Help With Panic Attacks and Anxiety
Symptoms of a Panic Attack
You won’t often notice when someone is suffering from low level anxiety. However, when it gets extreme, or results in a panic attack you can recognise certain symptoms. An anxious person’s breathing usually becomes very fast and shallow. They might gulp air and it can appear like they have difficulty breathing in. They may also perspire and look pale or even a little grey and their hands may shake. Other symptoms are shortness of breath, numbness, chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, light headedness, sweating, weakness and chest pain.
A Simple Exercise to Help With Anxiety or Panic Attacks
Here is a simple exercise you can practice if you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks. This is also a good exercise to learn and practice when you are not in an anxious state. This way the body gets used to breathing in the most healthy way for letting go of tension. A good time to do this is before sleeping at night. It will help you to get off to a good night’s sleep, and allow the subconscious mind to absorb the new way of breathing as you head into sleep.
Breathe in gently through the nose for a count of four, then breathe out through the nose for a count of eight, completely emptying the lungs.
This type of breathing stimulates the part of your nervous system responsible for relaxation. Our biology works in such a way that when you breathe like this, your body naturally responds by relaxing. Close your eyes, get out of your thoughts and just concentrate on the breath.
On the inbreath, allow your tummy to extend. Your diaphram (the big muscle which lies underneath the lungs) can then drop, allowing you to breathe into the bottom of the lungs. On the outbreath, consciously think about dropping your shoulders, letting go of tensions in the neck, forhead, eyes and back. Encourage the whole body to relax and let go on each extended outbreath.
Not enough Oxygen?
Why is this exercise helpful when it feels like you are not getting enough air or oxygen? Although it feels like you can’t breathe in, its actually the outbreath which is the problem. This short or incomplete outbreath results in an imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.
What is Hyperventilation?
An imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood results in hyperventilation. That is you ‘over-breathe’ and take in too much oxygen. We need a certain amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) to be able to extract and utilise oxygen in the blood. When you hyperventilate, or breathe too quickly your body doesn’t retain enough CO2. Without enough CO2 your body can’t access the oxygen you have breathed in. This makes you feel like you are not getting enough air. Ironically, you have too much oxygen.
Hyperventilation all by itself can cause a panic attack. And if not, it will definitely increase your anxiety. If the outbreath is too short, the lungs are not emptied properly and so you can’t get a proper inbreath. This is what gives the impression that the inbreath is the problem. Focus on an extended slow out breath. By doing this you take in less oxygen with a shorter inbreath. This calms down the breathing pattern and stops you from hyperventilating.
Quick Fixes for Hyperventilation
- Paper bag breathing. If you happen to have one nearby, breathe in and out of a paper bag for several breaths. This helps you to re-inhale the CO2 that you exhale and quickly brings relief.
- Nose breathe while doing some brisk exercise. A brisk walk or jog while nose breathing will help regulate your breathing. Exercise will also help your stress levels which contribute to anxiety and panic attacks.
- Hold your breath. Simply hold your breath for 10-15 seconds. Repeat a few times to prevent dissipation of CO2.
Symptoms Getting Worse?
When our nervous system is in overload our unconscious sympathetic nervous system can remain stimulated. This results in our body going into fight/flight response and getting stuck there. This is ok if you need to get away fast from a real threat, or need to slay a tiger. But in today’s environment this is often not the case. The adrenalin that pours into your system preparing you to deal with a real threat would have been released through running or fighting back in the past. In our modern environment we often have no recourse to this. This is why regular exercise is so important for anyone suffering from any kind of anxiety disorder. We need to process these bodily chemicals or we can stay in a state of hypervigilance and anxiety by default.
When To Seek Help
If your symptoms get worse, think about seeing a professional. A good one can help you get to the bottom of why you are anxious. Often there will be a combination of things affecting you. Some may be current e.g. work stress, while others can be things you are still carrying from the past. You may be unaware of these things. Often the events that cause the most powerful physical reactions are the ones we have suppressed. That means you may not remember them at all but they still put a load on your nervous system. Typically our body and mind can take a lot, but there is a tipping point. A relatively small incident may be the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ leading to overload in the nervous system and corresponding symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. But underneath that straw is usually a history of things that have built up over time.
Kate Kalin is a Kinesiologist from New Zealand, living in Cork City Ireland. She has over 30 years experience in dealing with children, adolescents and adults in the personal development field.
Intentions – How to persist with them
You know how it is. You have the best of intentions. You are determined to make a change, this time…….. Yeah right. Most of us have no problem keeping promises to others, but can’t do the same for ourselves. Why is this?
I CAN DO IT FOR OTHERS, WHY NOT FOR ME?
You are probably a decent person who hates letting others down, right? You want to be known as a person who keeps their word. It makes you feel better about yourself and it also makes life simpler, true? Conversely, if you break a promise you pay a high price out in the real world. Relationships suffer. You might get a reputation as unreliable and lose others’ trust. You might be called irresponsible, lazy or unmotivated. That’s not good for you personally or professionally. Don’t pay what you promised, and your house could be repossessed! Let your girl/boy friend down and they might even leave you – god forbid!
But, when you break a promise to yourself, well…… have you ever tried to leave yourself? Have you ever tried to talk about yourself behind your own back (it’s impossible!). It’s also pretty darned difficult to have a full-on argument with yourself without ending up in a straight-jacket. Your reputation doesn’t suffer because no-one, least of all you, goes around proclaiming that you are a liar!
There are no consequences at all out there in the real world. That’s why it is just too darned easy for us to break our word to ourselves.
WHAT WOULD YOUR LIFE LOOK LIKE?
If you kept all the promises you made to yourself and stuck with your intentions, how would your life look? Promises like: “I’m going to only eat healthy food” “I’m going to stick to a budget.” “I’m going to get out of this crummy job.” “I am going to give up ……. (take your pick).” Would you be enjoying life more? Would you be more organised, fitter, healthier, financially free, less stressed or more peaceful?
The truth is most of us need outer accountability to make major changes in our lives. We’ve all been there. I spent seven years procrastinating over doing my Masters degree. I knew it was going to help my career and my life in general. It was only after being coached that I finally put my portfolio together and enrolled. I trusted that I would be accepted, even though I had no undergraduate degree.
SUPPORT WHEN YOU GET STUCK
Coaching helped me believe in my potential which kept me going when I floundered. My coach moved me forward when I was stuck or unmotivated. He helped me build awareness about how I was sabotaging myself. I flew through my M.A. (with honours I might add), no problemo. That was some years ago now. But today I still meet with a coach about my business, and any other issues that may arise. I don’t have to go it alone. I have support and feedback from someone whose only agenda is to help me succeed. The value of being coached is priceless. It impacts on every area of my life now, and will in the future.
Katie Kalin is a coach and kinesiologist based in Cork Ireland.She offers online consultations where she enables you to access your own wisdom through teaching you how to self muscle test.
Disclaimer: This is educational material and is not a subsitute for medical diagnosis or professional help. If you are suffering from physical symptoms you think may be caused by severe anxiety or that you may be having panic attacks be sure to seek professional help.