Anxiety and Panic. How Does It Feel? The $64,000 Question

September 21, 2010 Kate White

So maybe you want to know: What is anxiety like? The $64,000 question. Shrinks, doctors, therapists, they all ask it:

How do you feel?

Recipe for Anxiety

  • Take a build-up of tension
  • Pile high with worry, and plenty of stress
  • A handful of racing, fearful thoughts - niggling, diving, driving the mind to a peak

Result: an anxiety attack. The mind swirls into muddy streams, where it crashes and you're sure, just sure, you can't breathe. And wait, when did the world turn 90 degrees?

In those moments, those all out terrifying 'what planet am I on' moments, panic gets into your system somehow. Something's lost, different, disturbing in a most unusual way.

By then I'm too busy worrying about the deja vu to focus on whatever it was that set things off. Hey, I'm probably going crazy anyway because what else could this whirlwind be?


You're not crazy. That whirlwind is all that goes unvoiced, and freedom is finding ways to let it be. Express your stress and pent-up energy in as many ways as you can, and you can beat anxiety.

Anxiety attack first-aid

After you've found a whole bunch of things to do with that energy - that's the first-aid part - then you can wonder how you ended up feeling so anxious in the first place.

Do the practical stuff. It helps. Relieves stress.
Then take the cognitive leaps (CBT).

There are just too many factors to name them when you're standing on the brink. I've tried it, and it wasn't the best idea. Like Jeopardy, only I hadn't signed up for the game and I'm trying to answer questions that evaporate in my ears as quickly as they came.

Unstitch my making. Yes, yes anxiety does exactly that. Then I have to put myself together again.

You can't see the lines where I've sewed up the gaps?

After my first panic attack, it was as though a chasm opened between where I stood, and where the world really was. My footing uncertain, strange new thoughts popped up, vying for a part and a name.

If I took a step to the left, and a jump to the right, would I end up somewhere safer than my mind?

Anxiety relief: Finding a voice

I started to worry that people could tell. That it showed, this nightmarish experience. Only, they couldn't tell, and they didn't know, and I lacked the language, not to mention the courage, to tell a single living soul.

Are you OK? That question is the bane of my existence. It's a dilemma: It shouldn't be. But it is - once terror, fear, stress, trauma, hopelessness, the odd bout of helplessness and a general uneasiness set in. The silent tremors which won't let you forget, no matter that they don't rate on the Richter scale. That's just a technicality.

You know how everyone seems to know where they were when 9/11 happened, or Princess Di died, or JFK was killed? Panic attacks are like that. You remember.

Which is why there aren't always words. And why it's so hard for friends, family, even therapists to always "get it". The intellectual understanding, it's a start though.

What helps? Living through it. Finding ways to tuck panic in a box, and be okay with that long enough to face a fear or two. No, not head on. You want to start out slow.

On anxiety management tools

There are all sorts of tips and tricks, anxiety coping skills for panic, PTSD, OCD, generalized or social anxiety issues. You learn.

It's the 'little' things, with anxiety. You have to know your fears, your anxiety triggers. You have to know them well enough to look them in the eye and say 'Boo!'.

APA Reference
White, K. (2010, September 21). Anxiety and Panic. How Does It Feel? The $64,000 Question, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Kate White

September, 30 2010 at 5:36 pm

I believe it too. Another dear old friend (whom I've known for 20 years) told me today that she's amazed at my strength.
Strength ... It's the quality I'm cultivating for dear life these days ;-)
WE. WILL. NOT. FALL. (And if we do ... UP WE COME!)

September, 28 2010 at 8:08 am

Oh Kate -- ha ha -- balance! What a joke, eh! ;-D
My balance hasn't been this akilter in years ... and at the same time, there's an eagle-eye within me that JUST. WILL. NOT. FALL.
... and if by chance I do, I am getting UP.
Check out my Pushing Fifty... blog for what's happening ...

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kate White
September, 28 2010 at 8:28 am

"there’s an eagle-eye within me that JUST. WILL. NOT. FALL.
… and if by chance I do, I am getting UP."
And I believe it!

September, 23 2010 at 6:57 am

Hey you xoxo
I am so thrilled that you're blogging here ... Your voice is friendly, original, wise, quirky and funny ... and you know your stuff :-)
Ah, yes ... anxiety attacks. I've had a few of them recently. I've found, lately, that my heart is most affected. Perhaps that's a function of being 51 years old ... I am finding it very helpful to lie down and gently rub a hand, clockwise, around my sternum and solar plexus ... all while remembering to breathe ;-D
A warm bath never fails to soothe me.
Sleep helps ... as long as I'm not night-maring ...
I tend to the absolute basics when anxiety threatens to overwhelm. Ground ... focus ... breathe ... establish safety (reality-check) ... drink some water ... eat a high-protein food if blood sugar's low. It's amazing how those little "basics" can turn the pitch and volume right down.
Boo! ;-D

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kate White
September, 25 2010 at 2:04 am

Jaliya!! My lovely :)
Heartfelt thank yous for your comments here.
Like that calming exercise. Will have to give it a go. Getting gently in touch with the body like that is goooood. Oh, and "basics" - ha - yeah, that's why I posted about balance this week. So many of those I just don't notice till I really sit down and focus and breathe.

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