Racing hearts. Chest spasms. Frantic breathing. While many of us will nod knowingly at these symptoms, we’re reluctant to dole out the ‘panic attack’ label, for fear of feeling we’ve gone a wee bit mental. But in a city where we’re barely stopping to catch our breath somewhere between the Northern and Central lines, it’s not surprising that they’re a secret shared by many.
Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman recently admitted her attacks made her feel like her body and brain were out of sync. And for many frazzled, overworked Londoners, she hit the nail firmly on the head. So, if you’re looking for smaller ways to lessen the effect of attacks, put down the Xanax and read.
You’re not crazy
Let’s get one thing straight: if you’ve had a panic attack, it doesn’t mean you’re bonkers. One in 10 people have experienced them and you’re especially susceptible if you’re a woman in your twenties. So next time you’re sweating it out in a Tube carriage, rest assured that out of the 50 other sardines around you, probably at least five have been in the same boat.
Be a know-it-all
Some of the panic comes from truly believing you are going to die. A sure-fire way to kick this in the nuts is to know the facts. Read medical explanations online until you can recite them blind. What you’ll learn is that the symptoms are actually your body’s way of trying to protect itself, so cling onto that, and re-read the doctor’s spiel when you’re riding out an attack.
The phrase ‘breathe properly’ is right up there in the annoying stakes of predictable advice with ‘drink more water’ or ‘exercise regularly’. Even more annoyingly, it’s true. Don’t breathe from the chest; breathe so your stomach fills out (put your hand on it to check).
Work out what your triggers are. And tackle them head on. When you’re in the middle of a panic write down all the things you’re fretting about. They’ll seem smaller on paper than they do in your mind.
The boring stuff
Don’t smoke. Don’t do drugs. Don’t drink caffeine like it’s water. And eat sensibly. In my more juvenile days I once adopted a (short-lived) Diet Coke, Camel Lights and Haribo diet, which is like the holy triangle of fuel for panic attacks. What a wally. I don’t care if you have a new figure-humping leotard from Topshop that you really want to wear to a party. Befriend the calming carbohydrate and wear something baggy; chances are you’ll look hotter and more nonchalant anyways.
Empty your mind
Full blown Buddhist meditation might be a step too far for some, but London is brimming with all sorts of courses to help you find peace of mind. Try Matthew Johnstone’s Quiet the Mind at The School of Life. His book has pretty illustrations in it, too. What’s not to love?
The School of Life
70 Marchmont Street
Tel: 020 7833 1010
Image by star5112 courtesy of Flickr