Controlling Your Breathing During Panic Attacks
A common symptom of a panic attack is the feeling of being short of breath, so these individuals tend to breathe quickly during an episode. Taking control of your breathing is essential as it greatly helps in easing other symptoms of a panic attack as well. When you feel an attack coming on, you may start by trying to breathe in as slowly and as deeply as you can through your nose and to breathe out in the same manner through your mouth.
If you are finding it difficult to do so, another technique would be to count to five on each gentle inhalation and each exhalation. You can keep your focus by closing your eyes and just concentrating on your breathing. Once youve done this simple breathing exercise, you should start feeling a whole lot better after a few minutes.
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Understanding Panic Attacks Is A Great First Step
Once we understand what goes on in our body and mind during a panic attack, well learn to realize that were capable of handling them. The more you understand whats going on, the more you may be able to reduce the fear of a panic attack.
Talk to your doctor, speak with a counselor, do your own research, and use a resource like Rootd that has a full series of lessons on understanding anxiety & panic attacks.
And because there are medical conditions that mimic the symptoms of a panic attack, having a medical assessment may be beneficial before trying out the techniques mentioned above.
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How Common Are Anxiety Disorders
The World Health Organisation estimates that 1 in 13 people have an anxiety disorder. This means that there are more than half a billion people living with a highly treatable mental illness.
What does this mean for you?
If you are experiencing prolonged anxiety, you are not alone. It is common for people with an anxiety disorder to feel isolated and misunderstood. The good news is that anxiety can be effectively managed with the right type of guidance from a health professional.
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Natural Breathing Or Abdominal Breathing
Breathing deeply and slowly getting the air into the diaphragm, which is the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen, will look as if your stomach is expanding and then contracting with each breath.
This type of breathing pattern is called natural breathing or abdominal breathing.
But how to do this? You may wonder. Try slowly inhaling a normal amount of air through your nose to fill your lower lungs and then exhale slowly, you may feel a bit dizzy at first but it is normal.
Place your hand on your stomach and one in your chest.
While you are inhaling slowly and focusing on letting the air go into your diaphragm you will see and feel how the hand on your stomach rises while the one in your chest stays still.
Moreover, keep breathing and concentrate on your breathing for a few minutes.
If you notice, it is completely different from the breathing pattern someone that is having a panic attack will display since as we have mentioned, breathing becomes rapid and shallow.
Ask Them If They Are Having One
The first thing most people can do to help someone having a panic or anxiety attack is quite simple: ask them if they are having one. This question lets you know if the individual has had a panic attack before. If they have, you can then ask them if they would like you to help or if there is anything that you can do for them. However, sometimes this may be the patientâs first anxiety or panic attack. In this case, they may find it even more terrifying, since they may not immediately know what is happening. Asking them if they are having a panic attack can help get the thought into their mind. However, it is vital for you to remain calm and still ask if you can offer them help.
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Relax Your Body To Ease An Anxiety Attack
It’s easy to say, “Just relax,” right? But once you start to observe your body during an anxiety attack, you might find that certain parts of your body clench up during an attack. Make a deliberate effort to tighten and then relax those parts of your body.
Or, if those parts feel like they wont obey during an anxiety attack, pick a body part that will respond, such as your toes or your shoulders. The more you can breathe deeply and relax, the easier it will be to cope.
I Cant Catch My Breath
Feeling like âI canât catch my breath!â is probably the most common of all panic symptoms. Your breathing feels labored, you strain to take a deep breath, you fear youâre not going to get it â and the harder you try, the worse it feels!
When you feel short of breath, it doesnât mean youâre not getting enough air. In fact, people will often say âI canât catch my breathâ, and this shows that theyâre getting air, because we talk by making air vibrate. If youâre talking, youâre breathing! Itâs not a dangerous symptom.
But it does get people very scared, and it produces other uncomfortable physical symptoms, so itâs worth your while to be able to correct it.
Youâve probably already had it told to you, and youâve probably also read it as well, that what you need to do is âtake a deep breathâ. If youâre like most people, that advice hasnât helped you much. Itâs good advice, but itâs incomplete. It doesnât tell you how to take a deep breath. A good breathing exercise should tell you how to take a deep breath, and thatâs what Iâm going to do.
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Symptoms Of An Anxiety Attack
The symptoms of an anxiety attack differ from one person to the next. Some common symptoms include:
- Feeling tense, nervous, or fearful
- Hyperventilation, or rapid breathing
- Worrying about the past or future
Breathing exercises can offer anxiety relief as you learn to manage and reduce these symptoms.
