Last week, a dear friend mentioned that she had experienced her first panic attack.
After many stressful episodes over the last few months, it hit her all of a sudden – she became restless, worried, short of breath and irritable, and her heart was beating rapidly.
Fear took over momentarily and thinking it was something serious, she pulled out the oximeter to check her oxygen saturation levels.
The reading was normal, but she was not convinced.
Not knowing what to do, she felt like she was going crazy and tried calming herself with some breathing exercises, but nothing worked – she just couldn’t sit still.
Eventually, as time passed, her symptoms gradually disappeared, but the episode left her shaken, disoriented and exhausted.
In a situation like hers, is there anything you can do to calm your mind?
A lot of healthcare professionals will tell you to do some deep breathing exercises, but the reality (and from my experience) is that during a panic or anxiety attack, this will not help.
When you are having an attack, you need to move and ride it out; you cannot just sit down and take deep, slow breaths or meditate – this will only worsen your state.
But moving doesn’t mean running or jumping either.
What you can do is prance up and down, take a walk or vigorously shake your limbs.
More importantly, exhale though the mouth as you do this.
If you have a loved one or friend nearby, ask them to talk to you for reassurance that the moment will pass – it will make you feel better immediately.
One acquaintance told me she’d get a panic attack every time she is on a plane that is about to take off.
So, before the plane leaves the ground, she will ask the person sitting next to her if she can hold his or her hand.
Usually at first, the stranger will give her that “you’ve gone nuts” look, but after seeing her frightened expression, he or she will usually oblige.
Human nature is such that we will help someone in distress who is pleading for help. But with Covid-19 in mind, do remember to sanitise your hands afterwards.
As the anxiety begins to pass, start to refocus on your surroundings and continue with the task you were doing before.
Thereafter, you can start doing some slow breathing exercises so that you are able to handle the attacks better if and when they strike again.
To prevent future attacks and relieve your symptoms, you have to do these breathing exercises daily.
Simply close your eyes, sit tall or lie down, and spend 10 minutes taking deep breaths in and out.
When you consciously slow the rhythm of your inhalations and exhalations, and intentionally draw in more than the typical shallow breaths that the average adult takes, a profound shift occurs in your physiological and psychological state.
You can also incorporate the five yoga poses shown below that will calm your mind and alleviate your symptoms.
Again, these poses are not to be done during an attack, but afterwards, as preparation to reduce the chances of future attacks.
You will also discover that in time, you won’t get as flustered easily if you consistently practise these poses.
Things to keep in mind:
- Put all your electronic gadgets and distractions aside.
- Slow down your breathing and focus on releasing tension in the body.
- Reassess your body after every few breaths – e.g. are you clenching your jaw, squeezing your shoulders, tightening your butt, etc – and release the tension.
- Stay in each pose for a minimum of 30 seconds.
If you really like it, you can stay in it for up to three minutes or more, depending on how much time you can spare.
- There should be no pain and the poses should feel relaxing.
- Remember that this is not about increasing your flexibility, but about calming your mind, so don’t push your body hard.
- Take your time to transition from one pose to the other.
- The poses can be done in any sequence, but I suggest doing the standing one first and legs-up-against-the-wall last.
Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.