Ordinary People Helping Ordinary People in Extraordinary circumstances!

Panic Attacks – Tip – Square Breathing

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Why do we have panic attacks and how can we help to control them?

I know I usually write about food but this has come up in my family life and also heard about a few people suffering panic attacks so I thought I would love to give everyone a super simple way to deal with these horrible events. They really are events, because after you have had one you can be left completely exhausted, mentally and physically drained and worst of all for me was the knowledge that I might suffer these for a long time. However, “square breathing” is something I had to learn and want to share with you.

To give a little bit of background as to why this information was shared with me, I had to spend some time in a psychiatric hospital and I was assigned a relaxation therapist for a few weeks after I was discharged. She taught me this and when I had to take it to the real world, I must admit it worked for me.

So before I get into the thing that “worked for me” I did a wee bit of research because that’s how I roll and I was absolutely aware that my experience of a panic attack may differ from everyone else.

Signs of panic attack

Some of the signs you are having a panic attack (btw, everyone is different) you may get all or just a few. Sudden intense anxiety, shaking, crying, feeling disorientated, rapid and irregular heartbeats, dry mouth, breathlessness, sweating, dizziness, chills, hot flashes, tightness in the throat, sense of impending doom or danger, fear of loss or control or even fear of death. .

Are panic and anxiety attacks the same?

This part of my research was actually a learning curve for me because I have always assumed a panic attack and an anxiety attack is the same thing. They aren’t and here is the difference and I absolutely wish I had known this years ago. An anxiety attack is a response to a perceived threat , like you saw an abusive ex or something, you already know the danger, your body responds with anxiety. The difference with a panic attack is it seems to come from nowhere, u don’t see the danger, you just cannot shake this.

Triggers for panic attacks

So triggers for a panic attack are things like over breathing (I researched this because I have never heard this term) so hyperventilation, when you breathe too quickly and you are not getting enough oxygen to the brain, hence the dizziness. Long periods of stress, physical changes after illness, change of environment and lets not forget our main ones, trauma, whatever kind – whether the death of  a loved one to….actually I wont even go there because I guess if you are reading this you know what has made u traumatized. But please be aware and hopeful because life after trauma and panic attacks doesn’t need to be terrifying. Feeling afraid after trauma is absolutely normal and panic attacks can happen when something or someone reminds you of the trauma. Like I said before though, your body is reacting and it is scary.

Square breathing

Here is one of my ways to deal with panic attacks, sorry for boring you with the research but I have never claimed to not be a research nerd.

Find something with 4 corners, anything, it could be a bus when you are waiting at a station, your tv when you feel overwhelmed, anything with 4 corners. What I love about this technique is that we generally all have phones so we are looking at something with 4 corners, or a tv, whatever it is, just find something you can count to 4 with. So focus on the top left hand corner and breathe in all the way along to the top right hand corner, then breathe out to the bottom right hand corner, them breathe back up to the beginning corner and repeat as long as you need.

Don’t even worry about how long it takes for you to get there either, people who think you can keep breathing out for longer than you have breath are not getting the point, your breathing will naturally slow down because your mind isn’t focused on panic. “Square breathing.” Genuinely hope this helps at least one person. Stay safe everyone

Why do we have panic attacks and how can we help to control them?

I know I usually write about food but this has come up in my family life and also heard about a few people suffering panic attacks so I thought I would love to give everyone a super simple way to deal with these horrible events. They really are events, because after you have had one you can be left completely exhausted, mentally and physically drained and worst of all for me was the knowledge that I might suffer these for a long time. However, “square breathing” is something I had to learn and want to share with you.

To give a little bit of background as to why this information was shared with me, I had to spend some time in a psychiatric hospital and I was assigned a relaxation therapist for a few weeks after I was discharged. She taught me this and when I had to take it to the real world, I must admit it worked for me.

So before I get into the thing that “worked for me” I did a wee bit of research because that’s how I roll and I was absolutely aware that my experience of a panic attack may differ from everyone else.

Signs of panic attack

Some of the signs you are having a panic attack (btw, everyone is different) you may get all or just a few. Sudden intense anxiety, shaking, crying, feeling disorientated, rapid and irregular heartbeats, dry mouth, breathlessness, sweating, dizziness, chills, hot flashes, tightness in the throat, sense of impending doom or danger, fear of loss or control or even fear of death. .

Are panic and anxiety attacks the same?

This part of my research was actually a learning curve for me because I have always assumed a panic attack and an anxiety attack is the same thing. They aren’t and here is the difference and I absolutely wish I had known this years ago. An anxiety attack is a response to a perceived threat , like you saw an abusive ex or something, you already know the danger, your body responds with anxiety. The difference with a panic attack is it seems to come from nowhere, u don’t see the danger, you just cannot shake this.

Triggers for panic attacks

So triggers for a panic attack are things like over breathing (I researched this because I have never heard this term) so hyperventilation, when you breathe too quickly and you are not getting enough oxygen to the brain, hence the dizziness. Long periods of stress, physical changes after illness, change of environment and lets not forget our main ones, trauma, whatever kind – whether the death of  a loved one to….actually I wont even go there because I guess if you are reading this you know what has made u traumatized. But please be aware and hopeful because life after trauma and panic attacks doesn’t need to be terrifying. Feeling afraid after trauma is absolutely normal and panic attacks can happen when something or someone reminds you of the trauma. Like I said before though, your body is reacting and it is scary.

Square breathing

Here is one of my ways to deal with panic attacks, sorry for boring you with the research but I have never claimed to not be a research nerd.

Find something with 4 corners, anything, it could be a bus when you are waiting at a station, your tv when you feel overwhelmed, anything with 4 corners. What I love about this technique is that we generally all have phones so we are looking at something with 4 corners, or a tv, whatever it is, just find something you can count to 4 with. So focus on the top left hand corner and breathe in all the way along to the top right hand corner, then breathe out to the bottom right hand corner, them breathe back up to the beginning corner and repeat as long as you need.

Don’t even worry about how long it takes for you to get there either, people who think you can keep breathing out for longer than you have breath are not getting the point, your breathing will naturally slow down because your mind isn’t focused on panic. “Square breathing.” Genuinely hope this helps at least one person. Stay safe everyone

Author: Families in Trauma and Recovery

"Ordinary People helping Ordinary People" . We are a peer led, lived experience organisation looking for ways to support others who may need a helping hand.

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