In a panic

An overwhelming rush of energy courses through your body 

When we are stressed cortisol and adrenaline levels increase in the body; a surge of energy that pushes you into action. You suddenly feel your heartbeat increase, you begin to breathe faster and can start sweating.

In the face of something frightening

This reaction is called the ‘fight-or-flight response’, a physiological response to stress.

The sensations are associated with a threat to survival, as the body prepares to meet danger and attack, or flee the scene to safety. But there is no physical danger as such – there is no sabre-toothed tiger in front of us (as our ancestors would have had). Instead, the attack we are dealing with is our own panic. 

Generation Panic’ers (high achieving professionals in their 20s to 30s) are experiencing this response, despite being far from life-threatening danger. The panic attack is triggered by our internal threats, which can be caused by memories of the past or worries about the future. As a result, this response can happen in every day situations, such as meeting your boss for a meeting at work or arriving at a party where you do not know anyone. When these thoughts and bodily reactions hit us, even without an obvious external danger as such, our emotional reaction can feel overwhelming. 

Our breathing is the most powerful tool 

When I first had a panic attack I was terrified. My throat got tight, I felt sick and completely out of control. It felt like I was unable to get enough oxygen into my body and I could not catch my breath.

As simple as it sounds, breathing deeply and calmly – right down in to the pit of my tummy has been an excellent tool to control my anxiety. When I am able to breathe deeply, it sends a message to my body to feel calmer. However, when panicking it is difficult to “just breathe deeper”; knowing that you need to do it doesn’t make it any easier to actually do it.

Therefore, one of my favourite exercises to get my breathing under control is the following tip for your toolbox, ‘Make it rain’. It helps to calm you down, so that then you are able to focus on your breath again and get it under control. Here is how it goes:

Toolbox: Make it rain
Close your eyes and imagine that you are standing under a calm waterfall. Let the waterfall wash over your head, over your shoulders and down your back, and as it does, breathe deeply right into the depths of your tummy. As the calm water continues to cascade over your body, feel peace wash over you. Let it wash your anxieties and worries off your body, downstream, away from you – and just let things be. Then breathe deeply yet again. And another deep breath, letting go.

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