know, that panic you feel when you think you lost your cell phone? Or that rumbling you feel in the pit of your stomach when there are more bills to pay than there is money to spend? Or that feeling you get when someone you care about says “Listen, we need to talk” in a very serious voice, which causes you to anxiously fumble through your mental Rolodex (who else remembers those?!) of everything you could have possibly done wrong in preparation for what they’re about to say. Yup, all of that is anxiety. 

Anxiety and panic are okay – even good for us – in the right context. The symptoms of an actual panic attack (racing heart, rapid breathing, sweating, etc.) happen when our bodies are preparing to fight or flee.

Feelings of panic are indeed frightening but are not in the least bit dangerous or harmful when they occur occasionally and in small doses. What you are experiencing during a panic attack is just an exaggeration of your body’s normal reactions to stress. 

In fact, you would have those same feelings if you were being chased by a lion. However! If you were being chased by a lion, you would want those panic reactions to kick in so you could get more oxygen to your muscles and run faster. In the context of the lion attack, anxiety and panic are appropriate AND they keep you alive in the face of danger or stress.  

Anxiety as a human response isn’t going anywhere. If your goal is to eliminate anxiety completely, you’ll never get there. It’s nature’s way of keeping our species alive. It only becomes a problem when our bodies send us a false alarm that we are in danger. 

Think of anxiety as a faulty smoke detector in your home. If a smoke detector went off in your home, the first thing you would do is to check that there is no fire, after which you would reset the alarm. If the smoke detector went off again, more than likely you would get up again and recheck that there is no fire. If it went off for a third time, you would probably come to the conclusion that you have a faulty smoke detector. 

Sometimes our brains can act up just like that faulty smoke detector. While you’re probably not facing any real fires (or lion attacks), your mind is overly prepared – super tuned in to any possible threat. For the most part, anxiety is not something we should fear. We just want it to be in-tune with the level of threat or danger that’s actually in front of us.

It is always easier to process how you feel when you understand the reasons behind your anxiety. Simply knowing what anxiety is and what purpose it serves in our bodies can help you repair your faulty smoke detector and rewire your brain to align with your life’s real dangers.

One Last Thing: 

There is no one-step cure for anxiety, it’s a multi-faceted issue, but if you happen to be in the middle of a panic attack, it is good to remember – “This too shall pass.” And, if you have tried everything possible but still suffer from debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, give us a call at Lifeologie San Diego to get in touch with a professional counselor who specializes in anxiety-related issues. Seeking help can make a world of difference in your long-term quality of life.  

Need an Anxiety Remedy You Can Use Anywhere?

Try the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique

  1. Name five things that you can see 
  2. Name four things that you can touch (your body in a chair, your feet touching the ground etc.)
  3. Name three things you can hear (a clock ticking, traffic, wind)
  4. Name two things that you can smell (fragrance, food odors)
  5. Name one thing you can taste (coffee, gum, or even your tongue)