mindful calm during panic

How mindful calm soothed my panic attack

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mindful calm during panic

It’s important to find your mindful calm

Mindful calm helps us to positively handle life’s ups and downs but it’s tricky to find and keep hold of, especially in an uncertain world where so many things can knock us off balance. They might be big scary things – terror attacks, redundancy or the end of a relationship. It might be mundane (but challenging to you) a toddler tantrum in public for instance. Sometimes I find it a struggle to do the food shopping without feeling on edge!

 

But no matter how big or small in the grand scheme, occasionally an event can totally knock you off your feet and leave you feeling out of sorts. I encountered such an event one afternoon recently.  Not to go into detail but I received an unpleasant email which had implications for my blog. It felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under me. I was in the park at the time with Boo who was recovering from chicken pox. I wasn’t feeling too great myself and we were getting cabin fever from being stuck in the house for the past five days. A trip to the park for some fresh air was just what we needed.

Our trip to the park

Though it was cold, we wrapped up and Boo enjoyed going down the ‘big boys slide’ over and over. I was slightly worried that other parents would see his spotty face, grab their kids and run screaming. But I needn’t have. Only one boy asked Boo if he had chicken pox and that was as we were leaving. Plus he’d gone past the contagious stage anyway so we weren’t putting anyone at risk.

So, while Boo was happily playing I thought I’d check my phone and saw I had an email which I stupidly read straight away. This email left me feeling breathless and the park started tilting. I had to grab hold of the climbing frame to stop from falling over. I think I was in the early stage of a panic attack.

Automatic thought processing and reacting

We process events through our own filters, often automatically, and we react without thinking. This is what I was doing. I immediately felt upset that someone was trying to undo something I’d created over the past few months and was proud of. In that moment, I wasn’t considering the implications or the options I might have, I was just reacting.

Events happen, we interpret them and we react really quickly – Michael Chaskalson, Mindfulness in eight weeks

Not wanting to alarm Boo, I took some deep breaths and shakily told him that we’d be leaving shortly. It took all my resolve and energy to get us back home safely in the car.

I felt shaken for hours afterwards and no amount of mindful breathing seemed to help, leading to a bad night’s sleep. The next day, though feeling less agitated, I still felt unsettled and decided to ask my lovely Twitter followers for advice. Just how can mindfulness help in the heat of the moment, when you’re feeling very distressed or even panicking? What techniques can help you to bring back a feeling of mindful calm?

I quickly received some helpful responses which cheered me up no end and restored my faith in the kindness of others. I’d like to share some of their tips with you so that you can benefit too, should you ever need to quickly calm down after an event has knocked you off balance.

Install a peaceful place in your mind

Two tweeters suggested having a ‘peaceful place’ to go to in your mind. This one needs a bit of effort to put into place – not one for starting in the middle of a panic attack! But, if you start doing it regularly when you’re feeling calm it should really help.

Thanks to @e_hawkeye and @MightyChildren for suggesting and for providing some links to scripts for establishing a peaceful place. I’ve tried both!

Inner Health Studio – peaceful place script

Spring Psychology – a safe place

Mindful calm by the sea

The place I chose was a small park by the sea – somewhere we’d been on holiday and a really pretty place. It was perfect for me as I love the seaside – the salty sea air and the sounds of waves lapping against the shore mixed with gulls overhead. Plus I love being out in the countryside with all the greenery, foliage and beautiful landscapes. This place combines both and I’m trying each day to think of it during a calm moment. Doing this before you meditate might be a good way to get into the habit of thinking about your peaceful place. Associating your meditation practice with it should add to the calming feeling when you next go there in your mind.

Take it back to the basics – breathing

Thank you to selena (@themumcoach) for mentioning simple breathing practice.

Let whatever is happening just happen without assigning any meaning to it then breathe it out. Focus on your breath and breathe out for longer than you breathe in. E.g. breathe in for a count of 5 and out for a count of 7. As you feel calmer, breathe in for longer and out for longer e.g. in for 7 and out for 11.

When I was in the park I was able to breathe it out to a degree, which enabled me to refocus on the fact that I was there with Boo and didn’t want to alarm him. With practice I’m sure I can use this again should I need to. Regularly practising different techniques during calm times gives you a mindful choice so you’ll be better equipped to respond positively in the future.

