Last week I suffered my first panic attack. I talked about it – reflected on it – a little more in my last Sunday Series blog post so I’m not going to go into detail here. But it wasn’t something I had experienced before, nor something that I would like to experience again if I can help it!
Once I’d got myself semi-settled on the sofa, I reached out online via my Instagram for some advice. I consciously choose to follow people who speak openly about their mental health, so I felt like this was a safe space to share my experience, and I hoped that someone could confirm my suspicions and offer some advice.
I was right, and the responses I received were so wonderfully heart-warming. An incredible number of people reached out to share their own experience or offer advice and support – often both. They each confirmed what I think I already knew – that I had, more than likely, just suffered a panic attack. This, surprisingly, was actually a real comfort – at least I knew what I was dealing with.
The advice I received came of course from lots of personal experience and shouldn’t take the place of any advice that you, as an individual, have received from a professional. But I do hope that this ‘advice from friends’ gives you some extra tools and techniques to draw upon in times of high anxiety, worry and stress:
“It’s difficult, but relaxing with breathing is the first and most important thing you can do to change your mood”
- Deep breathing: sit down or lie down and place your hands on your belly. Take 5 really deep breathes, to inflate your belly and feel the breath go into your lungs and head. Pause and then breathe out through your mouth, letting every muscle relax each time you do.
- 4-6 breathing or 7-11 breathing: either one just means you are breathing out for longer than you are breathing in (which has. the effect of calming your parasympathetic nervous system). Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4 (or 7) pause for 2-counts at the top of the breath, then breathe out, slowly through your mouth for 6 (or 11).
- Meditation: follow a guided meditation to control your breathing- it’s easier than trying to do it alone. There are heaps and heaps of apps and YouTube videos available for guided meditations – even a short few minutes if you’re “not a meditation person” could help.
“I used to find that showering in the dark and the quiet a good way to re-set”
- The 5 Senses Technique:
In your head, or out loud, list (in as much detail as you can manage):
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
“…also lying down with something kind of heavy on top of me, it made me feel calm”
- Re-connect with feeling part of the physical space you are in: If there is someone with you, get them to hug you really tight, or lean on you, or or sit on you (if you know them well enough) so you can feel the weight of them. Maybe get them to breathe with you. If you are on your own, trying lying under a weighted blanket, or heavy cushion.
DISTRACT, REST, FEEL
“I used to do one thing that cheers me up, like listening to my favourite music and then watching something funny on TV”
“Working out why you had one – think about how you were feeling and what you were thinking in the time leading up to this, and talking to people about it”
“I always eat something sweet to boost my energy again”
- Attacks like this can take a real toll on our body. It will need time to rest and re-set, so allow it that time. Eat something, sleep if you need to.
As you can see, most of the advice focuses on different ways that you can re-connect with, and bringing ourselves back into the physical space we are in at the time. Then, also being mentally present in the present.
I hope this helps you.
Please also feel free to share it with anyone who you think could find this helpful.
Until next time,