As someone who holds on to a lot of anxiety, I feel like the last person who should give advice on letting go. But it is the constant practice of managing anxiety that leads me to new ways of coping with it in daily life.
While talking about mental health and emotional first aid with my partner, David, he asked me how I would respond to someone experiencing a panic attack. My response was not so much about what I would say, but about what I wouldn’t say.
When the whole world around you is collapsing onto your chest, this is one of the last things you want to hear.
In my experiences, the worst thing I’ve been told to do is ‘just breathe’. When the whole world around you is collapsing onto your chest, this is one of the last things you want to hear. Just thinking about breathing has made me feel worse. Instead, direct my thoughts elsewhere to something other than breathing. I have had enough experiences to learn that the breath will self-regulate eventually and it’s unlikely the anxiety attack will last more than 20-30minutes.
More recently I found it helpful to forget about the inhalation completely. I like to focus on emptying the lungs entirely, contracting my abdominal muscles and deflating the chest to squeeze out every bit of air. The inhale will then occur naturally and may seem shallow or rapid at first, but with a measured exhale, it slows down the rate of breathing. With this, I feel calmer sooner.
These little conversations lately have encouraged me to explore more about the practice of pranayama in yoga. I like the direction this is taking me and I look forward to sharing more soon.