How Breathwork Can Help
What this means is that breathwork controlling your breathing can be a surprisingly effective tool. Since the mental and physical aspects of the equation are so entangled, turning your attention to whats going on in the body can directly benefit the mind.
Breath is key to dealing with anxiety, both as a first-aid measure and as a daily practice to work towards reduction of the anxiety itself, say Michelle Deane and Jo Gee, a holistic therapist and a CBT therapist respectively at the Luna Hive. It sounds contrary to consider working with breathwork techniques when we are struggling to breathe properly. But focusing on our breath is an extremely powerful tool to calm things down quickly.
Richie Bostock, otherwise known as , is a breathwork teacher who teaches classes via the Fiit app. He maintains that working with your breath can help control your mental, physical and emotional state, and points out that using your breath with purpose is the easiest way to affect the parasympathetic nervous system.
Because breathwork bridges the gap between physical activity and things like meditation and mindfulness, it is very appealing for people who are interested in moving into the meditation space, but find that a little intimidating or challenging, he says. Breathwork uses breathing patterns, like connecting the inhale to the exhale without pausing between the two. This restores balance to the stress response systems, instantly relieving feelings of anxiety or stress.
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What Is A Panic Attack
One in 4 people will experience one or more panic episodes in their lifetime. While there are some genetic factors, experiencing a panic attack is normal and not a sign that you are weak or lesser than others.
According to Lifeline:
A panic attack is a sudden and intense feeling of terror without the presence of danger. Panic attacks are usually brief and frightening while they last. Sometimes there is a specific trigger, while at other times they seem to come out of the blue. While panic sensations are a natural response to danger, panic attacks are usually out of proportion to any actual danger you might be facing.
Human beings are naturally wired to respond to stress and life-endangering events. Our sympathetic nervous system releases energy to prepare the body for action . Once the danger is over, our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to stabilise the body.
When the parasympathetic nervous system fails to do its job, a person will continue to feel a heightened sense of physiological sensations characteristic of a panic attack.
When panic attacks are experienced frequently, they are called a panic disorder.
In extreme circumstances, a person who experiences more than one panic attack may develop a lifestyle in avoidance to their panic triggers. This prevents them from leaving their safety of their room or home due to their constant fear and worry of experiencing another panic attack.
Learn To Recognize The Emotional Symptoms
Along with physical symptoms, there are emotional or psychological symptoms that are brought on by panic attacks. These include:
- Feelings of fear, dread, or doom
- Loss of control
- A feeling of going crazy
- A loss of connection from reality or a feeling of detachment
These symptoms can range in intensity and can occur before, after, or along with physical symptoms.
Panic attacks can be so distressing that they can cause the person to feel as though they are dying, and the experience of having a panic attack can bring about additional fear or anxiety of future panic attacks.
When panic attacks continue to occur over time, it could be a sign of a panic disorder.
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Why Might I Have A Panic Attack
A panic attack can happen at any time or place, including at nighttime, and because it can happen quite quickly, it might feel unexpected.
Because a panic attack is an intense feeling of fear and anxiety, it often happens if you are feeling very anxious about something happening in your life, or you have experienced something difficult or stressful. This might be:
- a difficult situation at home that is making you anxious
- a frightening experience like abuse, or neglect
- feeling stressed about things like exams, work, friendships or relationships
- if you have lost a friend or family member
- if you are being bullied
- anxiety around school, college or university
There are many reasons why you might feel anxious and have a panic attack. Everyone has different experiences and thats okay. Sometimes, it might feel like there is no clear reason why you are having a panic attack.
Whats important is to try and understand what you might be feeling anxious or stressed about, and what types of situations or places can cause you to have panic attacks.
The first step to doing this is to talk to someone you trust, like a friend, family member, teacher or GP. They can help you understand what you are experiencing and help you find the support you need.
I get a pounding heart and my breathing becomes rapid like I cant get any air in – it feels stuck in the back of my throat.
To Stave Off Panic Don’t Take A Deep Breath
A new treatment for the feeling of suffocation that accompanies a panic attack focuses on getting patients to breathe less.
The treatment, which involves a technique for altering your breathing, is more effective at alleviating both short-term panic disorder symptoms and hyperventilation than traditional psychological therapy, and it may make people less prone to panic attacks in the first place, said study leader Alicia Meuret of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
The treatment is called capnometry-assisted respiratory training, or CART.
“In a certain way, CART was superior because it was changing the psychological symptoms and the abnormal physiological state,” Meuret told LiveScience.
