Stopping a Panic Attack with the Golden Thread Breath

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Panic attacks can be horrific to experience. Often people suffering from a panic attack will genuinely feel as if they are dying, and they, or those around them will call the emergency services. The problem with panic attacks is that they are self-perpetuating. When we lose control of the breath we start hyperventilating. This raises the heart rate, constricts the arteries supplying blood to the brain, and makes the blood more alkaline by removing carbon dioxide. This pushes us into a sympathetic nervous response, our 'flop, freeze, flight or flight' mode. When we are in this, our breathing increases and so the does the cycle of hyperventilation and panic. If we gain control of our breath, bring carbon dioxide levels back up, and bring our heart rate down, we enter the 'rest and digest' parasympathetic nervous response. We can literally breathe our way out of a panic attack.

What You'll Need

  • This can be done just with the body

What You'll Do

  • Either close the eyes, or find a point to focus the eyes on. You want to be clear of all visual distractions
  • Purse the lips and start exhaling very slowly and controlled through the mouth
  • At the end of the exhale, hold the breath for a count of two
  • Very slowly start inhaling through the nose, making sure your lower jaw is loose and relaxed
  • Purse the lips and exhale very slowly through the mouth, visualising spinning a golden thread out in front of you
  • At the end of the exhale, hold the breath for a count of two
  • Repeat the steps above, trying to make the golden thread exhale as long as possible
  • When you feel comfortable, close the eyes and continue the practice
  • With each inhale and exhale, try and slow the breath down

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are with people you trust, get them to help coach you through this breathing practice. If you are alone, try and remember that even though you may be physically alone in that moment, there are millions of people around the world struggling in the same way as you, and try and draw comfort from that.
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