Is This Excitement or Panic?

The human body, animal as well, does not know how to differentiate between the signals it receives for nerves and excitement, panic and doubt, the beginning and the end. We interpret the rush of emotion in the context of the story line of the moment.

When the flight, fight or freeze response is over ridden by our yearning for thrill seeking, many of us can be confused in our responses choosing inaction when there is really something dangerous to run from. One of the differences appears to be if we are blindsided by the nervous energy that over takes us. For instance, when we are at a concert or event where there is exciting anticipation for the band, orchestra or play to begin.

It makes sense to the context of the setting we are in. The body gets surges of ‘electric-like’ sensations that call us to be alert for what is about to happen. That is normally a good thing. The energy flows through us and leaves when the event has ended. It all makes sense and, sometimes, we are sharing the moments with others.

The panic response feels similar but with another negative story line going on in our heads. ‘Am I going to be okay? What if...?’ That is not something many of us share when we are with others. It feels like we are a neon sign for insanity.

Nothing makes sense. I have had panic attacks in crowded elevators with seemingly little air. The electric feeling is unwanted and my mind goes to a negative response to ‘What if…?’

Once we have taken the courageous action of reaching out and telling someone of a panic reaction to a situation that seemed normal, we receive ‘well-meaning’ advice such as “Just think of something else.” Or “There is nothing to be afraid of.” Sometimes, we hear things we’ve heard since our childhood like, “Snap out of it.” Our inner response has always been, “How?” Rarely did we then or do we now plead for that answer. “On our own,” seems to be how we’ve dealt with fear that overtakes us in our emotional state of being lost and alone. We can feel that way when surrounded by friends and co-workers.

My intention is to continue to encourage people with my mantra, “Let’s talk about it.” Holding our fears in without getting a sense of being centered leaves us thinking about our physical reactions as though death is near. How confusing is it to be panicked by no outward sign of danger? But, isn’t that what panic is? Some inner fear triggered by almost anything. It can be while driving in intense traffic or bad weather, being in an elevator or plane with ‘no way out’.

The answer to all panic is to breathe… just breathe. Slowly but surely, our bodies will sense the oxygen is coming in and we can self-sooth until we are ‘okay’. In meditation, if I don’t practice breathing in order to go inward and be comfortable with that inner part of me, it is difficult to convince myself I’m the one who can help me. ‘What if…’ takes over and I must seek someone, something, someplace outside of myself to help make me feel normal.

Let’s talk about it.

Debra Whittam is the author of “I'm I Going to be Ok?" For any media inquiries or questions please contact:

#panic #panicattacks

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