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  • Writer's pictureLyanne Pudney

Don't Tell Me to Calm Down!! Panic Attack Tips.

Want to know why reasoning with someone (or yourself) doesn't seem to work during a panic attack? There is a very good reason, here's why & the first 3 things I ask clients to try before we get into the more detailed techniques.

Once your nervous system has become so heightened that you're in a full blown panic attack, the part of your brain responsible for survival has taken over, leaving the rational, thinking areas of the brain unable to function as they usually do. This happens because in an emergency we need to react: run, hide, fight, freeze etc. & so the brain is designed to kick into react mode when we feel unsafe. There's no time to calmly assess the situation if a lion is chasing you! Obviously we don't get chased by wild animals very often these days but here's the thing: the reactive part of the brain is like a panic button, or smoke alarm going off when toast is burnt. If we feel anxious enough, it kicks in automatically and literally hijacks the thinking brain and sets off survival mode in the body (sweaty hands, shaking, rapid breathing, feeling irritable sound familiar?). Look up 'limbic hijacking' if this interests you, it's fascinating - but what can we do about it?

1) Start simple as the rational brain isn't as clear as it could be, making it hard to remember complicated instructions & pointless trying to tell someone not to worry, because they can't rationalise well yet.

2) I suggest breathing out slowly on purpose, as this triggers the nervous system into calming down by stimulating a nerve that runs from your diaphragm to your brain & telling it to turn off the survival mode. Find your own comfortable way of doing this, I often use 4,4,6 breathing (inhale 4 secs, hold 4 secs if comfortable, exhale 6 secs slowly) but anything that slows the exhale is great.

3) Use a grounding technique - here's a really quick, easy one.

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