Are you experiencing a sudden sensation of intense fear, terror, or dread for what seems to be no reason at all? Are you experiencing any of these physical signs?
Are you noticing yourself thinking any of the following thoughts?
If you’re experiencing a combination of these thoughts, physical sensations, and feelings of terror, you may be having a panic attack. Since many of these symptoms are physical, you should get checked out by a medical doctor to be certain.
However, if a doctor has confirmed that what you’re experiencing is a panic attack, continue reading below – there are strategies to manage a panic attack and treatments to prevent them from recurring.
A panic attack is an overwhelming combination of physical and emotional reactions that build upon each other. Although they may feel as though they arrive “out of the blue”, they are actually a chain reaction of different thoughts and physical sensations. Typically, this cycle reaches its peak of intensity in about 10 or 15 minutes, and then begins tapering off. However, you may find that it takes a long time to return to “normal”, and that you may feel quite shaken and on edge for a long while after the experience.
Do you have a test approaching? Are you finding yourself :
It will be important to follow a few guidelines before we turn to the process of calming these anxious thoughts and feelings.
• Don’t cram or pull an all-nighter. Your body and mind need rest and care before you take a test.
• Don’t spend time with classmates who generate stress. They may heighten your anxiety rather than help.
• Don’t push yourself to keep studying when you notice your anxiety intensifying. Take a break and use some of the techniques we describe below.
• Organize anything you will need before your test tomorrow. Pack your supplies and write down the location and time of the test. Having this prepared will alleviate some of the anxious thoughts that may keep you from sleeping.
• Eat a balanced meal. Your body needs fuel to cope.
• Take breaks. Surf the web, read the paper, listen to music or talk to friends – but not about the test!
With these guidelines in mind, let’s now turn to getting you through tonight. We will focus on soothing the physical sensations and challenging the thoughts that you’re experiencing.
Deep breathing is an important part of calming your body’s signals of anxiety. Shifting the way you are breathing right now can help improve your concentration, soothe uncomfortable physical reactions, and help you feel more grounded and in control. Click here for a guided audio exercise from Serenity Yoga’s website.
Another way to soothe yourself is to work on releasing tension from your body. Doing this can calm the nervous sensations you’re feeling and slow down your thoughts as well. Click here for a guided audio exercise.
After working to slow your body’s reactions, if you still find that you’re having anxious thoughts and worries, do your best to stop or cut off these thoughts. As you notice the thoughts brewing, stop what you’re doing, practice deep breathing and tell yourself – STOP! Give yourself a moment for your thoughts to diffuse a bit. Try talking to yourself as you might a friend. Be encouraging, promise yourself a treat and break, regardless of how much work or progress you think you’ve made.
After getting through the stress and tension of preparing for an exam that is approaching quickly, it will be important to understand longer-term strategies that will help with preventing future test anxiety from arising. Praxis, a testing organization, offers some helpful strategies to learn more
It may take a bit of practice to build up your ability to soothe your mind and be able to approach tests with a calm mind. If you find yourself continuing to struggle, or find that your anxiety is worsening, you may want to consider meeting with a counselor at Furman for a consultation. To take this first step (click here) to learn now to make an appointment.
If you are looking for a way to relax, take a look online. The counseling center at Hobart & William Smith College has formulated some relaxation exercises that may be accessed here. Step-by-step instructions and mp3 exercises are provided.
To find out more, see our list of Anxiety/Stress Management Self-Help Guides and Books