Panic attacks are a common behaviour for people with anxiety and build up to almost mythical levels of dread for many of the clients I see in my therapy centre in Wilmslow, Cheshire.
A few facts about panic attacks
You can’t be hurt by a panic attack. Nothing bad happens. Your brain may tell you that panic attacks are terrible but connect with your experience.
Stand back and notice. Think of a time when you had a panic attack. Did you end up physically hurt? Was there lasting damage to your body?
Sometimes we listen too much to what our brain tells us and ignore the reality right in front of us.
You give the words “Panic Attack” too much power. It’s not uncommon for my clients to be terrified of having a panic attack and ironically, this increases their anxiety and they end up having one.
Step back and notice. You can defuse from the words “Panic attack”. Defusion is just the process of looking at the words rather than from the words.
Defuse from the words Panic attack
To defuse try singing your thoughts to a simple tune like happy birthday. Or you can speak your thoughts out loud in a silly voice or as dramatically as you can (careful doing this in the middle of Sainsbury’s though!)
All of these defusion techniques loosen the grip of the thoughts on you and give you wiggle room to carry out behaviours that take you towards calmness (like square breathing below).
My favourite method of defusing from the words “Panic attack” is to visualise an eighties heavy rock band who look like Spinal Tap.
This band is called – Panic Attack!. They are silly and grungy and, just like Spinal Tap, don’t really know what they are doing.
In my head they are blasting out cords making devil signs with their hands and all singing “Panic attaaaaaaack”. It makes me giggle.
Giggling and having a panic attack just don’t go together. (and yes – I’ve had panic attacks in the past too).
What can you do if you think you are going to have a panic attack?
You can do square breathing. It’s impossible to have a panic attack whilst square breathing. (Thanks to Mark Webster for the square breathing instructions).
- Practice square breathing daily so you can use it when you need it.
- Download a metronome app onto your phone to help you pace yourself. I use this one but there are loads you can get for free.
- set the metronome to 60 beats per minute and start it up.
- Breathe in for 4 seconds.
- Hold the breath for 4 seconds.
- Breathe out for 4 seconds
- hold for 4 seconds.
- concentrate on your breath.
- Repeat until you feel grounded.
When you have a panic attack your brain spirals out of control and you are not breathing correctly. Square breathing brings air into your lungs and focuses you back onto the here and now.
Try it and come back and comment on what happened for you at the bottom of this post.
Anxiety is inevitable, panic attacks are optional. Your behaviour makes a big difference in whether you suffer from them or not.
Read the book
The Happiness Trap (Based on ACT: A revolutionary mindfulness-based programme for overcoming stress, anxiety and depression) is the book I recommend for all my clients who come with anxiety, depression, stress, anger or..anything really. It”s a great book so buy it! (affiliate link – I get about 10p if you click it and buy – I’m gonna be rich!).
Come see me
If you are struggling with anxiety and fed up of the panic attack thing then you can come work with me. I can’t magic it all away, much as I’d like to, but I will work with you to move you towards having a rich fulfilling life.
My therapy centre is in Wilmslow, Cheshire which is easy to get to from Hale, Altrincham, Didsbury, South Manchester, or Macclesfield areas.
Ring 07966 390857 or click this link for my contact form to let me know how I can help you.
And to end …
Here’s a video of Spinal Tap singing “Big Bottom”. Try watching it and having a panic attack – impossible!