Anxiety and panic disorders are common and can have a far-reaching impact on one’s life. According to Health24, panic disorder is characterised by the occurrence of repeated panic attacks, which last anything from a few seconds to a few minutes, but which are experienced as extremely frightening and uncomfortable.
Typically, someone who suffers from a panic attack is overcome by intense feelings of terror and fear that occur initially out of the blue and last only a few minutes. During a panic attack, people may fear they are having a heart attack, or are going crazy. They report a racing or pounding heartbeat, chest pains, dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, a feeling of smothering, breathlessness, tingling or numbness in the hands, hot flushes or chills, a sense of unreality, and a fear of losing control.
Experiencing a bout of anxiety or a panic attack at work can happen – and here’s what to do:
1. Accept your condition
Know the signs when a panic attack is about to hit and what can trigger it. Symptoms of an impending panic attack can include shortness of breath, nausea and a racing heartbeat. Tell yourself that it’s okay to feel anxious and that you are in control.
2. Focus on your breathing
Be conscious of your breathing. Take slow, deep breaths through your nose and breathe out through your mouth, making an effort to get your heartbeat to slow down. These tips on healthy breathing may help you.
3. Leave your current space
When you feel overwhelmed, go to the nearest bathroom and run cold water over your wrists. Getting away from your current situation might help you gain a different perspective. Alternatively you can also step outside or go and sit in a boardroom for some privacy.
4. Use your senses
Focus on something you can touch, smell, feel or taste. This can help you focus on something else rather than the symptoms of your panic attack.
5. Get light exercise
If possible, depending on your surroundings, a short walk around the office building or around the block may help alleviate the feelings of panic.
6. Get help
Don’t suffer alone. Discuss the condition with a psychiatrist or doctor who may be able to put together a treatment plan, which may be a combination of medication or cognitive behaviour therapy. Don’t hesitate to visit the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) website for a guide on where to find help.
7. Utilise your workplace
Work environments differ, but it’s important to put your health first. Disclose your condition to a trusted colleague or your boss and make use of the benefits offered at your workplace. Some work environments offer flexi-time, remote working and on-site counselling that may be of great value if you suffer from anxiety or panic disorder.