Hypnotherapy and Panic Attacks

 

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In my last post, I discussed my experiences with panic attacks, which was very well received. Thank you very much for your positive feedback about it.

I have not posted a blog post for a while because I have been on holiday. 18 months ago, me and my two friends had a crazy idea to save up for an amazing tourist trip to California. We planned for the whole 18 months, deciding what we were going to do, where we were going to eat, everything.

As it got closer to us going, I was plagued by this niggle I usually get before a holiday. My fear of flying. Just thinking about stepping in the airport filled me with dread. Hot flushes, stomach back flips, wobbly legs, the works.

Going to America was also going to be the first time I had flown without my Mum to help me through it. Holding her hand during take off and landing, and her rubbing my arm when I started to hyperventilate helped me through the stress of a flight. I wasn’t going to have that this time, and I really didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of my friends or the other passengers. So I needed a plan.

And into my life stepped Julie! I met Julie at a business networking session over a year ago and she talked so passionately about how hypnotherapy could help a variety of problems, I thought I would give it a go. I gave her a call and asked if she could help with my fear of flying and she reassured me that it was a common stress and she was sure she could help me.

I did not really know anything about hypnotherapy, other than what you see in films: someone swinging a pendulum and getting the recipient to do silly things when a certain word was mentioned.

Within a few minutes of talking to Julie, I realised that this was not what hypnotherapy was about at all. We talked for a long time about how I was feeling, both with flying and other things, including the panic attacks. I talked a lot about my low self esteem and how I felt it was holding me back in life. Julie not only listened to me (and passed the tissues), but assured me that how I was feeling was normal and common amongst others, and that I had the power within myself to change the way I think. Julie was very particular in making sure I understood that I had the power within me to change the way I thought. She would just be helping me through it. This feeling of empowerment I think has contributed to me getting so much out of the experience.

I was a little nervous when Julie told me to close my eyes and imagine myself in a beautiful place. But I found the visualisations and the journey I was undertaking very calming. I found myself relaxing into the chair I was sitting in and releasing the hypnotic sigh as I allowed myself to fully participate in the visualisations.

We talked about what had happened in my life that had influenced the way I felt in the present. School bullies, work pressures, health issues etc. Julie helped me work through them and release them from my thought process. It was so enlightening. I could literally feel the weight lift from my shoulders. I could feel my excitement for life returning after being squashed and shushed by my anxieties.

Julie also taught me some techniques to use when I am in a stressful situation, both physical things to do when I can feel a panic attack happening, and psychological things to do when I need a good talking to!

I am trying very hard to put into words how amazing I feel having had such an empowering experience. It is like someone has turned the light back on, lit the fire in my belly again. I have so many things I want to achieve in my life, so many things I want to see, or try, or do, but like most people, when the rejections and stresses knock you back, it is hard to keep your morale up. Hypnotherapy has boosted my mental state and more importantly, taught me techniques to keep myself up there.

And for that I will be eternally grateful to Julie and her teachings. Julie’s details will be at the bottom of the page and on my social media profiles.

Last week I returned from America having spent 27 hours on an aeroplane over two weeks and not a single panicky moment! I had never thought about hypnotherapy as an option for helping with life’s stresses but it has been life changing.

Sarah x

 

Julie Widdowson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliewiddowsonhypnotherapy/

Website: http://www.juliewiddowson.co.uk

 

 

Panic Attacks: Can’t live with them, would love to live without them!

I haven’t told you all yet, but I go to LA in 4 weeks for the fun tourist/Disneyland/Universal experience. I am beyond excited. My friends and I had decided to try for tickets to see an episode of the Big Bang Theory being filmed. As I am sure you can imagine, the tickets are like gold dust. So I stupidly volunteered to get them for us. So two days ago, there I am sitting at my laptop watching the clock ticking down to sale time. The next 15 minutes unfolds like this…

The clock ticks.

Search for website.

Time getting closer.

Website won’t load.

Panic.

Sale time gets closer.

Website won’t load.

Try again.

Try again.

Sale time arrives.

Website freezes.

Chest starts to tighten.

Hot flush starts.

Hands start to shake.

Palms become sweaty.

Can’t breathe.

The end result is I am hyperventilating, crying, full blown panic attack.

I know a lot of you reading this will know exactly what it feels like. Like someone pushing down on your chest, stopping you from breathing. Like everything is closing in around you, sucking you in. Like everyone is staring at you.

But you are not alone. Apparently, over 15 million people in the US alone suffer from panic attacks. That is nearly 5% of the whole country. Yet you feel so alone when it is happening. I know, because I feel it too. You want someone to help you, but that feeling is equal to the horrible embarrassment of making a fuss or a fool of yourself.  I never know what to do for the best!