Take a shallow breath
Panic disorder is characterized by sudden, reoccurring bouts of terror coupled with physical symptoms such as a racing heartbeat, sweaty palms and hyperventilation. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 6 million American adults have panic disorder.
Panicking people are often told to calm down and “take a deep breath,” Meuret said. But for someone hyperventilating during a panic attack, deep breathing is a bad idea. That’s because hyperventilation happens when people breathe so quickly and deeply that they expel an unusually high amount of carbon dioxide, which in turn causes symptoms like dizziness and numbness. Those symptoms tend to make people feel like they’re suffocating, so they breathe quicker and deeper, further exacerbating the problem.
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What Causes Shortness Of Breath
Breathing can be a good marker for an individual’s internal state, so it makes sense that if an individual is experiencing panic, anxiety, and/or high levels of stress, their breathing will reflect that. According to research, changes in breathing can trigger a panic attack, increase levels of anxiety, and intensify a panic attack that has already begun. Studies indicate that:
- Shortness of breath is linked to the body’s fight or flight response as the body attempts to take in more oxygen and prepares to defend itself.
- Shortness of breath in the context of panic attacks and panic disorder have a genetic and/or hormonal component.
When To See A Healthcare Provider
Keep in mind that some stress is normal when youre experiencing a major life change. But you may want to see a health professional for your anxiety symptoms or if youre having frequent panic attacks.
This is especially true if your anxiety interferes with daily life. Its also the case if your stress and anxiety are related to existing health issues or if you feel that they may be the cause of new ones.
Psychotherapy may help you better understand the cause of your stress and alleviate its symptoms. Depending on the cause of your anxiety, a healthcare provider may prescribe medication that can help, too.
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Conscious Breathing During A Panic Attack: 3 Breathing Exercises
The following three breathing exercises will help you to calm down quickly, at any moment you might need it. You can also do these exercises without having a panic attack, given they are beneficial for your health, each and every day. When you regularly practice slow breathing exercises, your nervous system becomes more balanced which makes you better prepared for those moments when you do panic.
Use Your Smartphone For Distraction
My Words With Friends addiction is a tad out of control, but it sure comes in handy when Im feeling eclipsed by panic.
Games like crossword puzzles and word searches , says Dr. Masand. The idea is it can act as a distraction to the fear or the body symptoms of anxiety. Our smartphones offer a plethora of great coping tools and this is something the majority of us already carry with us. Download some games that will distract you and get your mind off of the unpleasant symptoms you are feeling. You can also download relaxing music and guided relaxation sessions.
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Shortness Of Breath Vs Hyperventilating
Shortness of breath, also referred to as dyspnea, and hyperventilation, also known as overbreathing, are intimately connected to each other. When you feel shortness of breath, you may breathe faster, which can lead to hyperventilationand, in turn, hyperventilation can trigger or worsen shortness of breath. Hyperventilation:
- Can intensify feelings of panic, stress, and anxiety
- Can decrease the carbon dioxide in your blood
- Can lead to faintness, nausea, numbness or tingling, and dry mouth
- Can lead to feeling restricted and tight in your chest
- Can lead to feeling confused and out of it
- Can disrupt your sleep
Exercise : Standing Tripod Position
The standing tripod position is called goalkeppers position in german this because it resembles a goalies stance when waiting for a shot on the goal. You are probably also familiar with this position with other athletes. After strenuous exertion, for example sprinting, athletes assume this stance.
How to do it:
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Concentrate On Your Breathing
Focus on breathing in slowly, then breathing out slowly. It can be helpful to count when youre breathing to focus your mind. You can start small at first, like counting to three as you breathe in and counting to three as you breathe out. When you begin to calm down, you can increase how long you hold each breath to five seconds or seven seconds.
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How To Help Someone Who Is Having A Panic Attack
It can be difficult to know what to do when someone has a panic attack, especially if you’re supporting a friend or family member, but there are things you can do to help.
- Stay with the person
If you can, stay with the person during their panic attack. Just by you being there, you can help them to calm down and remind them that help is available. It is okay if you are finding it overwhelming. You can find another friend, family member or teacher they trust to support your friend and you.
- Talk to them and encourage them
You can chat to the person about how they are feeling or anything that they like, such as favourite Netflix shows or their hobbies. This can distract them from their anxious thoughts, helping them to feel calm and to slow down their breathing. They might find it difficult to talk and might want to focus on their breath – thats okay and its important to respect their boundaries and how they are feeling.
- Check in with your friend
Even though your friend may no longer be panicking, they can still feel anxious or on edge afterwards. You can check in with them to see how they are feeling. This will remind them that they are not alone and you are there for them.