Are you living with panic attacks? Just the name makes me want to run away and hide.
The last one I had was bad enough for my husband to call the paramedics. I had one 11 years ago (at work of all places) that put me in the hospital for two days. I thought I was having a heart attack, but I wasn’t. By now I recognize that I’ve been living with panic attacks all these years in between. They don’t always feel quite so big and scary. I must have gotten it together before my breathing took on a life of its own.
Before we go any further, you must know that I’m not a medical professional, and this article is not intended as medical advice. Because this can happen to anyone, I’m simply sharing my experience with panic attacks, my personal beliefs for recovery, and information uncovered in my research. I pray it inspires you to pursue the appropriate help in managing your situation.
What is a panic attack?
According to the Mayo Clinic: A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack, or even dying (Panic attacks and panic disorder 2018).
I’m learning that panic and anxiety are not the same. There are differences between these two types of attack. For the sake of simplicity, I will use the term panic attack in this article, fully recognizing that there are difference, and you can read about them in this article by Jayne Leonard, Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack (Leonard, 2021).
How can I deal with panic attacks wisely?
So, what does wisely mean? Well, first we should probably slow down, take a deep breath and admit there is a problem. This part is hard but needed before we can move forward. Then start taking steps to address it.
Don’t be embarrassed to talk about it
Eventually, Life happens to everyone. For example, you get a bad medical report, your kids leave home, your spouse leaves you, or several big things all at once. I can look back and see how it started. I was in a difficult season at work, then a job change, and finally becoming a full-time caregiver to my sister. Sometimes life challenges take us off track, and we don’t realize it until something happens, like a panic attack.
Let’s be plain about it–if you do not deal with these challenges wisely, life will kick your butt. How we respond to these challenges makes all the difference.
There is wisdom in the Word of God
My next steps must be getting back into God’s Word regularly, like every morning. I recently wrote about how, for some reason, my morning routine has deteriorated, click here to read more. I find myself struggling to maintain what was once a solid daily habit of prayer and time alone with God in scripture. Now, I believe this panic attack is proof that I’m suffering without it.
The morning after my panic attack, I found two things in my mailbox that will start me back on a path to time alone with God and bring some accountability into this part of my life:
- The first step – I saw the Thrive Again 5-Day Challenge, by Christene Caine, and signed up. I have already benefitted from the worksheets. Will this change me? No, not on its own. But it is an excellent first step and will tide me over to the next step.
- The next step – A friend from church sent me an email inviting me to a bible study starting soon. It has been almost a year since my last small group bible study. Immediately, I bought the book and confirmed my attendance. Now, all I have to do show up.
I love the way God provides what you need when you need it. Just keep taking the next step.
Why are panic attacks embarrassing?
During my research, I came across an article by Paul Tautges on the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors website. Tautges wrote, “The battle with anxiety is part of our fallen condition” (Tautges, 2020). At first, I thought, that’s why Christians don’t talk about living with panic attacks. We are embarrassed because someone is always telling us we are sinners. We think that it is somehow shameful to experience fear, anxiety, or have panic attacks because we are Christians.
Christians are still only human
It was so hard to admit I have panic attacks, and they can get nasty. I didn’t want people to know. I just finished writing a series on living joyfully. My life verse is 2 Timothy 1:7, for goodness’ sake. I should be able to handle everything life throws at me with a smile. Right? Wait a minute. During my panic attack God reminded me that, while I’m a Christian, I am also human. And so are you.
On second thought, Maybe Paul Tautges has a point? There was only ever one perfect human, Jesus. Therefore, we (the rest of us humans) all live in this “fallen condition.” We do have weaknesses, but we can find strength in Christ (Philippians 4:13), through the Holy Spirit.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid,
but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
–2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)
There is nothing to be ashamed of
I was so ashamed that it took me months to admit that first, and hopefully, last, ambulance ride eleven years ago was because of a panic attack. But a lot has changed since then. I now know that God does not condemn His children (Romans 8:1-2). That shame comes from society and the enemy.
We must work with God by allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal in us what needs attention. Because we are human, there will always be something that needs attention. And since they come unannounced, learning to trust God while living with panic attacks is necessary for dealing with them.
Can I prevent a panic attack?
Addressing our spiritual health is one particularly important part of this panic puzzle. But don’t forget the other pieces, mental and physical health, because they all contribute to stress levels resulting in panic attacks. What you can be sure of is ignoring panic attacks will not prevent them. So, what can we do to help ourselves?
Make healthy choices
In my research, I found several areas mentioned repeatedly about how to prevent or at least manage panic attacks:
- Breathing exercises
- Physical exercise
- A healthy diet
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Practice mindfulness
- Look panic square in the face
- Prayer (This is my contribution to the list.)
These seem like very common-sense practices for overall well-being, and all seem doable. Well, number six is a little scary, but we can work up to that one.
Taking control of your choices
After reviewing all the information, I took a quick assessment of my lifestyle choices. I can see that I am not eating a healthy diet, not exercising the way I should, and coffee and tea (and chocolate) are among my closest friends. Clearly, I have work to do, and I will do, to get better. How about you?
I think we can agree that having a sense of control over even one of the things on our list might provide some sense of calm, and that has value. So why not pick one and start working on it? It seems fair to say that gaining control over these few things might complement our time alone with God. Although, God does not need any help. He is enough already.
What will be your first step in managing panic attacks?
I’m sharing this with you today because I don’t want you to suffer in silence. Let us not endure life in fear or anxiety. Instead, let us live a life empowered by the Holy Spirit. In His power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). There is no shame in having panic attacks. But it is important to gain freedom from whatever is causing them, and that usually requires outside help.
IMPORTANT: Don’t rely on home remedies or suggestions easily found online or in this article. Panic attacks deserve proper attention. Please seek the help you need.
Have you had a similar experience? Don‘t wait for something perfect to come along and save you. He already has. All you have to do is ask Jesus to come into your heart for life.
Here is a simple prayer to help if you can’t find the words:
Dear Heavenly Father,
I‘m sorry for the wrong things I‘ve done. Please forgive me. I believe your Son died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead, and because of this, I will enter into heaven when I die. Jesus, come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior. I willingly give you my life. Now, Father, help me do your will. Thank you again for saving me! In Jesus‘ name, I pray. Amen.
The road to recovery starts and ends with Jesus, but some important stuff goes on in the middle. And Jesus is there too.
Let’s get started together today. But first, I’m asking you again, what will be your first step?
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This article is for information purposes only and not meant to provide or replace good medical advice.
Panic attacks and panic disorder. (2018, May 04). Retrieved April 08, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021
How to deal with panic attacks. (n.d.). Retrieved April 08, 2021, from https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/mental-wellbeing/anxiety-and-panic/how-to-deal-with-panic-attacks
Leonard, J. (2021, January 20). Panic attack vs. anxiety attack: What is the difference? Retrieved April 08, 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321798#causes
Emamzadeh, A. (2018, August 14). A Technique for Overcoming Panic Attacks [Web log post]. Retrieved April 7, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/
Panic attack. (2017, May 17). Retrieved April 08, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/panic-attack
Diagnosis Dictionary, no author listed.
(https://www.psychologytoday.com/, Panic attack 2017)
Tautges, P. (2020, April 22). When Panic Attacks. Retrieved April 7, 2021, from https://biblicalcounseling.com/resource-library/conference-messages/when-panic-attacks/
How to pray the salvation prayer. (n.d.). Retrieved April 08, 2021, from https://www.thehopeline.com/salvation-prayer/