My first panic attack was when I was 18. I was walking to university one morning quickly because I was late. When I got there, I was suitably out of breath but didn’t think much of it because I had practically ran there. I was stressing about being late because it was an important day, we were getting a breakdown of the yearlong project we had to complete. As the morning went on, and the work load piled up, the shortness of breath came back, a pain in my chest started and I went very hot and shaky. I covered my eyes with my hands, trying to block out the world and all the homework that I was expected to do. Luckily, class had halted for a break and the girl I was sitting next to could see I was shaking and struggling to breath and helped to calm me down. She said that I needed to concentrate on taking deep breaths otherwise I was going to pass out. The thought of passing out panicked me more but I knew she was only trying to help 🙂

After I had calmed down, she then explained that she had panic attacks sometimes and she described how it felt, which turned out to be exactly what I had been feeling that morning. I was freaking out about starting university, the jump from college to university was a lot harder than I had anticipated, and then the worry of being late and the seemingly impossible task of completing this project had just tipped me over the edge.

Fast forward to 27 year old me and I still get stressed out to the max, but I don’t have panic attacks anywhere near as often. I feel equipped to share with you a very rough guide of how to cope with panic attacks.  Please don’t take this as law, or as a substitute for proper medical advice, I am no doctor, just a friend who wants to help!

Step 1: Know your signs.

Make a mental note of what happens to you when a panic attack is starting. It may be a pain somewhere, or a hot flush, or shortness of breath. If you know what signs to look for, you can learn to stop the panic attack in its early stages.

Step 2: Come out of the situation.

You should probably try and remove yourself from the situation that is stressing you. I know this may not always possible but finding somewhere quiet and in the fresh air will instantly make you feel calmer.

Step 3: Concentrate on your breathing.

There is conflicting information out there about how to do this, some say breathe into a paper bag, some say don’t, some say breathe through your nose, some say in through your mouth. Remembering that I am not a doctor, I can only say what works for me:

I sit down, and breathe in through my nose while counting to 5, and then breathe out through my mouth while counting to five. If I am really struggling, I will start by counting to 3, then 4, then 5. Once I am in control of my breathing (this sometimes takes a while), I will breathe in for 5 counts and then hold my breath for 3 counts, then breathe out for 5 counts. This helps to slow your heart rate down.

Step 4: Remember that YOU ARE IN CONTROL

It is in capitals because it is important! Easier said than done I know, but you need to tell yourself that you are in control of your life, your body, and your situation. The panic attack is your mind saying, ‘Stop overloading me, I can’t cope!’ so you need to tell yourself that you can. You are calm, you are relaxed, you are in control. Chant it over and over to yourself. Say it loud and say it proud. You control the panic attack, it doesn’t control you. This is the hardest thing to do, because you are having to find strength within yourself when you are at your weakest, but it needs to be done. You are in control, and don’t ever forget that. You can do this.

Step 5: Tell someone.

The hardest part of coping with panic attacks is coping on your own. Find someone you trust, be it a parent, a teacher, a best friend, a librarian or an astronaut, whoever, just someone you can talk to about it. Tell them that you are having panic attacks and what happens to you when you get them. Tell them what signs they need to look out for and how you want them to help you when it is happening.

For example, telling your friend that when you grip her arm, it is code for ‘get me the hell out of here!’ My friend always told me to ask to be excused and go to the toilet if class was stressing me out. I didn’t particularly like the thought of sitting in a confined space when I was freaking out, so I would sneak out to a bench at the front of the building and sit there for a few minutes.

It would really be best to share how you feel with an adult. There is lots of info about panic attacks online that you both can read up on. There are charities whose aim is to distribute helpful advice for people who have panic attacks. I tell my mum everything, and this was no different. Doctors also have some good advice about easing panic attacks, both medical and psychological. Meditation CDs are a good one. I was sceptical at first but after many listens to this CD (bought off Amazon) I found that I could relax myself by remembering what the CD said, which was so helpful when I was out and about and wasn’t able to sit and listen to it. This is the one I bought but there are loads out there to try. Youtube is a good place to have a listen too.

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I really hope that you find this post useful. Like I say, I am no medical professional, so I can only offer you what I have found helpful. If you are suffering with them at the moment, this does not mean you will have them for your whole life. If you have found any more techniques that you think panic attack suffers should know then leave them in the comments. How do you cope with your panic attacks? What strategies do find most effective? The more we talk about it, the more we can help overcome them.

And for those of you wondering, I got the Big Bang filming tickets in the end!

Sarah xx