But back to my tale…

A few days on from my ‘stressful-event’ and near panic attack caused by my automatic reaction, I’ve bounced back and feel balanced again. Before I became mindful, I’d probably still be feeling unsettled and be ruminating on all the thoughts that were swirling around in my head. But I’m not. In fact, the very next day I realised that I’d reacted and could clearly see my emotional state so I took steps to calm down, including asking for help from others.

What next?

There might be some changes to my blog as a result of that email, there might not, but whatever happens I feel more resilient and able to handle this uncertainty. As for those other daily challenges, I’m able to think of positive options when something unexpected happens. That’s where mindfulness has really helped and I hope it continues to do so.

If you’re practising mindfulness but unsure if it’s helping, keep going and find your own mindful calm – it’s giving you the resilience to handle those bumps in the road. Even if you aren’t practising and find yourself in a challenging moment – toddler having a public tantrum or you’ve received bad news perhaps? These calming tips are invaluable and will help you stay on track even during stormy times.

Have you got other ways of calming down quickly? What do you do to find your mindful calm? I’d love to hear from you – comment below 🙂

Author: Mindfully Mummy

Sarah is a writer and mum to two energetic boys. She practises mindfulness daily and loves sharing practical mindful tips with fellow parents. Sarah has a degree in psychology, writes at Blue Fox Copywriting and blogs for various sites about lifestyle, careers, parenting and well-being.

14 Comments

  1. I’ve suffered panic attacks before and they are horrible. It sounds like you coped amazingly well with that one and I’m so glad you’ve had some good advice – it’s lovely to know others are out there lending support xx #bigpinklink

    • Thank you! Panic attack are horrid aren’t they? The whole time I was trying to keep calm as I didn’t want Boo to see me panicking – the last time I panicked was when I lost Tiddler at the supermarket which was awful. I’m so grateful that people took the time to get in touch and share tips on how to stay calm. I’ve been thinking about my park by the sea lots over the past few days and I’ve found it so helpful 🙂

  2. I can really relate to this, I use mindfulness for panic attacks but in the heat of the moment it can be hard to remember to use the techniques or to feel that they are helping, although they undoubtedly are. I’ve used the peaceful place and sometimes listening too…listening to all the external noises then your internal ones and alternating, it can help keep you in the moment rather than spiralling into darker thoughts #bigpinklink

    • Thanks for commenting. Good to hear that others are using the peaceful place too. It’s so hard to remember mindfulness in the moment – our brains on flight or fight mode can’t think rationally. I’m going to keep trying though 🙂

  3. I’ve also suffered debilitating panic attacks before, and have often found myself in a permanent state of panic for days on end-not being able to slow my heart rate down, eat or sleep, or sit still. It’s awful. Reading more, and becoming accomplished in these techniques would definitely be something that I could deploy to ground me in these situations. I’m sorry that you found yourself in this situation following an email-that’s really sad, and really unfortunate… But it sounds like you are on the path to getting it all sorted out.
    Thank you for sharing with #bigpinklink.

    • Those panics must have been really scary, and to last for so long is awful. For me I think the worse thing is a sense of not being in control. I had one panic years ago where I actually hyperventilated which was frightening not only for me but those around me. Luckily I’ve been able to regain my calm more quickly recently before things progress too much. Thanks for your kind words and for inviting me to join the #bigpinklink 🙂

  4. Thank you for writing this post. Panic attacks are awful and there’s been a few situations I’ve felt panicky in lately. Total fight or flight mode. I try to take deep breaths through it but I love the idea of a peaceful place, I’m going to try that.
    #bigpinklink

    • I’m amazed by the number of people who have panic attacks – we must all be quietly panicking!! Those peaceful place scripts are great, need reading through a few times but once you’ve got the hang of it they’re super helpful, as I’m finding out 🙂

  5. I am so glad that this technique has been able to help you. I have suffered with panic attacks my whole life and know how debilitating they can be. This kind of thing doesn’t work for me, although I have spent my whole adult life in therapy, but I know that for some it can work wonders. Thanks for sharing. #bigpinklink

  6. It sounds like you’ve coped really well with panic attacks – what a difficult situation for you. Thanks for sharing, amazing how you can use mindful thinking to cope with this type of situation x #bigpinklink

  7. I love meditation and need to do it more as it helped me get over a really stressful month going back to work after mat leave. It’s brilliant to be calm and relax and just clear you head. Glad you got through this tricky time lovely xx #bigpinklink

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