Use This GIF to Calm Anxiety and Panic Attacks

If you’re feeling very anxious or having a panic attack the first thing to know is that you’re going to be okay. It may feel awful, as if you’re going to lose control, or even die, but you’re not, everything is going to be okay.

Understand it’s only a feeling. So it’s important to try to recognise you are anxious or having a panic attack and nothing more. This will ensure you don’t add fuel to the flames.

We’re going to do an exercise called Deep Abdominal Breathing. This is effective because when having a panic attack many of the symptoms we experience are related to hyperventilation — which is fast and shallow breathing. When we go into hyperventilation, we breathe out carbon dioxide too quickly, resulting in low levels of it in the body. This is identified immediately by the amygdala and triggers a highly reactive response. This is why people who are having a panic attack are advised to breathe into a paper bag; the bag will capture the expelled carbon dioxide, allowing it to be inhaled back into the bloodstream.

However, by using conscious deep breathing we can relax the amygdala and prevent hyperventilation, or bring it under control after it has been triggered. Deep breathing will also help to switch our body from the aggressive fight or flight sympathetic nervous system to the much calmer parasympathetic nervous system.

Step 1

Sit as comfortable as you possibly can, placing one hand on the chest and one hand on the stomach. If you’re unable to sit down you can still do this exercises standing up.

Take a deep breath in and see which part of your body rises — do it now. People often find that their chest rises as they breathe in. However, effective abdominal breathing will cause your stomach to expand as you inhale and retract as you exhale. Your chest shouldn’t move much at all.

So now try to focus on breathing deeply in a way that expands your stomach as you fill your lungs with air. Breathe in — You should feel your stomach rising underneath your hand when you breathe in. Many people tend to pull their stomachs in as they inhale, which keeps the diaphragm from expanding downward effectively. So focus your attention on your stomach rising as you inhale.

Step 2

Then, following the GIF above — Breathe in deeply for 1 and 2 hold and breathe out slowly for 1, 2 3, 4, 5. Keep repeating until you calm down.

Now I want you to bring your attention away from your breathing and become aware of your surroundings, the sounds around, the sights, even the smells. The feel of your feet against the floor.

You can find an audio version of this exercise on Soundcloud or Youtube

If you found this article helpful and want to more detailed instructions and further exercises, they are available in: Overcome Anxiety: A Self Help Toolkit for Anxiety Relief and Panic Attacks, available from Amazon in the USA and U.K.

My Online Course: Overcome Anxiety and Panic Attacks — A Self Help Workbook Course for Anxiety Relief and Panic Attacks is available at a discounted price on Udemy by using this link

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