I’ve experienced five fairly severe panic attacks in my life – once as a child, twice during my London commuter days and unfortunately they happened on public transport and two whilst working abroad – one in Laos and one in Morocco. I’ve learned something from each experience, they are horrendous but you get through them. I’m aware of what triggers me and I am aware of the physical sensations of anxiety indicating that a panic attack is on its way. I’ve reached a point now where I have been able to stop them and if not, I manage to control my breathing enough for the worst to pass quickly.
Unlike what you might think, panic attacks paralyse you rather than make you go wild. Or that’s how they manifest for me. I lose control of my limbs and my whole self. Everything is a cold sweat, you lose your senses, it’s like your ears close in and you can’t see anything. You feel like you’re going to die or you’d rather die than cope with the awfulness of what is currently happening. I have to get close to the ground, breathe, and ride it out until it eventually passes. It ALWAYS passes.
My hope is that through sharing my own experience in coping with anxiety and panic attacks I can offer some words of advice and support through this toolkit.
Please note*** I am in no way medically trained. Everything written is from my heart, my opinion, based on my own personal experiences in the hope it can offer help and support to others experiencing the same.
Grab some paper or a journal:
What is your experience with anxiety and/or panic attacks?
How do you hope this toolkit can help you?
What are your honest expectations – do you think it can help or not?
Are you open to this toolkit helping you? Can it help you develop ritual? Coping techniques? Tips on dealing/living with anxiety even if it can’t cure it?
Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig (Or anything by Matt Haig!) I’ve loved Humans and How to Stop Time – both by Matt.
The Power of Now – Eckhart tolle
Be Here Now – Ram Dass
Be As You Are – The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi – Edited by David Goodman
With a piece of paper, a mini-easel, any artisitic medium, express the word “Calm”.
Develop a positive affirmation to recite to yourself every time you begin to feel anxious/low or to recite during an unfortunate panic attack. This thought could help you remain centred and grounded. It must begin with the words “I am”. Eg. “I am ALIVE”. You can stick with the same one or change it daily.
Anytime you say a negative perssimistic comment (especially about yourself), counteract it with a positive statement to create balance.
Develop a list of things you are good at:
Eg., Amazing friend, host, your job, so kind, you make everything including yourself beautiful, organised, artistically creative & talented… keep going…!
You can use the notes app on your phone if you don’t have paper!
In your journal create a list of self-care practices you can do every day to help you feel calm. You can use examples from this list and add your own.
certain foods – keep reading for more on this…
Breathing techniques – more below…
Turn the radio on to distract you from bad thoughts
Limit social media usage
Read before bed rather than screen time
What else can you add that will help revive you and help you feel of service?
Upon waking up:
Meditate or sit silently for 5 minutes. Notice how you feel this morning. Whats going on for you today in this moment? What thoughts are arising? What feedback is your gut giving you? What does your natural instinct say? What does the voice of your inner best friend say as opposed to your inner critic?
Take 3 x rounds of bumblebee breath. This is a very calming breath and this exercise will take 2 minutes only! Take a big inhale through your nose, as you exhale hum like a bee with your lips together. Hum for as long as possible. Repeat twice more.
Cleanse the day away – literally! Enjoy a bath or shower and a drop of relaxing essential oil (see below).
List mentally or write down 3 things you did today that you can give yourself credit for. Things you are proud of, actions you did or a part of your body your grateful for. Try not to always centre this around what you did for others. If you’re connect to a part of your body you’re grateful for place a hand there and send some healing through your own hands.
Foods that can help (this is only specific to anxiety):
Omega 3’s – mussels, sardines, anchovies
Eggs – apparently high in Choline. If you are deficient in choline it can increase anxiety. (Please make sure your eggs come from the best source possible – like a friendly neighbour with happy chickens!)
Daily tips & reminders:
I recently heard this very centering and grounding thought in a movie:
“We are not here to worry about ourselves. We are here to help serve the greater good.”
Take a forest bath – bathe under trees and walk in nature for at least 20 minutes a day. 21 minutes is the recommended amount.
Move your body – in any way!
Try this breath exercise: Inhale for 4 counts, hold breath for 7 (meant to strengthen vocal chords), exhale for 8.
Sounds simple but take 10 deep cleansing long breaths in and out through the nose to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system.
Smell your essential oil blend – to help with breathing and relaxing. Lovely calming essential oils are:
- Ylang Ylang
My favourites are lavender and frankincense. Lovely rubbed into the base of your spine if blended with a carrier oil, or a drop of each in the bath.
Hum your favourite tune (if you don’t feel like singing). Vibration helps!
Stop catastrophizing everything. Give things an honest likelihood of them happening and assign a percentage to them before thinking the absolute worst is likely to happen. Remember you’re not alone lost in the jungle!
Purr like a cat! Repeat 5 times and notice if you begin to feel calmer – or it will make you laugh which is never a bad thing!
If crystals are your vibe, I like to hold or have nearby, Amethyst, moon stone, clear quartz and rose quartz.
Enjoy a glass of tepid water or sip soothing tea
Fake laugh – until it feels so ridiculous you’re actually laughing
Talk about it – Call or leave a voice note for a friend, family member or someone professional. There are people around willing to listen so you can let it goooooo!
Remember you are loved. Remember others feel the same. Remember you are not crazy. Remember you are not alone.
Another quote I recently heard and liked – Cher said recently on Graham Norton that her Mum told her:
“If it won’t be important or remembered in five years then it’s not worth worrying about.”
Someone once said this on Big Brother YEARS ago and I always remembered it because it makes me laugh every time:
“Whenever I feel sad I just think of that poor woman who’s face got ripped off by a chimpanzee!”
If a panic attack is imminent, let someone know, even if it’s a stranger. You don’t have to deal with it alone. When I’ve been alone on public transport I told the strangers nearest me. I found myself in a seat both times and one time also with a bottle of water. I don’t even know who you were but THANK YOU. I believe people are more often than not, KIND and willing to help.
Thank you for reading. I hope this in some big or even teeny tiny way has made a difference.