How to release out of the grips of a panic attack?

By De-Anne Joseph, 4th July 2018.

If you have ever experienced a panic attack, you would understand the intense and gripping nature of it. They can be extremely frightening with quite intense physical sensations. Some of the symptoms can include, but are not limited to, a pounding or racing heart; shortness of breath; or for some the feeling of suffocation; sweating; hot or cold flushes; shaking; or nausea.

It is not clear why most panic attacks occur. What we do know is that it activates the adrenal system, the fear based "flight/fight" responses and the associated hormonal cascade and release of adrenaline that comes with it. Some can be triggered by specific fears or phobias while for others they can happen quite unexpectedly for no apparent reason.

Here are some methods, which can support you during a panic attack and help you move through it.

Hold your head – Sit down where possible. Place one hand on your forehead and the other over the back lower part of the skull (occiput). In Kinesiology, we call this frontal/occipital holding. This is very nurturing and gives you a sensation of calm. If you cannot safely or comfortably lie down to do this, sit on a chair hold your head and lean forward and rest your elbows on your knees. 

Count your breathing – Bring your attention within. This will help you manage your breathing. When breathing in count slowly (one one thousand, two one thousand etc.)  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, hold (one count), and out 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, The breath must be drawn down all the way to the belly and on the exhale ensure the air slowly moves out with the sensation of emptying the lungs and contracting the abdomen. Repeat this until you feel you are in control.

Release the tension in body  - Mentally scan where there are tight areas in the body. For most people it may be head, neck, shoulders and chest. On the in breath imagine sending the breath to this area, while on the out breath imagine the muscles relaxing like they are melting off the bones, feel it relaxing and keep doing this until you no longer feel any tension in that area. Then move to the next area until you feel totally relaxed.

Check in with your fear – Ask yourself about your symptoms. Is the breath going in and out of my lungs? Ask yourself questions such as have I drunk enough water today? Am I tired? Have I eaten or drunk something that may have stimulated or triggered this? Coffee or caffeinated products, sugar, chocolate or even cacao can trigger in some people a racing heart or the feeling of heart palpitations. Don’t let your mind race to stresses of the past or the future. Focus on the present and what is happening right now. Don’t dismiss your feelings but relax into them, let them move through you and remind yourself this will pass easily and quickly. Say this as a mantra if you need to. 

Hydrate – Drinking water sipping slowly and consciously can support the body and the help flush out the rush of adrenaline.

Go for a brisk walk –  Staying still and relaxing with adrenaline rushing around your body can be difficult to do. If you can go for a brisk walk and breathe deeply, it can help. If leaving the room is not an option, shadow boxing can help. This is where you pretend to fight off the invisible beast of fear, think about punching it away. Jump up and down on the spot and pretending to box against the air like you are Muhammad Ali activates the fight muscles and allows you to release the adrenaline. Once you feel your energy shift back down a gear then you can go back to sitting down and regulating your breathing like in step two.

Magnesium -  Can support the body as magnesium is one of minerals required to produce adrenaline. Magnesium can physically help to regulate muscle function (remember the heart is also a muscle!!). Having a Magnesium Sulfate or Epsom salts bath can also support the absorption of magnesium through the skin into the muscles.

Most panic attacks only last a couple of minutes, however the intensity can be extremely strong. Both Kinesiology and Hypnotherapy are powerful tools that can help to support you to release the unconscious patterns of fear allowing your mind and body to relax. If fear is something you find difficult to manage yourself book in for an appointment today. There is no need to hang onto it any longer.

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