How to Manage and Heal your Panic Attacks
Your heart is beating out of your chest, your mouth is dry, and it feels like your throat is closing up. Strangely enough, it also feels like you're under the influence of a drug and you feel completely depersonalized. Your arms and legs start to feel cold and tingly. Intense terror and fear washes over you and you even feel like you're losing complete control.
You think to yourself:
Am I having a heart attack? Am I going insane? Do I need to go to the emergency room?
All of these questions race through our minds as we're caught up in the throes of a panic attack.
If you've never experienced anything like this, it can be difficult to understand how deeply uncomfortable and terrifying panic attacks can be. The body fills with a surge of adrenaline and you feel as if you're at the edge of a cliff about to fall. The problem is, you're most likely in a perfectly safe setting but you're overwhelmed with these emotions for no apparent reason.
Dealing with panic attacks can also feel terribly isolating because many of us who struggle with them often feel like no one understands what we’re experiencing. Words cannot describe (with accuracy) how panic attacks actually feel.
Having experienced these attacks on a daily basis for a significant portion of my life and having healed them completely, I would love to share some useful tips to anyone in need.
Let’s go over a few powerful methods you can use when you’re experiencing a panic attack:
When you begin to feel depersonalized or “mentally strange” (just as a panic attack is about to set in), tune into your senses. Identify three things in your general vicinity that you can see, then identify 3 things you can hear, followed by 3 things you can smell and taste. Tune into your senses and bring your awareness back into your body.
Next, imagine that roots are growing out from the soles of your feet. Visualize these roots digging down into the earth below you and try to feel them reaching down into the center of the earth. Take a deep breath for a count of 6 and visualize your body filling up with green light from deep inside the planet. Breathe in the earth’s energy and allow it to trap the anxious energy within you like a fishing net. Exhale slowly for another 6 seconds and visualize the green energy leaving you and dragging away the anxious energy down into the earth. Do this 3-4 times or until you begin to feel a bit more calm.
It’s also an excellent idea to spend time in nature on a regular basis. Try to spend at least 1 hour, preferably 3 times a week, out in nature. Taking a walk through the park, spending time in a nearby forest, going to a hiking trail, or even gardening in your backyard will work wonders for your mental health. What you want to do is take a break from electronics, artificial light, and crowded/noisy areas. Whether we realize it or not, these things overstimulate us on a mental level and we need to give ourselves a break. Studies have shown that being in nature has therapeutic benefits and brain wave activity is also said to change after just a few minutes in a forest or park. I personally believe that nature is very healing and during my most anxious times, a 1 hour walk through my neighborhood park always helped me center and ground into my reality.
For those of us who have panic attacks which are triggered by more existential subjects, I would recommend taking a break from “intellectual activities” for some time. As many of us have already discovered, if we are questioning our existence on a daily basis and trying to understand the meaning of reality without giving ourselves a small break , it will only make our panic worse. When it comes to anything having to do with philosophical, spiritual, political, or intellectual topics, try to take a break from them as much as possible. Stop watching the news, pass on that documentary on Netflix, put away that book about Zen Buddhism, and don’t engage in conversations about life after death. Bring your awareness to the third dimension and allow yourself to be superficial for a few days. This can involve watching comedy shows, attending sports events, or even getting caught up on celebrity gossip. If you have friends or relatives who live more mundane lifestyles, call them up and catch up on what they’ve been doing with their lives. This can be very helpful since it takes our awareness away from ourselves and it’s a healthy form of distraction.
Release Excess Energy
During a panic attack we may feel that we're on the verge of bursting due to the built up energy within us. For those of us who do energy healing, this might come naturally, but for the rest of us, we need to learn to release this excess energy so that we find immediate relief from the panic attack.
An exercise you can do to release this excess energy involves a simple visualization paired with a breathing exercise.
Slowly inhale through your nose for 6 seconds, then slowly exhale out your mouth, but while doing so, visualize the anxious energy in your body flowing down your left leg and into the earth below you.
You can also hold a rock or a gemstone and breathe the anxious energy out your left arm and into the stone. After the panic has subsided, you can bury the stone in your back yard or pass it through running water for a few seconds.
You may have to do this exercise a few times, but I promise that the more you do it, the better you will feel.
Do the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise
When we feel anxious some of us take more shallow breaths or even hold our breath without realizing it. Sometimes an attack might make us feel as if we're choking or our throats are closing up, but we need to remember that this is not physically happening. It's more of a psychological response to the adrenaline running through our bodies.
An excellent breathing exercise that lowers brainwave activity to take your mind out of a panic state involves inhaling deeply for 4 seconds, holding it for 7, and exhaling slowly for 8. If 7 and 8 seconds are too difficult to do, reduce it to 6 and 7 seconds.
Do this breathing exercise until you feel your anxiety begin to subside. It's truly a life saver when you feel like you're losing complete control.
Speak to the Anxiety
I know this might sound strange,but hear me out.
The emotions we feel have a message for us. Our subconscious mind some times knows things we're not entirely aware of during our normal day to day mindset. Our emotions always have important messages for us, but if we ignore them, the messages only get louder with time.
Next time you feel anxiety begin to creep up, try to sit with it and make your best effort to resist escaping the feeling. Out loud or in your mind say “I'm listening to you and I am present with you. I'm ready to hear what you have to say. What message do you have for me?”
Wait a few moments and be attentive of any words, phrases, images, or memories that come into your mind. Completely allow whatever has to come up to come up. Many times these messages will offer a clue as to why you're experiencing anxiety.
Let Go of Resistance
Carl Jung often said “what you resist persists” and this also applies to panic attacks.
The fact that we're trying to escape our panic only feeds the attack even more. I know it's challenging to not want to run away from such an intensely uncomfortable sensation, but the more fear we feed our panic attacks, the longer they will last.
During an attack, be mindful of your breathing and tune in to the feelings in your body. Pay attention to any physical tension you might be feeling as well. Most of us tend to feel tightness in our chest which might send us into a paranoid frenzy where we think we're having a heart attack. If this tends to happen to you, simply visualize a white light around your chest and gently massage the area. You will quickly notice that its your pectoral muscle that's tense and not your actual heart. Do this with other tense muscles in your body as well.
Repeat the phrase “I am having a panic attack and I am not in any danger. I am safe and sound.” This will train your mind to understand that there is absolutely no need to go into the fight or flight state.
If you're feeling brave enough, speak to your panic and tell it that you are not afraid of it. If you're feeling extra brave, demand it to get stronger. You will notice that it wont get stronger and in some cases your anxiety will even begin to dissipate immediately.
The key here is to not escape the feeling in any way and eventually (when you're ready) show it that you are in control.
Replenish your Body
Stress and anxiety can deplete your body of certain vitamins and minerals. What's worse is that a lack of certain nutrients in the body put a person into a vicious cycle, so to speak. For example: anxiety depletes magnesium levels, but low levels of magnesium cause feelings of anxiety. If you're concerned about being low on certain vitamins or minerals, see your doctor and find out if you're deficient in anything and if supplementation is necessary. During my most anxious moments I supplemented with magnesium, zinc, Omega-3, and a B-complex vitamin.
Other things you can take to get some mild relief are chamomile and linden tea, valerian root supplements, turmeric, and Bach flower remedies (I personally prefer Rescue Remedy.)
These are just a few effective methods to help you manage feelings of anxiety and panic.
Although these feelings are challenging to work through, I promise you that it will get better. Remember that you have more power than you allow yourself to believe and you will get through this difficult time.