Just a little stressed and dramatic?…
If you’ve ever suffered a panic attack (aka anxiety attack)… I’ll bet you wouldn’t wish the experience on your worst enemy. And if you haven’t… well I suppose you would most likely think it’s just another lame excuse for someone who is stressed and dramatic – I can tell you first hand that it is anything but this and a terrifying experience at that… lucky we have exercise to help!
The onset of a panic attack can be quite scary for someone experiencing it for the first time. An anxiety attack can deadset arrive out of nowhere without warning and with no apparent reason… SURPRISE! – before you know it your heart is beating out of your chest with severe pains, your brain has shut down all long-term memory as it clicks into survival mode, and there is an overwhelming feeling of terror, worry, and fear that’s magnified by the physical symptoms. All of this could have you phoning 000 for an ambulance, certain you are experiencing a heart attack.
What are some of the symptoms of a panic/anxiety attack?
- inability to think clearly
- loss of long term memory
- a pressure headache and feeling of going crazy
- chest pain and shortness of breath
- the heart appears to be beating out of control as if it could stop at any moment
- a sense of impending doom and worry that something very terrible is about to happen
- tingling / numbing sensations in extreme limbs
The process of being diagnosed and treated can also be quite daunting. I remember when I had my first experience… the ambulance officer told me that I was most likely having a panic attack – “what! I thought… you can’t be serious, it feels as though I’m about to die… like my heart is about to stop.. something very terrible is about to go down… and you’re telling me it’s a panic attack – like I’m just a little stressed at the moment?” I knew something was very wrong physically and mentally, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to accept that it was just a panic attack? – I’ve since learned that I have to.
From that point onwards I didn’t feel right in myself and was obsessed with trying to find out what was wrong with me. From heart problems to brain tumors to overactive thyroid glands – I was tested for all of these. Each result came back negative… in fact, most stated that I was in excellent physical health, and apparently I had the heart of an ox. Reluctantly, I eventually gave in – since all symptoms appeared to match the doctor’s diagnosis of panic disorder.
After the first terrifying episode, I experienced several subsequent panic attacks, all of which were just as terrifying as the initial one. The only comfort being that as far as the doctors were concerned I was physically fit and healthy.
So what causes a panic attack in the first place?
Unfortunately, the causes of panic attacks are not clear however they are thought to be closely related to a persons life situation and other biological vulnerabilities including:
- Genetic predisposition
- Life Stresses
- Reaction to traumatic events
- Physical illness
- Anxiety Disorder
How to comfort someone experiencing an anxiety attack
The symptoms of a panic attack can be terrifying, so any effort to assure the person that they are safe and you are providing support would be beneficial:
- keep calm (very important) and assure the patient that “you are there for them” and “everything will be ok”
- move the person to a quiet place where they feel safe
- remind the patient that they are experiencing a panic attack and nothing bad will happen.. especially if they have experienced before… they will get through it
- try to get the person to focus on something that makes them feel relaxed or a memory that contains happy thoughts – mindfulness.
How could exercise help?
When a panic attack sets in, the body moves into fight-or-flight mode which floods the body with adrenaline and other stress chemicals. It is thought that exercise can help burn up these stress chemicals and promote relaxation. At Mood Active our programs are tailored to help promote these feel good chemicals, keep them flowing and keep the stress related ones at bay. As a general rule, we should aim to exercise at least three to four times every week to help fight anxiety and keep the body healthy.
The other less evident benefit of exercise is that it provides an opportunity for people to connect with others in a social group, creating a sense of belonging and community. The environment we provide at Mood Active has all these elements in place. High-intensity fun work outs carried out in a non-judgemental safe environment with others who are experiencing similar mental health issues. We are all in this together :)
If you are experiencing any form of mental health worries please contact our friendly team to find out how exercise could help your situation.