In the last few years, the term “panic attack” has taken center stage. The impact of recent world activities combined with 3 year pandemic leaves us without asking why: stress is everywhere, surrounding us all the time.
In this article you will learn an important insight in why panic attacks happen, what to do with them and demystify the misunderstanding about them. Once we clear up this mystery, you will better understand what and why this is happening, and likewise know how to act around panic attacks.
There is allot of misunderstanding about panic attacks, and besides not being able to understand them, not being able to cope with them, also disables you in providing help.
I am sure you can remember the feeling you had on your first school day, a new job, an interview, an important meeting, or a party you were attending. A sensation of not knowing what to expect came over you, jolting your sense of security. For most this feeling was paired with unpleasantness where we did know what to expect or how to act.
You may recall this feeling all too well, and see it reflected in your child who finds him/ herself in the same scenario. How did you cope, and how can you help them cope. Back then, did you acknowledged your feelings, or did you try to hide them away? Could you accept this feeling and continue breathing, and could you accept that your body reacted with tension?
The point is simple. We can handle situations like “panic attacks” quite well – as fight or flight response, but we digest them at different timelines.
You see, panic attacks are like a shock of electricity where each electron is an unpleasant feeling of doubt, insecurity or anxiety. And when we have a panic attack we feel hundreds of thousands of these electrons all together at once. It is a waterfall of drops that want and need to be acknowledged and accepted by you. And you…you can handle them, but not all at once and not all at the saem time.
Listen to this, we, with our conscious mind, we all want to solve all the problems that we face, but it is not possible to solve them all at once. We need the element of time to help us with this?
Imagine multiple little air balls under water, and when you are trying to keep them down they are slowly getting bigger and bigger. At a certain point you wouldn’t be able to control them all and as a result some will surface and come up. That’s a panic attack. Too much to handle in a too short time frame.
And when you do experience a panic attack? Do you then die?
No, of course not, but may have to slow down and/or sit down. You may not be able to think clearly for a moment. Worst case scenario is that you might faint, but you will be ok. Surely it is very uncomfortable, but YOU WILL BE OK.
But why are panic attacks there, and how can I help myself or help my child when they occur?
Let’s go back to the beginning of this article where I asked you to think about “a sensation of not knowing what to do, and feeling uncomfortable.” You can probably agree that we normally tend to push a feeling like that away. In many cases that is actually a great way to deal with it, but in the long term we will accumulate little air balloons under the water that we need to keep under control. If we ignore these feelings (or fail to keep the balls under control) we will experience something we don’t know and we think we might not be able to handle the situation.
So, the gift is this.
The panic attacks are a sign from your system (unconscious mind) that you (your conscious mind) needs to let go of unnecessary worry or simply start to confront yourself with the fears, insecurities etc. that you or your child is experiencing.
Simple you say?!
Of course, it’s not that simple. Confronting yourself, dealing with self- doubts and self-reflection is never an easy task, but a task well worth exploring. When you start to confront yourself, everyday, a bit here and a bit there, you are working on a gaining a better understanding of yourself, and to slowly but surely be able to confront your panic attacks and deal with them accordingly.
Don’t forget that after a panic attack you or your child is still very much alive. So, start to talk to them, start to walk towards them, and tell then it is ok and you know how they feel. Why not invite these unpleasant feelings as a way of growth, and let go of the illusion that they just go away by themselves by ignoring them all together.
I invite and encourage you to talk to you child to talk about all the unpleasant feelings you have experienced. You will both learn allot and feel connected to each other. After all, growing is something we all do, every day, and is a crucial part of becoming an adult.
Panic attacks are invitations to become a stronger version of you
When to play the piano for the first time, changes are that you don’t know how to play, and you need lessons and practice. After some time, and 100 hours, the sounds begin to make sense and the piano produces a song instead of a sound. Practice and lessons also apply in learning how to understand and cope with your panic attacks. At first, you don’t know how to handle the different sensations you feel, but you can learn to recognize them, adjust your feelings cope, and tell yourself that you will be Ok afterwards.
This transformational process of the unknown towards the known is the road where the answers lie. Where you transform insecurity towards security and anxiety towards enthusiasm.
You cannot go to the gym expecting bigger muscles without lifting some weights right? Well, the same is true for feeling more secure by transcribing and transforming your internal insecurities.
How did you come back from your first day of school, work or party? In the end, probably with some unexpected enthusiasm, security and greater. You grew that day.
In the last few years we have been bombarded with what we should or shouldn’t do, could or couldn’t, would or wouldn’t do, that any situation poses as dangerous and made us freeze with fear of safety.
I applaud you and ask you to find your strength in vulnerability in parenting and educate your children that what they feel is nothing more than undiscovered feelings that are screaming to be discovered. And once they do so, they will feel more independent.
“A panic attack is a gift that invites us to discover a strength within us that is still unknown.”
For professional guidance in this area, please consider one of our coaches who are experienced in guiding adolescence through various challenges, such as panic attacks.
in youth and family development
CEO & Founder, YOUNITE, YADA