Mental Quirks

Panic Attacks and Relax

Over Christmas I had two panic attacks; horrible ones. The first occurred in Cambridge out of the blue. I was in the hotel room in the morning, just about to go to breakfast and something in my mind triggered it. I sat on the edge of the bed, my head went dizzy and I sweated profusely. My friend was aware that I had this, gave me a towel to wipe off the perspiration, which was coming off me in torrents, and left me alone to calm down. My friend was still in the room but knew I needed space to be totally alone to try and focus on my anxiety and try and relax. I felt awful for the rest of the day to be honest. I was walking around Cambridge but I felt queasy, giddy and full of worry. It kind of ruined the day, but I wouldn’t confess, I just kind of coped.

My nerves have been on edge ever since. It’s quite difficult to describe. There are not many moments in the day where I feel content and calm. I seem to have an under-currant of high alert just waiting for the next one to hit me. I know I need to get to the doctors again to address these issues, yet I feel that just upping my dosage of happy pills only masks the underlying problem of being out of control with my thought processes which is at the heart of the issue. I need to get the CBT up and running. I’m trying my hardest to not convey a sob story to you and searching for sympathy, because I am aware that there are millions of us in the world that suffer with this.

The reason I am writing this tonight is because I feel quite proud of myself as I achieved what I would consider to be the impossible the other evening.

If you happen to suffer with anxiety and panic attacks then I hope that this post will help you in some way. We are all different of course, yet the panic sets in as having similarities with all of us don’t you find? The rush of adrenaline begins, our bodies may heat up, sweat uncontrollably, painful headaches hit, breathing accelerates-which we cannot control- the frenzied panic of feeling like you want to run as fast as you can away from where you are. I cannot bear people trying to talk to me when I’m going through this, I know they mean well, but I’m trying to cope with the feelings that are out of control! It’s hell.

So, I did something that worked for me the other night. A relaxation technique that I’d read about in the past which I’d tried to do but failed. It’s extremely difficult to try and relax your body when you are having a panic attack, no matter what counsellors or Doctors may say; it’s easier said than done. But I did it finally, and it worked!!!

The panic attack hit me at about 11.30 pm last Monday evening. I was laying in bed, over-thinking about this and that, and my head started to really hurt. The squeezing sensation that is the sign of a tension headache. It got worse and worse as I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. I began to panic, and the cycle slowly began. My heart was fast, I began to sweat, to breathe out of control, and I didn’t know what to do. So I laid on my back on the bed and started to try to relax.

I don’t know if you have ever read about this technique before, but you begin by working through your body from the tip of your toes to the top of your head. You tense each body part and then release. Feet, legs, hips, lifting arms and relaxing (like just dropping them down in total relaxation), hands stretched and resting, lifting head and dropping onto your pillow. Squeezing your facial features tight and releasing until your body feels more relaxed. You then need to breathe in slowly for 4 counts and out through your mouth for 4 counts, and you keep doing this whilst thinking of nothing, or something peaceful. I imagined sitting on a beach. You can then use your fingers and slowly massage your face in a circular motion, using soft strokes around your eyes, forehead and temples. If you have a partner to do this for you then so much the better.

My headache slowly wore off and I felt far more relaxed and in control once again. So this really worked for me for the first time, yet it’s very hard to take control when you are in the midst of this awful feeling. I hope that if you do suffer with this, that you get help from health professionals that can give you the correct support, and please have a go at my suggestion, because it really does work!

Take Care x Pip

I am a mother of two children, and have had many experiences in my life that I have been through and had to overcome. I feel it would be beneficial (at least to me, and perhaps you) to share my experiences. I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions. x


  • M.L. James


    I’m so sorry to read that you were having severe panic attacks again! I know it was difficult, but I’m glad the relaxation technique you used worked! There are actually several techniques that you can find online! A really good one, especially if you’re in public, is one that I used to teach my clients. I’ve also used it with my son (we were at a restaurant) when he became agitated and started panicking. Anyway, we had to leave the table and go outside where we went over the 5 senses technique. It really helped to calm him down to the point that at the end, he was no longer upset and we were able to go back in and finish our meal. Clients reported that this really helped them as well!

    This is a simple 5-step technique that you do slowly and purposefully. Focus on each thing that you are noticing as you do this! I put examples in parentheses, but it’s whatever you are experiencing, not necessarily these examples.

    5) Say out loud 5 things that you see (a blue sky, a child playing, a pink flower, a bird in a tree, a tall building)
    4) Say out loud and actually physically touch 4 things (the nubby sweater you are wearing, the grass beneath your feet, how silky your hair is, the cool, sleek leather chair you are sitting in)
    3) Say out loud 3 things you hear (a bird singing, the distant sound of traffic, children laughing)
    2) Notice and say out loud 2 things that you smell (fresh bread baking, the scent of a rose)
    1) Taste 1 thing (leftover lunch, or put a stick of gum or a mint in your mouth)

    If you do this slowly and with intent, this is very calming. However, if it doesn’t work for you or it doesn’t resonate with you, there are many other relaxation techniques to choose from! The whole idea is to get yourself out of your thoughts and physically and mentally become aware of where you are, understand that at that moment you are safe, and fully engage in the present through your senses!

    Also, as you pointed out, when you are in that moment of a panic attack, it can be very difficult to force yourself to do any relaxation technique. I used to tell my clients that if they practice this technique three times a day — throughout the day when they don’t need to — then when they do need to use it, it will be a much easier transition because they are already used to doing it.

    Anyway, I hope this is helpful but that you don’t actually end up needing to use it! Also, I hope you’re able to get to the bottom of whatever is causing this! Thanks for sharing this with your us. You are brave and we benefit from your honesty and caring!

    • Pip

      Mona thank you so much for this. I have been trying your techniques of visualisation, and even though it’s difficult to transfer your thought processes into doing this activity, I can see how it works and I am working on using distraction to take my mind off irrational thoughts. When you look back at a panic attack you realise how silly it all was, which is probably not the right way of looking at it, but it does make ME feel like that. It does make me feel weak willed and a bit precious, you know like a bit needy,(which is not my intention at all) but I find that good friends who will just be there for you, to laugh, talk, and walk in the countryside even, really takes your mind of your own problems. I think it would be great if you wrote a post on this subject because your knowledge would really help people. Love Pip

  • Sarah

    Firstly, thanks for reading my post and reaching out. I chose this piece as the title spoke to me. Although I’ve never suffered a full blown panic attack I’ve got a litany of symptoms that link to my anxiety. Your writing is honest and raw and I know all too well how hard it is to be WITH that torrent of negative energy once it begins. Good for you for articulating yourself, reaching out for help and using your own tool box to quell these difficult experiences. I believe all events, good or bad bring us closer to our whole selves so maybe the encouragement of “stick with it, whatever it is” will bring you peace in knowing you’re on your path and you are moving forward. Thanks again for reaching out,
    Sarah Guest
    Art of Beingness

    • Pip

      Hello Sarah. I agree with your comments. I think everyone’s anxieties are unique to themselves, and no two are exactly the same. What works for one will not necessarily work for another. I also feel we have our own coping mechanisms. I walk for miles if I’m having a bad day, it helps. I really enjoy looking at your blog by the way, and you have a great writing style xPip

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