I was just driving back from my weekly trip to the supermarket when it struck. The fear began crawling up on me, and my vision began to get a little blurry. I immediately pulled over to the side of the road. I started feeling like it was going to be difficult to breathe - like I might choke or suffocate.
Luckily, I knew these were just the signs of an impending anxiety attack, also known as a panic attack. This was going to be but a mild one though, for as soon as I realized it for what it was, I started to quickly recover and pull myself together.
Have you ever had these symptoms of a mild anxiety attack?
First, there is a sudden, apparently unprovoked onset of fear.
Next, maybe your heart begins to pound - you can feel the palpitations. You might even have mild chest pain that you could easily mistake for heartburn - or worse, a heart attack.
Then, you start feeling a bit dizzy and light-headed. Maybe your mind starts to wander into a dream like state, where you start to wonder if you are losing your grip on reality.
And then you may start to feel an impending sense of doom, maybe like you are going to die. But this is just a mild anxiety attack - and we will get it under control. How? Because we know what is happening to our body in each of these phases.
When we first feel the fear - our body releases adrenaline. Know that this is going to happen and you won't be so surprised when your heart starts racing. It is a biological reaction to the fear. Expecting a racing heart may help you from panicking further.
If you don't pay attention, your racing heart can lead to rapid breathing and a feeling of shortness of breath. Know that this is going to happen. Force yourself to take long, slow, deep breaths. Since your body is automatically preparing to go into action, yet you are just staying still, the carbon dioxide in your body can build up in your blood. This can cause the dizziness, and the feeling of unreality. Know that this is what's going on - and don't let the cycle continue.
And although we might not yet know or be able to prevent the initial onset of fear, we can know what our body is doing that is causing the symptoms that begin to follow. We can take control by knowing - and prevent this from snowballing into a full blown panic attack.