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Mental Health

What Panic Attacks Are and How I Deal with Them

I’ve dealt with panic and anxiety attacks for most of my life, since before I even knew what they were. Panic attacks usually come on suddenly and have symptoms from sweating and a pounding heart to nausea and shortness of breath. Anxiety attacks have similar symptoms, but typically take longer to occur and are likely connected to anxiety disorders like GAD, OCD, or specific phobias. Personally, I’ve struggled with nausea, difficulty eating and sleeping, and uncontrollable worry.

In the middle of a panic or anxiety attack, it can be extremely difficult to calm down. Over the years, however, I’ve learned a few tips that have helped me handle my symptoms better:

Leave the situation – and don’t feel bad about it!

I’ve had to leave work, school, and outings with friends because of my anxiety. For a long time, I felt guilty about this, but I have to remind myself that it would be no different than leaving because of a physical illness. Sometimes all you need is to make a cup of tea or take a nap, and there is nothing wrong with taking time for yourself during a difficult moment.

Drink plenty of liquids.
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As I mentioned before, during particularly intense attacks, I feel too nauseous to eat, so keeping myself hydrated is very important. If plain water doesn’t sound appealing, try sparkling water, Gatorade, or soda like Sprite and Ginger Ale. Dehydration will almost always make your symptoms worse, and you’ll feel at least a tiny bit better if you keep a drink with you throughout the day.

Practice grounding exercises when you feel good.

Practicing calming techniques is just as important when you feel good as when you don’t. If you do a little meditation every day, then it will be much easier to use it to calm down once you actually feel anxious. A quote I love is, “if you don’t make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness.” Make sure you take care of your mental health even on days when you feel good.

If you feel comfortable, tell your friends and family what you’re going through.

I spent many years trying to keep my anxiety secret, and I was miserable. Now, I try to be as open as possible with my family and friends about my experiences. They may not fully understand, but sometimes it can be nice just to vent. Plus, anxiety is so common, maybe some of them have had similar experiences!

Reach out for help when you need to.
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Ultimately, there are times when professional help is needed, and there is nothing wrong with that. For me, therapy and medication have been life-changing. I cannot stress this enough: there is nothing wrong with getting some extra help for your mental health. CU has wonderful resources for mental health help, and there are also sites to help you find therapists or other professionals that can work through your struggles with you.

Another quote I love is, “your current situation is not your final destination.” Anxiety can be extremely difficult to deal with, but the good news is that you are not alone and you will not feel this way forever. Especially with the whirlwind this past year has been, taking care of yourself and your mental health is absolutely essential.

Jordyn is a junior at CU Boulder double-majoring in music and psychology. When she isn't writing her next article, you can probably find her reading, exploring restaurants around Boulder, or hanging out with her silver lab puppy.
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