Unfortunately, I have experienced many panic and anxiety attacks which have affected me to the extent of feeling that I was unable to breathe. They are terrible things to go through, and you can feel totally out of control. It is extremely difficult to get the mastery over those feelings when you are in the thick of it; and to try and control your breathing is easier said than done, but what I have realised is that an anxiety attack will not kill you, and it will pass.
I have tried many ways to control the overwhelming fear that you experience. Going out for a very fast walk, when it’s the daytime, I feel is my best option so that I am getting my heart pumping which really works. However, this is not always possible. What if you have a panic attack in the middle of the night? It would be very unwise to go out walking at 2 am in the morning, so there has to be different ways to cope with your circumstances.
A breathing technique that I use is very simple, but for me, it works. It’s taken me quite a while to get used to, but it enables me to calm down. This breathing exercise may not work straight away, but it is best to persevere.
I always find it works better to lay flat on the bed or on the floor. You are basically working through your body from your toes to your head. You begin by pointing your feet forward by stretching them, then letting them relax (in a way, it is like letting them go, to flop). You then push your legs into the floor, then release. Squeeze your hips then release, lift up your shoulders to your ears, release, then lift your arms either side with your hands on the floor, and release. Stretch out your hands as hard as you can, release, push your back into the bed, release, push your head into your pillow, then release. You should start to feel a measure of relaxation.
Now you need to concentrate on your face. Begin by lifting your head away from your pillow then release. Your facial features will come next by opening your eyes wide then closing, opening your mouth and closing. Continue until your body feels totally relaxed.
Once your body has relaxed you will now need to work on your breathing. No shallow breathing here, but slow breathing from your stomach. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 5 seconds, hold for 5, then breathe out slowly through your mouth for a count of 5 again. Keep repeating this until you have your anxiety under control. It does work, but it does take practice.
The breathing exercises will become second nature, so that if you are out and about you can do them wherever you happen to be. I remember sitting on a bench in a very busy park and I was able to do the muscle relaxation exercise very quickly, and no one knew!