I had my first (known to me) panic attack on an airplane.
I had an early flight and had to be at the airport at 4AM for check-in. I was flying by myself from Wisconsin to Maryland with a 2 year-old and a 5 month-old, and I stayed up all night cleaning and packing. I hate getting up early, so not going to bed at all solved that issue.
Because I was flying by myself, I stopped drinking water around 1AM.
(God-forbid I have to pee on the plane and have to cram a toddler and a baby in an airplane lavatory with me.)
(anyone else see a hole I was digging myself into?)
The first part of the flight was uneventful. The second part, not so much.
I had a layover and within 20 minutes of the second flight, the flight attendant was asking if I was ok.
Within 30 mins, they were on the intercom asking if there was a doctor or nurse on board.
When the flight landed in Maryland, a little over an hour later, I was taken directly to an ambulance, once my children were in the arms of my father, who was there to greet us.
Pumped with fluids from an IV, I was discharged with a diagnosis of vertigo and dehydration. Since I was nursing a baby and had refused to drink liquids since the night before, I wasn’t surprised to learn that I was dehydrated.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d just had my first full-fledged panic attack.
But one thing I did notice was how good I felt after breathing in the oxygen.
I’ll talk more about this trip in another post, because it was a huge turning point/A-HA trip for me, but I’ll add this last bit:
Cold air and cold water became my lifelines for the next several years.
When the Panic Creeps In – tips for pushing it back
My explanations are totally unscientific, and based on assumptions and speculation, but these are some of the things that have worked for me and others that I have spoken with over the years.
What works for me, may not work for you, but in talking to many others who have dealt with panic attacks, there seems to be a common thread: cold air, cold water and focusing.
– Cold water. This has helped me since I was a child. When I wasn’t feeling well, a cold rag on my forehead and/or the back of my neck soothed me like nothing else.
– Cold air. Probably due to the same (scientifically unknown to me) reason the cold water works, cold air seems to jolt me into focusing on my breathing and making me focus on something other than what my brain is trying to tell me.
– Tapping a rhythm or listening to a ticking sound (eg: a clock or a metronome). I’m not sure what it is, but this seems to provide comfort to many, myself included.
– A cold shower. This incorporates the cold and the rhythm. The rhythm of the shower is calming and the cold is shocking to the nerves.
– Repeating a comforting verse/scripture/quote/song etc. This seems to have to have a connection to finding comfort in the rhythm of patterns above.
– Excercise. I love to run. For you, it might be yoga, roller-blading or cross-fit.
Above All Else, Know This
Remember – My list may just be highly personal, and yours may be too. I’ve known people who mention brushing a dog/cat/horse’s hair, watching birds, etc.
And always know this: you are not alone.
What helps you when you feel a panic attack creeping up on you? What works for you? Please share.
This is the 2nd post in a 31 Day Series: 31 Days to Peace: Finding inner peace for anxiety and panic attacks. Start from the beginning here.