Anxiety/panic is a pervasive condition that to varying degrees strangles a person into a contracted frozen state of pure fear and physiological and psychological belief of impending death.
One of the primary ways in which anxiety/panic exerts itself physiologically is to cut off oxygen to the body. Practicing deep breathing can have a profound impact on how you experience the anxiety/panic and begin to learn to find stillness and empowerment when you are in the nadir of your suffering.
Advanced mindful deep breathing techniques can help you navigate a panic/anxiety attack; However, it can be hard to master in a time of panic, so many people struggle to perform this type of exercise at first. It is important then to practice this technique regularly when you are calm and neutral so that you can go to it in your time of need... much like CPR requires training, so does deep breathing in the service of helping navigate an anxiety/panic attack.
Daily, find a quiet place you can stay for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Sit like you would for deep breathing with your back straight, but try to be comfortable.For this exercise, you will be monitoring your heartbeat to keep a good rhythm.
You will do at least 10 breath cycles, and each cycle will be comprised of three stages:
1. Inhale, count 5 heartbeats (or 5 seconds)
2. Hold breath, count 7 heartbeats (or 7 seconds)
3. Exhale, count 9 heartbeats (or 9 seconds)
When you breathe in, make sure that you're breathing in through your stomach first and your chest second.
The slow, managed breaths are very calming. Holding your breath also helps regain your Co2 levels, to reduce some of the effects of hyperventilation.
It can be very hard to perform this type of exercise, especially if it's your first time with breathing exercises. During an anxiety attack, it's hard to bypass your amygdala and activate your prefrontal cortex but this is the KEY to short cuircuiting the anxiety/panic attack route and habituated process in your brain and body.
If you can practice this enough to count heartbeats and calm your body you will hopefully see the results in being able to relax your parasympathetic nervous system and get your brain and body to ground itself and thereby break the anxiety/panic attack cycle.
If you can master this technique, you'll find that you should be able to release your stress, relax your body and slow down your racing thoughts and unfreeze your frozenness, regulate your oxygen/c02 levels and possibly experience relief from your panic symptoms either by shortening the duration, intensity or frequency of attacks or intense sensations.
Photo: Quan Yin in the Temple garden at the Biorock structures in Bali.
photo credit @ imran ahmad.